Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face
Being laid off means holidays like Labor Day are just like any other day. It takes away some of the joy of sleeping in. Not that I sleep in most days. But I did today. Went to an all-day family get-together yesterday and ate hamburgers, chicken, hot sausage, two kinds of potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, and a brownie. And then I went back for seconds (nyuck nyuck!).
We were gathered at my uncle's camp up in Butler, and I got to do something that was oodles of fun. Uncle Norm needed some help lowering an old, exterior chimmney to the ground, so four of us went up on the roof to ease it earthward. Just had to climb up on the roof, loop a rope over the top, and lower away.
No biggie. Except that, as I've mentioned scores of times on these pages, I'm scared of heights. But there's no way I was gonna wimp out and let my Uncle Kenny go up in my place. Though he decided to go up anyway. For him it was no big deal.
Though it was for me. As I held the rope and helped lowered the goddam-heavy metal pipe one thought kept going through my mind--how the HELL am I gonna get my fat ass offa here? In the end it wasn't a big deal, I just carefully set my feet on the top rung and went down nice and easy. But I'll admit that, as I inched toward the edge, I thought that spending the rest of my natural life on the roof might not be a bad way to go.
On the way home my brother called to give me the happy news about Ben Roethlisberger's appendix. I wonder how many crazed Steeler fans showed up at the hospital offering to donate THEIR appendicies to the stricken QB? Bad break to the Steelers, but when I told my friend Mark that Big Ben had surgery, he thought it had something to do with the accident in June. And that might have been BAD. So the eminently-capable Charlie Batch steps up to bat for a few weeks, until Roethlisberger gets sidelined again with, oh, dengue fever. That'd be just his luck.
I made the mistake of going to see Beerfest
tonight. Oh, I enjoyed the movie, which was about exactly what you'd expect of it. But as I sat there in the darkened movie theater I really, really, really, REALLY wanted a beer. I mean, a beer would've been SO friendly. Just one pale ale, one solitary lager. I left the theater dying of thirst.
Just watched the Miami-Florida State game, which was as usual a deadly-dull contest utterly dominated by defense. I despise both teams, which makes it impossible for me to enjoy the game. I want both teams to lose. I guess I was "rooting" for Miami just so Bowden wouldn't gain a game on Paterno, but rooting for Miami violates my entire belief system.
Watching the US Open now, which of course has featured some incredible tennis since it started. A question--not so long ago, the drop shot had absolutely no place in the men's game. You hit a drop shot, most likely the ball was gonna end up down your throat. Yet this year the drop shot has become a huge part of the game. And it's made a HUGE difference to the game, and a good difference at that. These players are so strong now, and they can generate so much power with today's racquets, that you can still hit winners standing five feet behind the baseline. Enter the drop shot. That little injection of finesse into what threatened to become a pure-power game has really invigorated the sport.
I haven't played much tennis the last few years, haven't picked up the racquet at all this year (though I might play tomorrow). Really need to get back into it, as it's a game you can play your entire life. Watching the pros play, I just can't believe how much power they get on their groundstrokes. Serving-and-volleying these days is tantamount to suicide. If you hit a 130MPH serve, and the return comes back at you at 120MPH, you're lucky to be a foot behind the service line when you have to hit your first volley. Provided you can touch the ball, which of course isn't provided. I played a lot of doubles in high school (much better at net than along the baseline) and I'd probably be missing a few teeth if I played the game today the way I played back then. We didn't have the talent to compete with the best teams, so we just tried to overpower them with power (we were usually physically bigger than other teams) and feral aggression. Charge the net, crowd it, poach a lot, try to plonk them with the ball.
When I was a kid I played in an informal league, boys and girls mixed together, and there was this girl all the boys were in love with. Her name was Karen, she was Irish and had the red hair and the pale skin and a two-handed backhand to make you sigh. She obliterated me when we played, and as we shook hands I despaired, knowing she could never love a boy she could dominate from the baseline.
Flash forward seven years. I'm a senior in high school, and Karen is playing for the local Catholic high school's boys team, as they have no girl's squad. She still has that wonderful backhand, along with that red hair. She didn't remember me, and maybe that triggered something that I'd rather not believe exists inside me.
She still had that backhand, but she didn't have much oomph behind it, and her partner wasn't much better. It was obvious from the start that they had no chance, we would just blow them off the court. It was a fairly chummy match, we'd say "good shot!" when a whistling pass blew past. My partner's girlfriend was watching us play with a number of her adorable friends, and I was a bit discombobulated, what with playing against Karen, and in front of a crowd of pretty girls...
Before Jon served I signaled that I was going to poach--that it, I would slide right just after he served and pick off the return if he tried to hit cross-court. I wasn't poaching much, as we were comfortably ahead, but I thought we should mix it up a bit.
Jon served out wide, and the guy sent back a lazy floater. Short of God reaching down and placing the ball at the perfect junction of time and space, I have never seen a ball more squarely within my wheelhouse. If my backhand was suspect, my overhead was not--I was consistent, and I could KILL the ball, usually sending it over the fence. So here was a chance to show off a little, a little exhibition of male aggression to impress the females of the species.
I set my feet, turned my shoulders, brought both hands up and cranked my left arm down to start my hip rotation. The ball moved into the killing zone, and I hit the ball with such purity that my strings made a barely-audible, harmonic "THRUMMM!".
The ball hit Karen square in the face. I mean, it hit her right between the eyes. And I BLASTED it. She didn't turn away, she didn't raise her racquet. The ball bounced off her lovely face and WENT BACK ON OUR SIDE OF THE NET.
I said--no, squealed--"Oh SHIT!". My parter said something along the lines of "What the fuck?" This might have been an attempt to look all chivalrous in front of his girlfriend, but I think not. The guy on the other side of the net immediately rushed over to see how she was, beating me by a few steps. But Karen was stoic about the whole thing. She was fine, she said, aside from her eyes reflexively tearing up. When I apologized thirty or forty times she said it wasn't necessary. She went back to the baseline to return serve. My hands didn't stop shaking until...after we shook hands at the end of the match. We won, but I played extra-timid the rest of the way. The consensus among the girls who were watching us was that I was a total asshole. And my lack of respect for the female gender became an occasional joke the rest of the year.
Oddly, I also hit a pretty girl named Karen in the face playing racquetball in gym class. Hit her so hard that the goggles she was wearing flew off her face. The moral of the story, I think, is that I should avoid playing racquet sports when there are pretty girls named Karen around. But then, isn't that the moral to EVERY story?