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Tennis Blog: Alpena Joe Flash Back

July 28, 2015 03:16 PM


I have a confession to make: I failed 8th grade typing.  Actually, my typing “failure” was predestined due to extraordinary circumstances, as the teacher decided to assign class seating based on the first letter of your first name.  How weird is that?  So, by fate or teacher whimsicalness, Jennifer Ashby was my typing partner for the fall semester.  Jennifer was Captain of the JV tennis team and unbeknown to her, the center of my emotional universe.  Needless to say, if I had given typing half as much attention as I did Jennifer, I surely would have aced the class, graduated Magma Cum Laude from Harvard, and eventually won the Nobel Prize for typing?  Hum, maybe I getting a little ahead of myself.    

I have always enjoyed sports and thanks to the encouragement of an 8th grade math teacher, I found myself participating on several JV sports teams.  In the spring of that year I happened to see a tennis match in progress and decided to saunter over and check it out.  And whom should I see doing some ballet pirouette on the tennis court?   Jennifer Ashby.  I fell for her again.  Fell, as in a five-story free fall into the emotional abyss of considering a girl friend relationship.  Say what?  I looked up and saw the wind gently push past her, causing little whirlwinds to ebb and flow around her.  The afternoon light refracted around her, causing her to appear softer, more ethereal than fragile.  As her match progressed, I had an epiphany.  Tennis was drama.  Drama with specific rules of engagement, with finite boundaries and yet, it was completely unscripted.  To think of JV tennis as a soft sport is to compare a Great White to a guppy.  What I witnessed that afternoon was unbridled power, both physical and mental.  I thought of lionesses hunting on the Serengeti.  I saw players mentally calculate body position and torque, while simultaneously computing the geometry of ball angle, placement and speed.  And then there was the grace of the game.  Grace in tennis smoothed the tangets, directed the explosions and channeled the player’s emotions.  Grace brought order to the dimensions of tennis, both the visual game that was scored, and the non-visual game of territorial dominance.  And while “love” was announced at the beginning of the game, it was rarely present at the end of it. 

As I walked away from Jennifer’s tennis match, I wondered if I could arrange some “accidental” meeting with her, where I would be coolness incarnate.  Could I appear larger than life, and still avoid decades of harassment from my buddies, who by fate, would surely be present.  Junior High, you gotta love it.

Alpena Joe.

P.S.  To my amazement, Jennifer and I have been happily married for the last 44 years.