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The Way the Ball Bounces is the thirteenth episode of the fourth season of Family Matters, which aired on ABC on January 22, 1993. It was directed by Jeffrey Gantz and written by Stephen Langford.


Eddie and Laura both learn lessons in education and sleep. In Eddie's case, he is wooed by a slick-talking college recruiter, who wants him only for his basketball skills and not his meager academic credentials. In order to teach him that education is more important than sports, Harriette invites a college student working at a grocery store to explain the dangers of putting basketball over education. Meanwhile, a sleep famished Laura enlists Urkel to cover as her so she can go to the library to study for the PSAT and later learns just how important sleep is.


Laura covets an opportunity to get into Harvard and decides she must study non-stop to get an SAT score high enough to qualify for a scholarship. Laura's lack of sleep begin to take its toll on her appearance, attitude and health. Carl demands she stay home and at least take a nap before resuming her cram session. Laura refuses as Steve returns from his sleep session now fresh to continue studying.

When Laura asks him to cover for her while she goes to study at the library, he immediately refuses. He points out that being in her bedroom without permission is a direct violation to Carl's house rules. Laura uses her charms to convince Steve to cover for her. Carl comes in to have a heart-to-heart talk with Laura, unaware that Steve is the one beneath the covers. He manages to fool Carl by disguising his voice and retains his cover when Carl asks his "daughter" for a kiss on the cheek.

While all this is going on, Eddie is gung-ho on wanting to get into Illinois Occidental University. A college recruiter wants Eddie because of his basketball skills and not his meager education. When Harriette asks about the scholarship from the recruiter, he ignores telling her about it. She soon grows concern while Eddie and Carl is impressed with the college and its basketball program. In order to teach Eddie about the consequences of putting a basketball career over education, Harriette invites a grocery bagger named Sam who had gotten into college on an athletic scholarship. He tells both Eddie and Carl that things went well for him until he suffered a career-ending injury. Then, when he was unable to keep up with the school's academic requirements, he dropped out of the school. Sam mentions the only job he could find is a bagger at a grocery store. With his boss's help, he's now working on a college degree.

However, Sam regretted his earlier decision in not putting education over sports. While Eddie is enlightened by this, Carl also realizes his mistake in putting sports ahead of an education and is remorseful for it. To avoid the same fate, Eddie decides to put his education before a basketball career. As he leaves to play a little one-on one with Sam, a disheveled Laura returns home from the library. Carl points out that she was supposed to be taking a nap but she babbles out an explanation that she can't remember the atomic weight of titanium. Laura fears she'll flunk the SATs and will never get into Harvard. Carl and Harriette comfort her and tell her it is not necessary to put so much pressure on herself. They tell her that once she gets some sleep, she'll be refreshed and no matter what score she gets, they'll still support her.

Laura is finally convinced to get some sleep and stop putting pressure on herself. While Carl and Harriette talk about the academic directions their children are taking, he suspects something awry. He soon puts it together that it was Urkel under the covers and rushes to the neighbor's house to find him, thinking Urkel went back home.

During the end credits, Urkel comes downstairs from Laura's room and sees her asleep on the kitchen table. He attempts to kiss her, but Laura warns him not to think about it. Then, an enraged Carl enters the house and, noticing Urkel is there, chases after him. Steve tries to explain himself as he's being chased by Carl.




  • Christopher B. Duncan as Sam the Slam
  • Jack Reilly as Wayne



  • Laura decides that she would like to attend Harvard for college, and fears that she might not be able to go. The Laura-Harvard story line is revisited in "Twinkle Toes Faldo".
  • This is the first episode that Laura suffers from a lack of sleep. This would be revisited in "Money Out the Window".
  • Urkel's choice to follow Carl's house rules is revised from Surely You Joust.


Carl: Laura, I forbid you to leave this house until you get some rest.
Laura: Dad, you're exacerbating the problem instead of ameliorating it.

Urkel: Why don't you lie down and catch a few Z's.
Laura: You sound like my father.
Urkel: Oh?
Laura: Yeah, he said I can't go to the library until I get some sleep.
Urkel: Why, you should have told me. I nearly violated a direct Big Guy order.
Laura: What my father doesn't know won't hurt him. I have to study. Are you coming with me or not?
Urkel: Negatory. I will not help you destroy your health.
Laura: Well, I'm going. And I want you to keep your mouth shut.
Urkel: Uh-uh. I'm squealing, baby. And there's nothing on God's green earth that's gonna stop me.
Laura: [in a soft voice while caressing his cheek] Please, Stevie?
Urkel: [giggling] Okay.

  v - e - dFamily Matters Season 4
Surely You JoustDance to the MusicDriving Carl CrazyRumor Has It...Number One With a BulletWhose Kid Is It Anyway?An Officer and a WaldoJust One DateThe Oddest CoupleIt's Beginning to Look a Lot Like UrkelMuskrat LoveHot WheelsThe Way the Ball BouncesA Thought in the DarkTender KissesHeart StringsIt's a Mad, Mad, Mad HouseHigher AnxietyMama's WeddingPulling TeethWalk on the Wild SideHot StuffStormy WeatherBuds 'n' Buns