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Another Portland Blog

Monday, April 30, 2007

 

Bad tennis my way

For the most part, I'm a considerate guy. I mind my manners. I don't talk during movies. When I parallel park, I make sure to leave enough space behind and in front of my car to let other drivers out with minimal hassle. I even recycle. Sometimes. You're welcome, Mother Earth.

But when it comes to tennis, I'm a super-obnoxious terror and the scourge of any court I set my Nikes upon. I've been playing since I was 13. While my backhand hasn't improved in the slightest since the first day I held a racket, my ability to trash talk has. Have you ever seen that old Disney short starring Goofy as a mild mannered businessman that turns into a reckless sociopath the second he gets behind the wheel of an automobile? Tennis and I? We're a lot like that.

Much of it has to do with the history of the game and those who play it. Along with golf, tennis is the stuffiest sport you can play without a horse. It's an uptight game typically played by uptight people with a scoring system that makes absolutely no sense (0 points is considered "love," 1 point is 15...what's up with that?). Tennis is worthy of ridicule. Shucks, it practically demands it. Despite all this, I love a match but my semi-hipster persona requires that I only love it ironically. For others who sincerely enjoy the sport, it's for the best that I only get a chance to play once or twice a year.

The only person foolhardy enough to play against me is my younger sister, who responds to my endless on-court profanity and one-liners with a slew of her own instead of the disdain I deserve. Talking on a tennis court is considered bad form. Loudly making references to Battlestar Galactica and quoting Fast Times at Ridgemont High may as well be against tennis law. Knowing that, despite my best efforts, I'll be cracking wise by the time the first ball is served, we make an effort to play as far away from others as possible.

The public courts at Gabriel Park are a good venue for this brand of tennis. Weeknights are typically low key and other players tend to begrudgingly put up with rude behavior rather than storming across the courts to ask in a tense whisper, "Don't you think you're causing a scene?" We usually get a late start and, maybe because of the hour or our behavior, the courts tend to clear out halfway through our first match.

This was the case when we headed over there last Thursday. Aside from a group on the lower courts, we had the place to ourselves. Even better, the Wilson High team, who occasionally uses the park's courts for practice, left behind a dozen balls. When you're as bad at tennis as I am, plenty of ammo is essential. There's nothing that ruins an obnoxious tennis match like having to chase down balls every ten seconds.

As usual, I lost. Badly. The first match, 2-4. The second match was a shut-out. Maybe if I had spent more time working on my cross-court dive than exaggerated grunts worthy of Wimbledon, I might have done better.

Over the years I've seen plenty of players on those courts at Gabriel Park. I'd say 97% are well behaved. Then there's the rest of us: rude, obnoxious and/or overly competitive. If only there were a tennis club for people like us.

Or maybe I should take up bowling.

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