So, I was a little taken aback recently when my tennis buddy, M.E., told me that the old gang was reconstituting the weekly game and was extending an invitation to him and me to return to the court. I was flattered, of course, but circumspect. I mean, on the one hand, I really don’t think I can recapture whatever skills I once owned. And the chance of injury is pretty good. On the other hand, these guys haven’t exactly grown younger in the past decade; I suspect the game would be played more or less in slow motion.
There was some fine print to be considered in this deal, as well: It wouldn’t just be old guys on the court, actually. Apparently, there was a gaggle of twentysomethings that kind of filled out the roster, M.E. noted. Could we convince them to let us old guys slog along on our own while they pranced, gazelle-like, on a neighboring court?
Part of me — the testosterone-fuelled idiot part — loves the idea of playing against guys young enough to be my sons. It would be a great challenge. It would push my limits. Clear out the cobwebs in my fitness routine.
I was kind of in that zone Wednesday night, when M.E. and I arrived at the LTF Crosstown club for a 9 pm tennis match. We had about a half-hour to kill, so we tossed our tennis gear into a corner the gym, grabbed a basketball and started reliving our former glory on the hardwood. I was surprised to see that, after a few bricks clanked off the rim, I began draining 18-footers like the old days (which is to say, intermittently). Meanwhile, M.E. was starting to feel pretty good about himself, which meant he needed a little one-on-one.
That was OK. He’s not as tenacious as he was in his 40s. And nobody was going to be driving the baseline for reverse lay-ups. Just a couple of middle-aged guys reliving the good old days. But, here’s the pathetic part: We went at each other for maybe 10 minutes, neither of us presenting much in the way of defense, and the ball never actually managed to travel through the hoop.
We grabbed our stuff and silently shuffled off to the tennis courts, where we battled through an exhilarating 14-game set before I prevailed 8-6. It was the best tennis we’d played all season: long rallies, great shot-making, much scampering from baseline to net. We worked up quite a lather.
And on the way home, I don’t recall any talk about basketball.