Sunday, October 27, 2013


I know there are people who read my Facebook posts about tennis and roll their eyes, thinking, "There he goes again, blathering about tennis. Enough already."   I know this because I've thought the same thing about some of my FB friends who always post about some single-minded obsession.  

This week I read a somewhat entertaining article about ways people be can be annoying on Facebook:  7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook.  I almost didn't finish the article because I didn't agree with the author's cynical view that so many posts are motivated by bragging or inducing jealousy in other people.  I often post about my tennis (and other) successes, but it's not to brag or elevate myself above others.  I do it because I'm happy and proud and I want to share my happiness/accomplishments with people.

But I kept reading the article, and I'm glad I did, because there's a great Venn diagram of concentric circles showing how few things actually will interest your FB public.

The author gives examples of things in the blue, green, and orange territory.  Funniest line in the article: "Off to the gym, then class reading...We're talking about serious blue territory here, which means that even your mom doesn't give a shit."

It was with this article in my head that I was reluctant to post on FB that I'd won my match on Thursday, which meant I got to go to the playoff finals in Aurora!  (The event that I really really really wanted to go to.)

In fact, I posted it Thursday night, then took it down immediately because I worried about bragging.  Stupid Venn diagram, get out of my head!

Friday morning I reconsidered and posted it again.  (I could at least justify it because I knew for a fact that my mom did give a shit.  I called her after my match on Thursday and she was excited for me.)  The post would get 29 "likes" and several comments of encouragement.  I guess it was interesting to my FB friends after all.


When I was in high school I was obsessed with wrestling.  I grew up in a wrestling family and when I joined the high school team it become my whole life.  As a junior I made it to the state tournament, and as a senior I was the team captain and a contender to win State.  I ended up getting third in the state, which I was proud of, but fell short of my goal.

Making it to the league playoff finals in Aurora felt like the closest I would ever come to re-living my high school wrestling glory days.  As a 42-year-old man, I was given another chance to win the big tournament.


A few months ago my new mother-in-law made the mistake of asking me if my league tennis matches were something that people came and watched.  I was touched that she wanted to support my hobby like that, but I had to admit that people don't watch league matches.  There's not even a place to sit.  But I told her about the playoffs, and said that IF I qualify for them, and IF I make it to the final weekend, there would surely be fans at the final event in Aurora.

So when I won my match on Thursday, I told my in-laws that I was going to Aurora, and they offered to drive me and Katherine to the tournament.  We loaded up the car and took the hour-and-a-half trip out to the far western suburbs.

My in-laws are super nice, humble people who would never do anything to make me feel inferior, but sometimes I get a slight inferiority complex around them.  Katherine is the only person in her family who doesn't have a doctorate.  Her family members work super hard, do very well in their careers, and earn a lot of money.  I have two masters degrees, but I'm also working as a part-time librarian and letting my wife be the primary breadwinner.  I personally have no problems with that arrangement (I take care of more house stuff), but there are times when I worry that they think of me as their deadbeat son-in-law.

Let me be clear.  They've never given me any reason to feel like this.  It's all my own insecurities. 

So it was quite a thrill to have them watch me play tennis.  They actually got to see me at something I'm really good at, something I'm proud of.  See-- I'm not a loser!  I work hard.  I have talent. 


So with all these issues swirling around, how did I actually do in Aurora?

I was in the semifinals of the tournament, the final four competitors in my division.  In my first match, I played the top seed, a super nice guy.  Most of the guys in this league are friendly, but he was exceptionally so, giving me high fives at every change-over. We had a great first set, and were on serve, each of us holding easily, until I was up 6-5.  On his service game I got a little divine intervention.  The sun came out and it was at a point in the sky that was right in his eyes.  He couldn't serve well under those conditions, so I broke him and took the set, 7-5.

At the beginning of the second set, Katherine and her mother left to go to the bathroom. I promptly lost three straight games.  Down 0-3, I clawed my way back, but it wasn't enough.  I lost 3-6.

In the final set my cheering section stayed the whole time.  I was able to step up my game and wear down my opponent.  I won 6-3.  On to the finals!


During the break between my matches I took a picture of the brackets, showing myself in the finals, and posted it to Facebook.  It got 18 "likes."  I guess people do care!

Before I could play in the championship match, I had to wait for the other semifinal match to end.  They were having a real battle out there.  Although they played three sets, just like us, their match lasted an hour longer.  By the time they were done and the winner was ready to play me, it was about 5:30pm. It was already starting to get dark.

In the championship match, the first set was a massacre.  I jumped out to a 5-0 lead.  We were only in the second game when I thought, "I'm gonna win.  This guy can't compete with me."  He showed a little resistance near the end of the first set, but I finished it off, 6-2.

But he became a new player in the second set.  Suddenly he was getting to everything, hitting everything back that I threw at him.  Hey, that's what I do!  He won four games in a row and took the set, 6-3.

Ugh.  I felt really bad for my fans. It was dark now, so we had to turn on the lights on the court. And as it got dark it got colder.  The day had never been warm, in the 50's and partly sunny, but at night time it got into the 40's.  It was very cold on the court.  When I looked over to the bleachers, I saw my wife and her parents bundled up in blankets.  I felt bad for making them sit there in the cold for so long.  And now they had to sit through one more set.  All the other matches were done for the day, so my small three-person cheering section sat there alone and huddled together for warmth.

Like this, but only three people.

Although I had lots of chances, I lost the first game to go down 0-1.  That was five straight games I'd lost.  If I didn't change something, I was going to lose the match I had been convinced I'd already won.  In front of my in-laws.  I needed an answer.  I needed a second wind.  I'd been playing high-energy tennis for four hours.  My legs hurt, my back hurt, I was cold, and my opponent seemed to have all the momentum.  I wasn't sure I could beat him.  Even though I hate sports cliches, I told myself I had to "dig deep."  Whatever the hell that even means.

I evened the match at 1-1, and in the next game I had lots more chances to take the lead.  But every time he'd battle back.  He went up 2-1 and I started losing hope.  I had to work hard, so very hard, just to win the next game and keep even with him.

Then I discovered something.  A chink in his armor.

Wow.  If you google "chink in armor", it comes up with images of Asian athletes.  That's really offensive.

I found that if I just kept hitting my forehand hard, cross-court, and into the corner, I could do that all day.  I kept running him around while I stood in one place bashing the ball into that same corner.  Every time.  Eventually he'd get tired and make a mistake.

I grabbed on to this strategy and didn't let go.  I won four out of the next five games to take the championship: 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.


As my opponent and I gathered for our trophy presentation, the only people left were the tournament director, his assistant, and my three fans.  I got a big glassy trophy.

Cat sniffs trophy

This is by far the biggest tennis accomplishment I've ever had.  I won "State"!  I won respect!  I'm validated!

I posted a picture of my trophy on FB.  So far it's gotten 30 "likes." (I promise this will be my last tennis post for a long time.) 

And I called my Mom.  Who definitely gave a shit.

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