When contemplating the future of my surgically repaired knee I need look no further than The Tarheel and The Mayor. Let me start by saying weekend tennis warriors only get better with age in
Southern California. It’s either in the weather or the water. They’re like fine wine, they might pour slower, yes, but they get smoother. They’re to be appreciated.
The Tarheel and The Mayor are perfect examples. Both are in their 60’s, both are former basketball players – The Tarheel a guard, The Mayor a small forward – and both are still ridiculous competitors.
Off the court, both have been successful in business, both have loving if long suffering wives, and both are outgoing, friendly men. The Tarheel is pretty much adored by all who know him. The Mayor pretty much adores anybody he’s talking to at any given moment. The Tarheel is prone to smiles and friendly waves when he passes in his BMW. The Mayor is prone to earth shaking, heart lurching blasts as he leans on the horn of his F-150 pick-up to announce his immediate arrival.
To a hacker’s annoyance, both have single digit handicaps. The Tarheel, after pasting one 250 down the fairway, likes to turn and snicker at you like Muttley the dog in an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon (he does the same thing after a winning drop shot). The Mayor raises his arms in the air and shouts –“ Sixty-five years old!!!” (he does the same after a cross court winner).
And here’s the thing. Both sport enough amour on their broken down knees to make a knight in King Arthur’s court jealous’ – really! - creaking black metal braces that start mid-thigh and drop to mid calf. The Mayor takes it a step further, encasing most of his bowed legs in tight black plastic support.
The other day I watched them play a baseline game. This is a game played to ten that does away with the serve (serving takes away from the exercise and let’s face it, there are no good braces for shoulders). As men who took up the game of tennis a bit late in life, both have excellent forehands and suspect backhands. The mayor likes to pound the ball, the Tarheel like to mix it up. The Mayor, who is Jesuit educated, is constantly yelling at the Tarheel to stop hitting it anywhere but down the middle as it is not in the spirit of the game and because “God doesn’t like a serious competitor”. To which the Tarheel hits another drop shot and gives his trade mark snicker. In response, the Mayor, who is obviously on God’s shit list because he is a rabid competitor, hits his forehand harder.
They are surprisingly well matched.
Nothing will stop them.
Which means, as I approached my sixties with knee brace firmly in place -
- nothing - !
- will stop - !