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|Greg's Best Friends, John And Bill
|Play longer. Enjoy more.
|Growing up, I had two best friends, John and Bill. The three of us did
everything together. We hung out, went to the movies and talked about
girls. Most of all, we played tennis.
Before, after, and sometimes instead of, school, we'd head over to the old
lady's house down the street from where Bill lived. She had a cement
court that had clearly seen better days: cracks extending from the net to
the baseline and grass peeking up from in-between. The conditions
didn't matter. We just wanted to play. And play we did.
For hours each week, John, Bill and I ruled that court as the greatest
tennis players in the world. We played the French, Australian and, when
the gardener had neglected the grass in the cracks, Wimbledon and the
I was a pretty good player. John was better than me and extremely
competitive, with dreams of playing pro tennis. Bill was better than no
one. Tall, thin and painfully un-athletic, Bill struggled to make contact with
the ball and when he did, it usually seemed to rest in the deep end of the
“Bagel Bill” we called him due to the number of games he usually won
each set. But it never mattered who was better, we were just having fun.
John and I also played "real" tennis: the junior tournament circuit, and for
our school teams. Bill would always be at our matches, cheering us on.
The years went by and I often thought back to those great times on that
horrible tennis court. Whatever happened to my buddies? Where were
they? What were they doing? Most of all, I wondered if they still played
tennis. They had to, I assumed. It was such an important part of our lives
growing up. How could they not? I certainly had continued my love of the
game. After tennis I began to teach and write about the sport. Surely, my
buddies were still involved in some way. I decided to find out.
Thanks to a few phone calls and the Internet, I was able to track down my
long-lost friends. Both had ventured out into the world after college but had
eventually returned and settled close to where we grew up.
I picked up the phone and called John first. He seemed genuinely happy
to hear from me and we caught up on the years quickly. John never
played professional tennis but his competitive nature had served him well
in the world of business. I then asked if he still played tennis. His voice
dropped and developed a bit of an edge to it. "No," he said firmly. "I
haven't picked up a racket since my freshman year in college."
The phone was silent for a moment and then John explained, "I got to
college, went out for the tennis team and found that the high school
tennis star really wasn't very good after all. I couldn't beat anyone so I
gave my rackets away and haven't played since."
"Do you miss it?" I asked. "No, I've moved on," John answered, a little too
quickly. "Moved on" clearly meant "grown up." After a few more minutes,
we said goodbye, promising to get the families together.
Bill, coincidently, showed up at the club one day. I had just come off the
court and there he was at the front desk checking out our programs. It
turns out he’d just moved back to the area and was looking for a place to
We reminisced a bit and I told him I was glad to see that he was still
playing tennis. “I still stink,” he said with a smile, “but I play three to four
times a week and absolutely love it.”
A few days later, we took the court and Bill was right, he did still stink (just
kidding, Bill). Actually, he was a 2.5 level player. He ran after everything, hit
some nice shots, made many more errors, but clearly loved every minute
of it. We came off the court and, over a soda, talked about my
conversation with John. I told him how interesting it was that, of my two
great friends, John had quit tennis while “Bagel Bill” was still madly in
love with the game. Bill said that he wasn’t particularly surprised.
“Though we both played the same game, it meant different things to each
of us,” he said. “John liked tennis because he won so much,” Bill went
on. “Once the winning stopped, the game brought him no pleasure so
why would he keep playing? For me,” he continued, “the results of
matches were never an issue so I learned to enjoy other aspects of the
I mentioned to Bill that it was interesting that there was no competition
involved in any of his tennis. “That’s not true,” he said. “I compete every
time I step onto the court. During my lessons and practice sessions, I
work on trying to make my strokes and footwork better than they were the
previous week. At my Cardio Tennis classes I try to become fitter. I’m
competing with myself."
Take a look at where you are, set a realistic goal for where you'd like to be
and enjoy trying to narrow the gap between the two. When you adopt this
approach, a moment will come when hitting the ball cleanly will mean
more to you than the outcome of a match. You will be my definition of the
winning-est tennis player ever!
- Greg Moran
|Copyright 2006-2007 Mansion Grove House. All Rights Reserved
|Greg's 'Beyond Babble'
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