Granted, it wasn't easy to pass the approval test in the Robinson household—although I have to admit that the first time we met Barack, he couldn't have made a better impression. On a memorably hot Chicago summer evening, my parents and I were sitting out on the front porch when the two of them strolled up, stopping by to say hello on their way to a movie.
Out of earshot as they approached, Mom said, "Well, he's tall." With my sister being five-eleven, that was a good thing.
Dad nodded, adding, "Not a bad-looking guy either."
Michelle introduced him, no differently than she would have anyone else she dated, and he was very self-possessed, I thought—with a nice smile and a firm handshake. He asked questions and answered them with ease, as if he was used to jumping into new situations and genuinely liked people. I could relate. But it was when he talked about his family—even though his experiences were different from ours—that I saw a similarity in values that could definitely work to his advantage in their relationship. At the least, I concluded he was the kind of guy my sister wouldn't run over!
But no sooner had Michelle and Barack left for their date than Mom and Dad exchanged knowing glances and I let out a sigh.
"Too bad," Mom said.
"Yep," Dad and I said in unison. Then my father added, "She'll eat him alive."
Mom gave the relationship six months to last.
It was almost a year later—the point we were taking bets about when she was going to move on, as usual—when Miche came to ask for this favor that nearly floored me. From what she could tell, there was nothing not to like about Barack. But now she wanted to have some insight about what kind of guy he was when she wasn't around. And since Dad and I had preached the gospel of basketball being the true revealer of character, Michelle had come up with the idea that I include Barack in a game of pickup basketball and check him out.
Normally, I would have laughed at such a preposterous suggestion or complained bitterly about being put in the position of having to basically create an audition situation. But I was so happy that she really liked this guy that I agreed (albeit begrudgingly) to arrange a pickup game with a group of guys who played at mixed levels—mainly from their college days in the Ivy League and in Division I basketball, but also a couple who hadn't gone further than high school, and then a player or two who had played professionally.