Love/Hate Relationship

Who Would Marry Brian Peabody, Anyway?

BRIAN PEABODY IS getting married on Saturday; those who attend the ceremony will mainly fit into one of two categories. His friends and family will come to see if he really goes through with it, while his enemies will show up just for the opportunity to throw small metal objects mixed in with the rice.

Make no mistake about it -- this guy has enemies. He may be more disliked than anybody else I know personally, and I know some real assholes. People tend to either like Brian a lot or hate him, and he wouldn't want it any other way.

I met Brian in the summer of 1986. He and I were reffing a basketball league which ran from noon to 10 p.m., six days a week. At the beginning of the summer, there were other refs, but the heat in the building and the lack of testicular capacity on the part of the other guys soon created a situation where Brian and I were doing 10 games straight.

At the time, I was 10 years older than he, although the gap has narrowed considerably since then. We hit it off immediately. He was still in college and so full of crap. But we both loved basketball and practical jokes and talking mess.

Once during a timeout late in a blowout game, we said that whoever blew his whistle in the last minute (thereby unnecessarily stopping the clock) was a phlegm-wad. Sure enough, right in front of where Brian is standing, some guy goes for a lay-up and gets absolutely assaulted. I looked at Brian, who smiled at me, pulled his ref shirt away from his body, and calmly dropped his whistle inside. From half-court, I weakly blew my whistle, conscientious phlegm-wad that I was.

I knew right then that Brian was my kind of competitor. He was also the biggest BS-er I'd ever met. The first day I met him, he asked if I had gone to college (a reasonable question to ask of a man in his 30s who was spending his summer reffing basketball games). When I said I had, he said, "I'll bet you're not smart enough to do my anatomy homework from my summer-school class."

I said, "Dude, I've read Tom Sawyer. I ain't paintin' your fence for you."

He gave me a quizzical look and made a mental note to con some other friend into reading this Tom Sawyer thing and explain the fence reference. (Once, when I mentioned to him I had read that 50 percent of all American adults will never read a book after their formal education comes to an end, he smirked and said, "Huh! Make that 51 percent!" exhibiting not only an utter disdain for book-reading, but a shocking lack of math understanding.)

He and I formed a basketball team along with former CDO and ASU standout Mike Redhair, a giant surf bum named Eric Peterson, and our African-American buddy Skippy, who had attended an exclusive prep school outside Chicago, thus the name Skippy. That team -- appropriately named Four-and-a-Half White Guys -- won several championships in the city, county and Lakeside leagues.

Brian eventually graduated from college, although the UA is still rethinking that decision. He got a job coaching at Green Fields Country Day School, which is not nearly as snooty as it sounds. The year before Brian got the job, the Griffins had won the Class 1A state title under Coach Bill Luedeke, who then moved on to Marana Mt. View. Brian led the Griffins to a second straight state crown in his first year as a head coach. The next year, with an almost all-new squad, he got back to the state title game, losing to Clifton.

He moved over to St. Gregory College Prep, where he promptly led a young Hawks team to its first-ever appearance in the state playoffs. Then came the call from Salpointe Catholic. (This is where most of the hate part comes in.)

His first year at Salpointe, he cut a bunch of malcontent seniors (who then showed up at every game to boo him) and went with a mostly sophomore lineup. The young squad took its lumps, especially from 5A-South champ Amphi, led by Emerson Whitley, who went on to star at Yale. The next year Salpointe tied Amphi for the title and began a five-year run deep into the state playoffs.

Three times in the past four years, Salpointe has reached at least the Final Four and has twice lost in the championship game. Along the way, Brian has managed to alienate just about everybody possible, either through his brusque speaking manner or his really annoying habit of working real hard all the time.

Even at Salpointe, he's not going to win any popularity contests. I've always told him that as long as he's winning, his support is a mile wide and an inch deep. He'd better not ever have a losing season. But because he's so successful, people suck up to him. People kiss his ass so much he has to carry around a box of moist towelettes to clear a patch for the next bunch.

A few years back, during Desert Storm, Brian, Skippy and I accompanied my brother-in-law Jesse down to Cochise College in Douglas. Jesse had the warm trembling thighs for a woman who played on the Cochise basketball team. He also had his pilot's license, so he rented a plane and flew us down there. On the way, Brian noticed that I had motion sickness, so being the good friend that he is, he told Jesse that he thought he saw Saddam Hussein's Air Force off to the right. Jesse went along with the gag (if you'll pardon the expression) and put the plane into a steep bank, for which I'm eternally grateful. There aren't many people who have seen their own small intestines float out through their nostrils into a plane cockpit and lived to tell about it.

Also playing on that Cochise team was a point guard named Kris De La Ossa. She's the one Brian is marrying. Brian said he knew immediately that she was the one when he saw that she could go to her left.

Ain't love grand?