George is in love. He is in love with Rosemarie, his high school sweetheart. Years ago, when all the world was young, he was the big basketball star and she was the pretty cheerleader, but it was more than skin-deep. It was the real thing. It must have been.
Lovers are supposed to be attracted to people who look something like themselves, but George and Rosemarie are not what you would call two peas in a pod. Also, as George is the first to acknowledge, Rosemarie looks much younger than he does now. Coaching basketball takes a lot out of you and adds to the years.
She is pretty, trim and stylish. He is pudgy, gimpy and shabby. Rosemarie has a heart-shaped face and keen dark-brown eyes under scimitar eyebrows. George has a pudd'nhead, with merry light-blue eyes under a sloping dome. He looks rather like a Winston Churchill Cabbage Patch Doll. Instead of homburgs, though, he wears baseball caps. He owns on the order of 2,500 of them. At 50 he is still coming to grips with the fact that he has grown bald.
When George and Rosemarie hooked up again after all those years, he even kept one of his 2,500 baseball caps on his head in the restaurant. Finally Rosemarie said, "It's O.K. You can take the hat off. I've seen you on TV. I know you're bald now, George."
After that the present moved along remarkably well, retrofit. This even though, besides the baseball cap, George had gone to this romantic rendezvous in a sweaty golf outfit, while Rosemarie and her girlfriends had laid out six gorgeous outfits on her bed and taken forever to pick the long black dress with the red shawl, which best offset her dark eyes under the scimitar eyebrows. "It was like the senior prom all over again," Rosemarie says.
So it was. "It just felt right," Rosemarie remembers. "The dinner was timeless. I knew right away we'd be together again." She did not, however, let sweaty George in on this intelligence. But never mind. He pretty much knew. He told her everything that night, spilled his guts. "There's no other woman in the world I could have trusted," George says. "Rosemarie gave me belief. She gave me hope. Those are powerful words, but they're true."
So now, here comes Ms. Rosemarie Perla, the psychologist, and she sees coach George Karl leaving the court after practice. She hurries to the man she loves. It has been a good practice. George has not, as the players say, "erupted." He even looks pretty snappy, by his modest sartorial standards. His players know what Rosemarie has wrought. "She's improved on that tacky wardrobe," says Ray Allen, Karl's best player. "Any good woman won't let you walk out of the house if you're wearing something wrong."
Rosemarie rushes over to George beaming, the diamond heart necklace he gave her for her birthday glittering, her pretty head tilted up to him in the prelude to a fond embrace. But George turns her away. "There's no kissing in the gym," he declares.
She is baffled as much as anything. "Never?" she finally asks.
George mulls that over. "Maybe after a big win," he says.