The sport of the gods

I’ve mentioned only briefly that I try to play racquetball every weekday. (That HAS been tweaked somewhat by the arrival of the child, but it’s still the goal.)

What I’ve discovered is that racquetball, in some ways, is very much like baseball. BASEBALL? Yes.

  • You have to keep your eye on the ball
  • You must go where the ball is going to be, not where it is
  • Often, you have to back up to get the best defensive angle on the ball
  • Sometimes you hit it well and you’re unsuccessful, while other times you hit it poorly and luck out
  • You have to change your pace
  • It’s often a “matter of inches”
  • You can be down 14-1 and still come back and win

    I’ve played with a lot of guys, and a few women, over the years, but my main three competitors all have a FantaCo connection. Don Labriola was a FantaCo customer, as was Norm Nissen, best man in my wedding to Carol. Don had to stop playing (his knees, I think), but Norman & I are still at it nearly 20 years later.

    Tom Yanni has a more indirect FantaCo connection. He was going out with a woman named Debbie who had a roommate who was friends with FantaCo’s Mitch Cohn. Tom and I played for about 15 years until he got married and moved to Rhode Island. He has a teenaged daughter and a new son, Sam, just a couple weeks older than Lydia.

    You really get to know people quite well when you play racquetball: how often they call a “hinder” on the shot, how often they hit someone with a shot (someone’s almost always going to be hit by the shot, or more rarely, the racquet), how often they argue a call agreed to by the majority, how angry they get with themselves when they muff shots.
    You’ll see a side of people others don’t often see. One guy who we used to play cursed quite often; he was a minister who has since moved to Maryland. (But another minister we used to play, who has since moved to Pennsylvania, was the same on and off the court.)

    I used to play almost exclusively singles (2 of us) or cutthroat (3 of us), but I’ve played more partners in the last year or two than ever before, mostly due to circumstance. (The singles people used to come earlier and the doubles people later, but now we all show up at about the same time.)

    I know one guy who has a bad knee but plays when he can. His wife hid his racquet, but he found it, took it to play, then carefully replaced the racquet to its original place. Another guy had a stress test and was told by his doctor not to play until the test was over. Well, the day after the test, but before the results were in, he was back at it. The game has a devotion practically religious in nature. It was Norm who characterized racquetball as the “sport of the gods”, and he may be right.

    So thanks, Norm, Mike, Alan, Danny, Stanley, and Sherman. Hope Charlie gets better. Hope the elusive Ted shows up sometime.

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