The Tennis Curmudgeon

The Week – Part Four
September 30, 2013, 12:04 am
Filed under: Tennis, Tennis Curmudgeon, The Tennis Curmudgeon | Tags: , ,


I don’t actually get paid to play tennis. I get paid for waiting to play tennis. Sitting in locker rooms, sitting in players lounges, sitting in hotels. For that I get a little pay.

But for being in airports? That’s when I make the big bucks. It’s not that I mind airports. Who could hate airports? They’re little more than traveling wombs. They’re like a suburban mall with a giant flying ride. I don’t care how many pieces of indigenous art you nail to the wall Boston is Denver until you get outside.

The air is the same. The people are the same. The behavior is the same. The announcements are, well, let’s not belabor the point. I think you get my drift. It’s the interminable wait that’s more frustrating than having someone Swedish massage your taint.

If you fly as often as me and weekly see the same seventeen software sales drones you’ll even get tired of doing that thing everyone says they love: people watch. Trust me, the only difference between the chubby guy jamming a Sbarro down his throat in Florida or Wisconsin is the length of his pants.

The truth is people don’t actually like to people watch. They don’t. They like to freak watch. You’ve never seen someone nudge their travel companion when a well-behaved family of four trundles past.

But if you see a mother with a mysterious stain on the back of her neck dragging a blue faced brat who’s dug his feet so deep into the floor he’s shucking tiles you’ll see a sea of ‘people watching’. After you’ve seen that unfold every time you’re sitting on that ass numbing plastic chair it’s no longer a spectacle. It’s base humanity.

Please don’t get self-righteous and tell me I could be using the time to my advantage, better myself, maybe take an on-line class. I can’t, trust me, I’ve tried. A word of advice, don’t take an on-line cooking class. It’s a gyp. I can’t read in an airport. I can barely read in my hotel. Basically, if I’m in a hotel room I’m engaged in one of the three ‘ings’. Drinking, fucking, sleeping. I’m not much of a reader to begin with.

The only news I get is soundlessly in a bar or when I scan the headlines of the paper across from me. So my knowledge of current events is staggeringly inept. I might be able to get some knowledge from the blaring headline (“DEMS KILL BILL IN HOUSE” – which, to the best of my limited knowledge, yet knowing the current landscape of what is considered news, could mean Demi Moore killed Bill Murray in her house) and figure out if the local sports team sucks or not.

I wish I were better versed in the world around me. And I know it’s totally my fault. I’ve spent so much time in a self-contained bubble thinking about nothing other than hitting a fuzzy little yellow spheroid it’s made it difficult to take myself out of there and check out anything.

I know it sounds like a lame excuse, and it is. But I guess it’s how we got the notion of dumb jock. I’ve been around jocks all my life and, sometimes, that assessment is true. I’ve known highly respected jocks so dumb they have to put a note saying ‘Remember to go home’ on their dashboard.

I’ve also met the obverse. Jocks so smart, so well-read, so excited to learn they’re pretty much ostracized. That’s only slightly a joke. The reason is listening to that person tell you about a book they just read or a breaking news story takes you out of your own painstakingly constructed, totally absorbed, world.

You’ll never meet a jock worth their game day socks who isn’t adept at ignoring anything going on around them that does not pertain to them.

The amount of time they put into this endeavor, many hours long after everyone else has gone home, creates this vacuum human. And the better they get the more people allow them to, for lack of a better word, be a self-absorbed cretin.

Then, if they keep moving up the ladder, the people who knew them back when, even tangentially, need them to keep playing the game. They need someone to keep their childhood alive. As long as you’re still participating in childish things no one will ever get old.

I’m guilt of that, to a point. But I wasn’t lucky or unlucky, depending on your outlook, enough to have that complete absorption.

My family didn’t know what kept me out of the house for hours, sometimes days, at a time. They probably figured I was out on a long con. I did have people who supported me but they were all older. They were way past thinking some hometown boy could lengthen their adolescents.

My Mother only saw me play once. She drove by some courts once and saw me. She watched for a few minutes before calling me over. I jogged over, she looked at me and said,

“Ya gonna be home for dinner or ya gonna keep playing your little game?”

I think I’ll keep playing my little game.

I’m not saying I had a bad life. Although I’d been gone over a year my room in that nice house was still my room. That meant Dad wasn’t in the can so the checks were still plentiful. But I knew that could change in a heartbeat. If he got busted it would probably take me a few weeks to track them down. And you can be certain my room, and all my stuff, would be dropped from the equation.

So I have to make it out here. I have to keep focusing on each point and each game and each match until I’m certain this is my home. Being on the road doesn’t bother me. The constant moving from town to town doesn’t effect me. Losing friends at the drop of a hat has little meaning to me. That’s all been part of my upbringing.

Is it the best life? Sitting here with a sneezing guy to the left of me and a crying baby right behind? Even if I wanted to call anyone who could I? Even my agent rarely returns my calls. I’m not profitable enough to be a burden. My phone is filled with numbers of players but why would I call them? They’re all busy dealing with their own shit. If you become friendly with someone for more than three weeks at this level that’s almost a commitment.

It feels real but it’s not. There’s a bond because of the commonality of the situation. We probably know everything about the other. We sure as hell know some secrets. But everything is at arms length. There’s a disengagement that comes from future knowledge. You’re having the time of your life with someone but in the back of your head you know one day you’re going to have to try to beat each others brains in. Things like that will sour a friendship.

Even though you see the same players week after week they’re little more than the software salespeople you see in the airport. People you’re familiar with but have no true bond. It’s impossible because we’re both after the same thing. Same with the software people. There are only so many accounts after all. And although they got drunk together in a Toledo hotel bar, maybe fucked in Dallas, they can never truly become friends. Because at the end of the day they have something you want and only one of you will get it.

That’s why being alone doesn’t bother me. I know it bothers some. They’ve told me. But the doing nothing is what gets to me. That’s why the big money comes when I’m in airports. At least at a hotel I can find a court and hit some balls. I can get out. Here my options are sit here or sit in a bar. And as much as I like drinking (it is my favorite of the three ing’s) I’ve never let fun get in the way of the game.

It’s the only reason I’m here.


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