Just as I lunged to put away a shot at the net, the sole such I’d hit all night in our weekly doubles league, the lights went out.
And of course I cursed the darkness, and Tim Ross too, though, as I learned after we’d felt our way off the courts, he had had nothing to do with it. It was LIPA’s fault.
It almost always is LIPA’s fault, though double faults must be borne. Pretty much everything else you can blame on your partner. Any partner really.
I turned on our way out to see if anyone I’d been playing with would attest to the fact that my shot in the dark had indeed landed well within the baseline, but they had all vanished.
I couldn’t blame them. I am not easy to play with, a 72-year-old teenager who, when things go well, preens, and who, when things do not, wails on in the marvelously resonant steel structure in which we play as if only he were Fate’s whipping boy.
What was it Paul Weinhold, the sports psychologist, said in our recent interview? That the great players had long ago “incorporated into themselves the knowledge that they will not always be perfect. . . .”
He’s got a point there, but, as I said to Mary later, I was too dumb to empty my mind.
“Do you say to yourself, ‘Bounce . . . hit,’ as they tell you to in ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’?” she asked.
“ ‘Bounce . . . shit!’ is usually what I say.”
“He’s right. You’d be smart to lower your expectations, not put so much pressure on yourself. And just have fun. It’s smart to have fun. You’ve got that down to a science in other areas. You’re a happy person. That’s what Mom and I love about you.”
“That’s just the way I am — except when the best shot I hit all night is blacked out and nobody sees it. I don’t know though, I might give up this Thursday night league. It starts too late . . . I keep you up too late when I come home. . . .”
“I’d think twice about that. You know you love tennis. I’m not sure you could do without it.”
“You’re right. . . . Not even death would keep me from playing!”
“Now that’s the man I know — cautiously optimistic perhaps — but the man I know.”