Friday, January 08, 2010

Number One Tennis Fan

I became an avid tennis fan a few years ago after having had no interest in the game. Tennis, similar to golf for me was for others, not for my inner city upbringing. I didn't see a tennis racquet or court until I transferred high schools during my sophomore year to a predominantly white school, in the tony neighborhood of River Oaks. The other side of town that I was bussed to during the early morning hours under the cover of darkness.

I wasn't exposed to elite sports, and truthfully wasn't athletic beyond junior high track and field, and my first year of high school in the marching band. I didn't think I'd become a near-raving lunatic for women's tennis as an adult as I sat on the manicured lawn of Lamar Senior High School eating lunch, several blocks from the River Oaks Country Club. Men's tennis is a snooze for me. The women bare their emotions, are prone to drama, medical timeouts, and downright soap opera villainness cheating and scheming.

The white students in my adopted high school were the ones with tennis racquets, attire, and aspirations, although none went on to collegiate or professional sports. My only ties to the game was during Black History Month in February in the faces and lives of Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson, both of whom seem mythical, out of reach, and enshrouded in special access.

I don't remember my first Venus, Serena, or James Blake match, and it doesn't matter now. I admire tennis players because they are pitted against each other like a heavyweight boxer. Singles players have to rely on their own wit, not fellow team members. When I watch one of the African American players, I feel the pressure they might feel in this still lily-white sport. What must it feel like as a minority in those stadiums as all eyes are trained on your every move, perhaps waiting for an error to cheer?

I'm probably too emotional when I watch. Ask my upstairs neighbor who pounded her foot on the floor during the epic Wimbledon Ladies' Final between Venus and Lindsay Davenport, with Venus outlasting Lindsay in the third set tiebreaker 9-7. I felt she was playing to win, but also had the weight of Black America on her shoulders. Perhaps not.

Tennis is closest to writing for me because both pit the athlete and writer against himself and the opponent across the net or receiving editor and eventual audience. I'm not as fanatical as "La Agrado" in All About My Mother or Robert DeNiro in The Fan, but I've had my moments of outrage and disappointment when James, Donald Young, Venus, Serena, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, or Gaƫl Monfils gave away an easy win to a lesser opponent. Those types of matches were like watching a traffic accident. You know you should look away or keep on driving, but you stare, hopeful, that the victim will rebound and everything will return to normal.

One of my fondest memories was a live blogging event moderated by Sheila of Black Tennis Pros. I'd like to think I've settled into my tennis skin and knowledge as an armchair coach, and will no longer respond like a raving loon when the regular season starts, but that will depend on whose playing on any given day. Join me for the Australian Open beginning on January 18th.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Harlem Writer v. 5.0

It is that time of year to make New Year's Resolutions, reflect on the previous year hopefully with little or no regrets, and concentrate on who and what lies sometimes at the end of our fingertips or in the adjacent cubicle.
I'm not immune to a bit of navel gazing, self-recrimination, and self-pitying, but what matters is how long I allow myself to remain in any of the aforementioned altered states. Navel gazing is all about staring in the mirror, amazed at who I was and what I accomplished. If this goes on for too long, days or weeks will pass me by. No, it's better to tabulate the hits and misses, and step away from the bathroom or full length mirror because someone else probably wants to adore their reflection. The opposite for navel gazing is self-recrimination.

How many times have I berated myself for simple, silly, forgivable transgressions when all I have to do is remember to ask God for forgiveness and move on? I'd rather not say, but as with the theme of this blog, I'm looking ahead, not behind in order to improve my internal operating systems. I've been taught and read that worrying is a sin. Heaven knows that list is already overpopulated, so one less will lighten the load.

Self-pitying is self-recrimination's darker twin. I've recently began watching Intervention on A&E, and my heart goes out to those bold or foolish enough to have a camera crew follow them around as they live through their addiction(s). A recent episode struck a nerve. A young mother couldn't get over herself and her addiction because she was too busy feeling sorry for herself rather than focusing on recovery. My addictions aren't narcotics, prescription drugs, or alcohol, but for about ten minutes I identified with the snotting and crying woman sitting in the parking lot, confused about her next step.

Granny would always say to us, "Trouble is easy to get into, but hard to get out of." I took from this episode: to be careful who and what I ask for in 2010; to look both ways before crossing the street, and to slow down. Life is always better after a power nap or a full night's rest. If it's meant to be, it will happen.

I've resolved to dance with abandon, creative writing at least two hours a hour a day before bed or while the chickens are still asleep, and guide my PR clients to the best of my and my team's abilities, imagination, and vision. I've resolved not to personalize random blog or forum comments, or mumbled insults on the subways or buses. I've resolved to live each day as if it were my last. Tomorrow isn't promised, so it's best to live today.