Short memory—long memory

Now that tennis season has ended (and ended, I might add, with two closing losses) I’m finding it more and more difficult to look back on it as anything other than an unmitigated failure. There’s a part of me that knows that isn’t true, but that part has been so deeply interred that I can’t dig it out. If anything, since last Thursday it has burrowed a little bit deeper. The last two losses which kept us out of states and, unbeknownst to me at the time, deprived one of my players of an all-conference selection fall squarely on the shoulders of my team and, therefore, on me.

But as always there are factors. All week my players were obsessed with a little game called Water Wars, a contest whose rules center on trying to “eliminate” people by squirting them with water guns. There are other more specific rules also, but at bottom it’s no different from a million other inane childish games that serve to eliminate contestants one by one—no different, for instance, than musical chairs. I wish it had been musical chairs in which my team became involved, because that would have ended faster. This water gun contest dragged on and on, eventually sucking in many of the best players on my team and creating an atmosphere—even among those not involved—that relegated tennis to a secondary position. I have never seen a team so unready to play as mine last Thursday, and even after they lost, their prime concern was checking the progress of their prospective attackers and finding out who had been eliminated. To have a chance to accomplish something and let it go without a fight was disheartening, but mostly to me.

Throughout I was told that this was for a good cause—that the money (was it five dollars per entrant?) would be spent on cancer research. But who’s auditing? And what assurance does anyone have that this money will ever get to the right place? I would like to know how many contestants there were and how much each one paid—then I want to see a receipt from whatever cancer-fighting charity involved, you know, just to see if the numbers match. Good cause? Really? When I believe in something I write a check: I don’t buy a squirt gun and shoot people so that a disease can be eradicated.

Three full days have passed now, and while I should be calming down, I find I’m angrier each morning. What’s worse, I now have to fake cordiality with my team three times in the next three days before I can put this behind me and forget tennis. By Wednesday evening I should be ready for a straitjacket. Last year at this time we had won our final game—somewhat of a surprise—and everything looked rosy; this year we compiled a much better record and fielded a much better team, but I can find very little to be optimistic about. And as far as having everyone back next year, well that doesn’t matter when the people coming back can be so easily distracted.

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Chuck Radda

I'm a former high school English teacher, currently a literacy volunteer and novelist. I invite your responses right here or to chuckradda@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter—where I tweet annually at @chuckrad45.

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