Tennis, more like tenuous


Let’s get two thoughts right out of the way at the beginning, because I honestly won’t be able to concentrate until I write them down.

Firstly: it is probably the most brilliant idea in the history of television to basically air a bunch of young, athletic people in skimpy outfits grunting and getting sweaty and call it a sport. I can’t imagine anything more pathologically capitalistic.

It’s like Adam Smith’s ultimate free-market display of obscenity, except we allow it on ESPN.

Secondly: the only time tennis gets played the way it was meant to be played is at this high level. The rest of the time, it’s full of flailing elbows, twisted knees, taped-up ankles and tragic exclamations of profanity.

For ordinary people, the idea of playing it comes somewhere between the fifth and sixth circle of Dante’s hell. I don’t know if it’s quite in Dis, but I feel comfortable enough to diss it.

If it weren’t for the flagrant exhibition of bodies seen in televised tennis, I have no doubt that it would be the sporting version of the dodo.

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight and one-third of us are obese. What in the heck are we doing playing something as physically demanding as tennis? Are we trying to reduce the health care burden on the economy? Have congressional Republicans really gone that far?

I’ve played tennis before. I was really good. All I had to do was hit it away from the other, similarly wheezing waddler on the other side of the net and the game was done.

Wait a minute, I’ve misused some lingo. The game wasn’t done. The point was done. Wait, no, the, uh…experience…was done? Or interval? Or set period of play to determine what anywhere from one eighteenth or one thirty fifth or goodness, I have no idea.

The scoring system in tennis is more arcane and unnecessarily complicated than the derivatives Wall Street was handing out in 2008. And that caused a multi-trillion dollar economic calamity. There are points that go from “love” to “15” to “30” to “40,” yet also can possible have “advantage” points where both players have forty points within the larger point.

Maybe it’s a large philosophical troll. It’s pointless while having too many points.

Continuing: after the larger point, though, the points add up to a game, which add up to a set, which add up to a match. I’m not going to go into it more because it’s really giving too much credence to a “sport” that exists to put spry young adults into hussy clothing. The only saving grace is that someone tricked David Foster Wallace into liking the sport, and he wrote some pretty awesome stuff about it.

Instead, though, I’m going to talk about the wonderful game of ping-pong, or table tennis, as you might know it. Now there’s a game for Americans.

You barely need to move to play, although players need quickness at the very high levels. A dude or lass can get by just by knowing how to spin the ball well.

You can wear a t-shirt and jeans while playing it without feeling like you’re going to be ostracized for wearing some ultra-conservative attire. Anybody can play it with the reasonable expectation of little exercise, and that’s a good thing.

Best of all, I think the United Kingdom actually have some decent players on the worldwide stage.

Last year, Andy Murray became the first Brit to win a Grand Slam title in some eighty years last year, and he only won the US Open, not Wimbledon, the de facto stomping grounds of the royal family.

So, really, I’m not sure why the Brits are still so gung-ho about this whole thing. Aren’t they sick of watching their home isle get perennially whipped by other European countries and the United States all the time? Isn’t that what the have soccer for?


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