Blast from the Past: Don't Lose Your Head!
As a kid, I was blessed to have an interesting sports history. From hockey to tennis, I played numerous games and many different sports. There's no particular reason why I feel like writing these, but maybe they have some sort of value. Anyway, enjoy some random mind blips.
The home team was clad in their normal black. The away team sported the whites. But they were both connected because of intermixed red in both of the uniforms.
The home team were the defending champions, laced with veterans and senior leadership. The away team was the up-and-coming undefeated juggernaut, the best thing since the Theory of Relativity.
The home team's coach had a grizzled, steel-eyed glare and looked every bit the man who wanted to win at all costs. The away team's coach had more enthusiasm than a kid going to Chuck-E-Cheese.
The home team's facilities were old, but they had aged like fine wine, with pictures, trophies and relics from teams of the past. They away team had brand-spankin' new facilities, although it didn't matter.
The home team despised the away team. The away team wanted to make a statement. It was a fierce rivalry, although the home team had won the last 14 meetings, a fact that the away team coach made sure was on the top of everyone's mind.
But for all their differences, these two high school tennis teams had so much in common. They had been two of the better teams around for several years. They both had great booster organizations. But most importantly, they had some of the best high school players you will ever see.
Of the 14 starters on both teams, eight are going on to play Division I tennis. One of them was not me.
Strike up the fanfare and play the anthem. The starters are introduced and every player shakes hands with the intent to break something. I would be playing first doubles down on Court Four.
The opposing team were no strangers to us. The first, a senior cut from the same cloth as Sasquatch, towered over the court at about 6'5". His serve had the effectiveness of an 80mm howitzer. The second, also a senior, stood at a diminutive 5'8", but he had the closing speed of a gazelle and the taunting skills of Sean Avery.
They had also disposed of us the previous three times we played. The parents and fans were out in force on this beautiful 80-degree day, the wind blowing like it just came off the Atlantic.
The black shirts won the toss and chose to serve. Here comes Sasquatch, holding his racquet like a Winchester Lever-Action Repeating Rifle. He proceeds to fire in a few rockets and quickly, we're down one-to-nil.
My partner, a sophomore, steps up to the line next. He is as nervous as a guy jumping out of a plane at 30,000 feet. Before I even blink, it's two-nil home team.
"Can we hurry this match up a little, fellas? My favorite show is on in an hour!"
Here come the taunts from the jackrabbit. I shrug it off, although inside I want to take a knee to his groin. He comes up to serve and fires his first serve right at me. I'm the guy at the net.
"Oh sorry! My bad, want me to go get some ice for you?"
Ice for my racquet? Sure buddy, go ahead. He proceeds to double fault. Now I get a crack at him. He zings a serve out wide, but thank the lord I am left-handed. My return zooms down the line like an ATAC missile programmed for the back corner.
He stands there, paralyzed for the moment. Then he finally gains the courage.
"Hey Zikov! If you hit that shot again, I'll buy you an ice cream!"
Original. We have a glimmer of hope as we go on to break his serve. He throws his racquet against the fence in disgust. But it's my turn to serve.
I know exactly where to go. The jackrabbit will look to jump the serve out wide, he's been playing out in the next county on his returns. I hit a change-up down the T and he doesn't even come near it.
Yahtzee! An ace!
I could feel the momentum shift. We would hold them at love for a two all tie, with my final serve being launched about three miles by Sasquatch.
Sasquatch was now up again. He managed to dictate points and have a comfortable hold, but they were still wounded. Their ego was damaged.
Their coach came over to have a friendly chat during the change. I didn't hear the whole discussion but he mentioned us as "scum" and all of a sudden, they had their swagger back.
The jackrabbit shouldered me as we passed near the bench, but his snarl wasn't his usual goofy-ass quip.
"I'm goin' head-hunting when you're at the net, pal."
I sure hope so, pal. My racquet head will be waiting to put that garbage away. My super-sophomore of a partner sensed we were getting to them as well. After hitting an ace on his first serve, he high-fives me and does a terrific Lleyton Hewitt impression with a profound "Come on!"
We brought it back to three all. How exciting. Even the grandparents were getting involved in the bleachers! No more reading the Home & Garden magazine!
The jackrabbit was so upset at his performance that he proceeded to double fault on three consecutive points. Well that sucks for him. Thanks for the game, pal!
I politely asked him at 4-3 if he was still going head-hunting. I didn't even get a response—he was too busy throwing his racquet to the ground.
I held serve for 5-3, and then we took the first set shortly after. Since their coach had left, they lost four straight games and the set. I was waiting feverishly for his return.
When he did, the word "irate" wouldn't do him justice. Their confidence had been completely broken, their mean streak snapped in half like a twig.
We pitched a 6-1 game in the second set for the win, and concluded it with a Bryan Brothers' chest bump. But if I thought I'd seen it all, sportsmanship be damned. We went up to shake their hands, and the jackrabbit spits on the ground before walking away.
"Get the hell off my court, vermin. Congrats on your no prize victory."
Talk about sour apples. Sasquatch at least returned the favor of attemping to crush my hand.
But it didn't matter. We had pulled off the biggest win of my career. Even better, it was a springboard to our eventual 3-2 team victory over our biggest rival. As I packed up my stuff on the sideline, I even received a congratulation from Sasquatch's grandma.
Ah, how sweet it is. It even protected our first undefeated 19-0 season in school history.
Now. Where's my ice cream?
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