You might think I am going to talk about football and basketball, or even soccer, hockey, and baseball. That would be wrong. I am going to talk about the beast that is tennis. Tennis has a mixed vibe in our culture, today. It used to be perceived as sort of an upper class, Caucasian type of thing. Arthur Ashe was sort of an anomaly until Serena and Venus blew the whole paradigm wide open. Since this injection of coolness and diversity, tennis has adopted a sort of mercurial position. But this is not a “history of tennis” lesson. Let us talk about Big Bobby, instead. Big Bobby is a mean linemen. He makes lesser linemen quake in their boots. But alas, today, in the big game, Big B is not performing well. He has a minor injury, had a fight with his girlfriend, whatever. Coach says “darn”, but quickly takes him out and puts somebody else in. A bit of a loss, but problem solved. Some of you know what I am going to say next. Substitution?! Are you kidding me?! I can play half a game and still win? Wait, I can not even play at all and still win?! This sport is awesome! That is a splendiferous, flubiterrous luxury that us tennis players never had. You step on a tennis court; you do not step off until you carve out a W or an L. That’s it. No timeouts when things get touchy. No substitutions when someone’s concentration starts to wane. The guy across the net wants to win. Do you? Will you keep playing when your back spasms and you can hardly walk, or you break your ankle, or pull a hamstring? Not everyone will, but there are those. Mommy not gonna bring no subs today. Handle your business, or get off the court so the winner doesn’t have to look at your losing carcass, anymore.
We just laid up another lay up. The score is 93-57 with a minute to go. At this point, you can do pretty much anything. Your little friend, the clock, has your back. When the clock takes football, basketball, soccer and hockey out for drinks, tennis, baseball, and golf are not invited. We do not have the luxury of time containment. The hour hand does not offer any solace when your opponent trails far behind. You must respect his determination and know that with infinity sports, it ain’t over, till it’s over. No lead is too big to be blown. For tennis, that is most assuredly true. You could lose every single point of the match, until match point, and then come back and win. There has never been a Super Bowl that lasted 11 hours; unfortunately, I can’t say the same about tennis. Baseball has racked up past 8 hours, and that is impressive, but I am not going to be mean and comment on the difference in physical output between a tennis player in a match and a single baseball player in a game. What kind of sick person would compare a cheetah to a sloth?
I know I iterate, but let me reiterate, that this piece is all about love and respect for tennis. I am removing the tongue from my cheek, turning off the sarcasm pump, and sending away the dogs of smug vengeance. Sports are a beautiful thing. A true sportsman has sportsmanship, an astounding quality that runs contrary to human nature. Graciousness in defeat and victory comes from above, not from the sad sack of ourselves. That the thrill and wonder of competition has manifested via a vast array of physical pursuits is a beautiful thing. Why humility may not always come easy, I fully am aware of several things. If I stepped on a football field or hockey rink I would probably come off on a stretcher. If I jumped in a basketball or baseball game, I would be like the wandering drunk man in a crowd of determined people. All sports are awesome and appeal to different folks. We need not criticize, or single out, one or several as lesser than, even if only in our minds. I am fully aware that I just did that, but it was for a good cause. In all truth, if you really want to know about the mental toughness at the heart of adversity, talk to a golfer, bowler, or target shooter. One mistake and you are dust. Much love to track, lacrosse, swimming, wrestling, boxing, mixed martial arts, jai alai, and all the others I did not mention. God gave us a mind, a body, a spirit, and a soul, among other things, and it is truly breathtaking when those things come together.
From the court, I am signing off. 15 all. Your serve.