For the past three years, I've played tennis with a bunch of guys older than me – most in their 50s and 60s, some into their 70s and 80s.
There are 21 of us, with 16 playing each week. It's what's called a ladder league; we are spread across four courts by winning percentage, with the top four playing on court one, the next four playing on court two, etc. We start with the top and bottom player on each court paired up against the numbers two and three, play one set, and spin for the next partner.
Most weeks, we get three sets in, so we all get to play with each other. Some weeks, when the sets are close (and therefore, frequently longer), we only get two in [the club gives us 90 minutes; after that, other leagues are on].
With anywhere between 20 and 50 years fewer on my body than the other players, I'm the fastest, and I'm among the strongest. But I'm also the least experienced, and I wind up learning a lot – about strategy, positioning, and, what I find important, the gentlemanly aspects of the game.
Tennis is a sport in which, in organized play, players are penalized points for ball, racket, or verbal abuse. In the pros, they can be fined. Player clothing is generally conservative, although Andre Agassi changed that in the 1980s – but still, most people wear collars, and the Wimbledon Club still requires all white.
There are occasional arguments over calls. We're all male, the testosterone flows, it gets competitive, and you have to take into account what could be going on in people's lives, especially when you're talking people who either are retired or are nearing retirement in a market like this.
But tonight we actually called it a night early, when players on either side of the net got downright nasty. Expletives were flying, someone got hit with a ball intentionally, and the two of us who were getting along had to separate them, twice.
I'm not alone in being one of the people who plays tennis to relax. And I'm lucky in that I get my gym membership on trade; I wouldn't be able to afford to play there otherwise. I can't imagine why you'd drop all that money and be prepared to throw down.
And we're talking guys who are 50ish. They're no longer young and stupid.
We decided it was better for everyone if we went home early.
I got home a bit wound up (it's a four-minute drive, not exactly enough to cool down), and started to put away some of the clean dishes.
I've been moving from place to place with a set of decent glasses, and while I've dropped some of them from low heights, I've never so much as nicked one.
And one of them fell out of the dish drain, and positively shattered.
Some glasses break into a couple of biggish pieces and a few small splinters. Not this one. There was nothing left that was recognizable as having once been a glass.
One piece looked like a small bit of rock candy, but the rest was just decimated. It took almost 20 minutes to clean it up, about long enough to listen to WAER's pre-game show, ahead of the Syracuse-Connecticut basketball game.
And about long enough to wind all the way down.
I'm hoping for a more peaceful night of tennis next Wednesday.