The Tennis Curmudgeon


The Week – Part Eighteen

SUNDAY

My first thought on my last day at this tournament was, ‘I think I hate the Bad Luck Club.’

It was my honest and rightful thought they were trying to kill me. Jealous, maybe. Angered by my stunning success at a game they to love but play at such a lowly level. Daunted by my obvious beauty and poise. It could be they were the internut haters and set up this elaborate ruse to befriend me with the nefarious plan to do me in.

But it could also be something as simple as those bastards can drink!

I’m hoping that’s not the answer. I’ve promised to come back for Don’s fiftieth wedding anniversary in a couple of months so I’m sure that would kill me. I bet it’s just that, without as much down time as usual, I didn’t drink much this week. It could also be because I finally, totally, fully relaxed after this long and, yes, freaky week.

In reality, it was my best hangover ever.

Sitting on the edge of the bed I’m tossing my gear into my tennis bag. I’m bummed to be giving up my tennis bag. I’ve had it since I started on the tour. But the rep said I’d have a brand new on waiting for me in the car before I left. Same with rackets and clothes and anything a growing tennis player could need.

I toss it all in the corner knowing the staff has been instructed to box it all and get it to Tyler. I don’t think I said a proper goodbye to him, he couldn’t come to the dinner last night, so I wrote him a note,

“Tyler, you made hell week, I mean, a historical week, bearable. Bob Lyle.”

Now I’m waiting. Moments from the week flash through my head. All of them good. No matter how often you do it, each tournament, each time you step on a court, can be special. It’s a fresh experience. No two matches are ever alike. Every single time you hit a ball you’re trying to attain greatness. It doesn’t matter how good you are. All that matters is you’re out there playing. The outcome is superfluous to act.

The Bad Luck Club, it’s membership growing daily, took me to a wonderful restaurant, we had a tremendous meal, I’ve never had better company. That doesn’t mean they still didn’t try to kill me but that’s something you can quickly overlook.

It’s what makes tennis players unique. If you wallow in your last point there will be no way to enjoy the next one. You have to let whatever happened go and live in the present. Because that’s where the fun is.

I was happy Naomi showed up. Shocked actually.

“Wow,” I said in my ultra-smooth manner. “You clean up real good.”

It didn’t take me long to start putting the moves on her. I wasn’t thinking past tonight, rarely do I, but I knew there was a connection. When Steve drove us to my hotel I didn’t even ask her if she wanted to come in. As difficult as it would be, I wanted to see if we could have something more.

“It could be like that movie.” I said to her leaning in the window. “The crappy golfer becomes a hit and wins the heart of the tour press agent.”

“Happy Gilmore?” She spit.

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Keep dreaming, idiot.” She said rolling up the window.

“You know I will.” I said as Steve pulled away.

Steve was unusually quiet on the ride to the airport. I understood. This was a great week for a bunch of people.

“I’ll give you a call in a couple of weeks.” I said hoping I would. “I’m going to be working at a resort in a month or so. Maybe you can join me and have a vacation.”

“That would be cool.” He said a little more glumly than you’d expect from a guy who was just offered a free vacation.

“Listen,” I said waiting until he looked at me to continue. “I know it’s not going to be easy for me to keep in touch with everyone. You know I’m a self-centered prick. But you made a pretty hard week workable.” I reach into my bag and pull out the golden tennis ball trophy. “And I’ll do everything I can to stay in touch. But first, have this.”

He looked at the trophy then me as if I was crazy. He began to protest but I stopped him.

“I don’t have a place to put it. I’d want you to have it anyway.” I drop it on his lap. “If you keep it at least I’ll be able to visit it.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“There’s nothing to say. Thanks for everything.” I get out of the car then collect all my new stuff. “Send me an email let me know what’s happening.”

This is the first time I’ve ever felt bad about leaving a place. In my usual transitory life there has never been time for a lingering goodbye. I guess I never left an impression before.

As Steve pulled away to go back to work I stood and watched thinking,

‘So this is why those people are always crying at train stations in those old movies.’

EPILOGUE

Will, Dave, Don, Oliver, Marco, and Ed, AKA The Original Bad Luck Club, all remained close and made it a point to go to dinner at least once a month and hit with each other every week. Will and Dave continued to absorb abuse about the time they had their asses handed to them by Bob. But their lives improved through the jobs Don offered them in his company.

Peter McCarrick, Brian Lowell, Dan Johnson, Bob’s opponents that week at Mid-State Savings And Loan Classic, all had careers that kept them above one hundred in the world for most of their careers. After Peter left the tour he and Bob became best friends.

Guillermo Deltoro played six more tournaments until he was fed up with all the ‘palos mierda incompetentes’ he had to deal with on your so retired. He can be seen abusing the staff at any one of the tanning salons he owns.

Dougie MacIntyre parlayed his brush with fame into a lucrative career as a motivational speaker. His book, ‘Turning Nothing Into Love’, remained on the best sellers list for sixty-eight weeks.

Denise became a tennis fan after her brush with fame.

John sold Bob’s memorabilia for a whopping twenty-seven thousand dollars and change. He promptly invested it all and, on Bob’s thirtieth birthday, surprised his old friend with an investment portfolio worth well into the millions.

Tyler Morgan remained on the tour as a tournament director for another three years before being offered the position of president of the Mid-State Savings And Loan replacing his long time devoted friend, Schulyer Becks.

Steve finished school then began a career as the Director of Tennis for a resort in the chain overseen by Rick Derco who was happy to give an upstart a break. All Bob had to do was agree to be the chains resident touring pro.

Naomi left the tour shortly after the Mid-State Savings And Loan to start her own PR firm, Gold Standard.

Bob Lyle never had a week quite like that again. He continued to rise in the rankings spending most of his remaining career hovering between the high twenties and low seventies. He never dipped below one hundred again. He always said he was proudest of that.

He won six more singles titles but didn’t talk much about them. He left the tour soon after his thirtieth birthday and married Naomi, his girlfriend of ten years, a year later. They had a boy and a girl. Neither play tennis. Which is just fine with their parents.

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