Me and Sports: Forgettable but Not Forgotten Past


Me and sports, we have a mutual understanding.  Our relationship is fine so long as I don’t cross a certain line.  That not-so-thin line between observing and playing.

I’d like to whack the person who came up with the saying  “practice makes perfect”–and slap anyone who continues to use it.  Practice ain’t no good when you’ve ain’t got no talent, and I have the unpleasant memories to prove it.  Lest you think I’m ad hoc rationalizing my failure to be dedicated to sports, I have this horrifying memory of stinking in soccer at a local rec camp in the summer when I was 8 or 9, during the age of innocence when I was far too young to rationalize and make excuses for myself.   I simply sucked and I knew it.

Of course, even a chimp can be taught sign language if it’s taught long enough.   Since I took tennis lessons since I was in elementary school, by the time I was high school, I could beat an athletically-inclined person who had never played the sport.  Since this statement, upon further reflection, is not particularly  impressive, I feel compelled to emphasize that:

  1. I played competitively in tournaments.  Play, mind you, not win, which I did once in a little over ten tries.
  2. I was on my high school’s varsity tennis team, which was one of the better teams in the county, in a position best characterized as “First Bench”*  I had the mighty impressive cumulative record of 10-2 at the varsity level, which some cynic (not I) would discount by pointing out that I only played when opponents were so weak even I can win in singles and when coach showed some sympathy and played me in doubles.

Now that I’ve become an office potato (as opposed to couch potato), there are times that I wonder, though, whether I really gave it my best shot.  Yes, my hand-eye-body coordination was (and is) so bad it’s a wonder I didn’t trip over myself walking and no, I didn’t work out or anything, but now that I don’t play at all, I realize my high school play wasn’t at the  nethermost of my athletic ability.  Having realized that I could have sunk lower than I was in high school because I actually have, I have to wonder how high I could have gone had I actually committed.

And committed, I probably wasn’t.  I never worked out, I never trained. I went to practice, took lessons and played minimum number of matches.  My first thought in losing the first set was I don’t want to play a third.  My inclination when I went down early is I want to get this over with.  Tennis, even more than golf, is a lonely game.  All alone in the court, if you’re not mentally tough you don’t have a chance.  And in that sense, I never gave myself a shot to win.

I’m far too shallow to have regrets in my short life, but the one I constantly carry is my implosion at the county tennis tournament when I filled in for third singles.  Having patted myself on the back with a come-from-behind victory in the preliminary round (I was down 0-3 in the first set), I proceeded to throw away the first round match in the main draw in a wholly uncompetitive play against an opponent who was at best on par with my level.

I have a buddy who was on the tennis team with me who won’t let go of my play that day–he lobbied for me to play–and I can’t say I blame him.  It was an unmitigated, unqualified disaster.  If I had a shred of mental toughness, the match would have been close.  True, unlike purely intellectual exercises, I’ve never enjoyed physical exertions so mental toughness to persevere in the physical was not my strong suit.  But that I never cared to even think about being tough, to gut it out, to see how high I can reach, that I essentially gave up in the first sign of trouble, is deeply disappointing and somewhat troubling.

If sports is a metaphor for life, and I think that’s more true than not, then what does my past in tennis say about where I am and where I’m going?






*  For those unfamiliar with high school tennis, there are seven players who play:  3 players for singles, labeled First, Second and Third Singles and 4 players who play doubles, deemed First and Second doubles.  It’s an unwritten rule that players are designated for a position from First Singles down to Second Doubles in their level of play.

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16 Responses to “Me and Sports: Forgettable but Not Forgotten Past”


  1. 1 Tristan August 14, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Don’t feel too bad, I was so bad that playing doubles was a cruelty to my partner, one of the reasons I quit is that I felt bad for anyone who had to play with me. The other reason is that my sister beat me in the local ladder tourney.

    • 2 joesas August 14, 2009 at 7:28 pm

      Tristan,

      Thanks for reading and replying! You see, you should consider it a blessing that you sucks so bad you knew you should quit. I was too good (and too much money spent on lessons) to be off the team but too bad to make any contribution to it. Alas, all I have are memories of how atrocious I was.

      Incidentally, I started losing to my sister too, but in my defense, by then she was a county champion, state semifinalist and well on her way to making teaching tennis her job.

  2. 3 rattoch August 17, 2009 at 11:14 am

    i had the similar experience in golf. i still enjoy the game even though i seem to be getting worse as i try to improve. i think practice is bs. you have the talent or not. i am satisfied being an average player.

    • 4 joesas August 17, 2009 at 8:14 pm

      Chris,

      Yes, talent helps, but I am told you need to practice. I don’t know what that is since I have absolutely no perseverance.

      Incidentally, I suck in golf too, so I quit that as well.

  3. 5 The Athletic One August 17, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Joe,

    love the blog…i guess u got the brains and i got the athleticism…sorry

    Your tennis wasn`t that bad! I remember the match u played against the Ridgewood player…that was great!

    and to add: you were probably better than me till I got to high school

    • 6 joesas August 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

      I’m sorry. I *was* *probably* better? LOL.

      Yes, that Ridgewood match that, if I recall correctly, didn’t really matter.

  4. 7 Ezzard August 17, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    You may not have regrets, but you still have guilt and self-deprecation down pat ;)

    • 8 joesas August 17, 2009 at 8:15 pm

      John,

      Guilt comes from being Catholic. Self-deprecation comes from being the only son in a Japanese family.

      Thanks for visiting!

  5. 9 rattoch August 19, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    i think you should practice things you are good at. so you can become an expert and specialize in it. why practice something if you suck at it. it will just piss you off more. people like tiger woods and roger federer practice all the time even though they have great natural talent. you don’ see them practicing something they are bad at, whatever that may be for them.

    • 10 joesas August 19, 2009 at 10:44 pm

      Chris,

      Or perhaps have you thought that they became that good because they kept at it? LOL.

      To be honest, I don’t know what’s the right approach to life here. No one would describe me as a perseverance kinda type, so I’m sorta with you, but “just give up” doesn’t seem like a right mantra.

  6. 11 jon September 4, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    is it just me or does this blog never change… i log into CNN and even if i had logged in 14 minutes ago, i’m treated to something new and updated. I keep checking back here and eh… its just this same woe-is-me sports odyssey. Where’s the new stuff!?!

    lol… jk, i just know you like comments

    • 12 joesas September 7, 2009 at 10:40 pm

      Jon,

      You are like the fourth person to complain (!) that I haven’t updated a blog. In general, people just want to hear me vent and whine about Ted Kennedy, Japanese politics and liberals, but I’ll take viewership where I can get it.

      Glad to know some people care enough to complain when I’ve fallen off the grid.

      And no, not even on my most bored days will I be able to match the pace of CNN.

      Thanks!


  1. 1 From Baseball Cap to Handgun: Story of Joe’s Rebellion « The World According to Joe Trackback on April 6, 2010 at 10:59 pm
  2. 2 In Defense of My Education… « The World According to Joe Trackback on February 28, 2011 at 6:03 am
  3. 3 Living Life Without Regrets | The World According to Joe Trackback on July 15, 2013 at 10:39 am
  4. 4 僕は将棋に向いてない | The World According to Joe Trackback on October 24, 2016 at 9:31 am

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