The French Open just wrapped up and Wimbledon is upon us. Game on.
I’m not your typical sports fan. I grew up having Jack Nicholson, the Steelers, and PITT always on in the background thanks to my Dad’s fanaticism. Everyone knows too because he wears his team pride like pieces of identification. The PITT logo is on his car, hat, sweaters. Even his golf clubs wear yellow and black sweaters for Steelers. He could always drum up conversation with strangers “Did you catch that game last night?” “What are your predictions for the season?”
I’ll give it to my dad. Sports can be an icebreaker.
My sport happens to be tennis. I started as a spectator back in the ‘80s. I would wake up around 5am just to watch Edberg, Navritilova and McEnroe play game, set, match. I played doubles for a bit in high school but was never competitive enough. I just liked to have fun out on the court.
As my game improved, I started watching matches more intently picking up tips that could improve my stroke, volley or serve. I was lucky enough to visit Wimbledon when Sampras and Hingis won, and I’ve seen Blake, Venus, Wawrinka and Djokovic play over the years. We watched Sampras vs Agassi from nosebleed seats days before 9/11 at the US Open in New York.
Time to Hit
A handful of years ago upon moving to the ‘burbs, I joined a local tennis club. I started with a weekly clinic, and my class consisted of a small group of women who were looking to hit balls and have fun. We would meet up in various tennis courts to practice twice a week. Our skills improved and we all became friends learning of each other’s families, jobs and routines. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I have had moving to a new place. Imagine that, meeting new people meant making friends.
Tennis helped me transition into this new life. It became my outlet from any boredom or loneliness. For those couple of hours, tennis freed my mind from the troubles of the day, and it was liberating to focus on nothing but a fuzzy green ball attached to an aluminum stick with strings.
On the Sidelines
I haven’t played tennis in a few years. These days, I feel lucky when I can take the time to watch a Grand Slam match. I’m openly manipulating my daughter to become a fan, although she doesn’t understand why I yell furiously at Murray when I tell her I want him to win.
Tennis is not the most popular sport and viewership is down. It’s not an enticing ice breaker. I don’t know if people in line at Panera want to discuss Djokovic’s dwindling performance or Murray’s attitude problem. Serena’s pregnancy is another story, but gossip’s always a winner.
As we settle into a fortnight of white shorts, green lawns and Pimms with strawberries, I’ve got tennis on the brain. From the intensity of watching a gripping five-setter that fills every emotional bucket from anxiety to bliss, I am alive for those few precious hours. I get fired up. We all possess these small passions (aka Federer, Murray) that keep us human, proud and visceral.
What’s your sport? Do you play? Do you watch?