Greenfield Rec Tennis League: Losing Ain’t All That Bad

Ever since I visited my old friend Harry in Atlanta I have been interested in playing more tennis.  During my visit, we set out on a Friday night and played doubles with his regular group, and I realized that I loved the game and vowed to find a way to play more.

Then my local friend, Curtis Rich, told me about the Greenfield Recreational Tennis league, where three divisions of players have regular matches throughout the summer.  I signed up and soon I was facing my first opponent, on a sweltering June afternoon.  Then the pattern began.

You see, I signed up for the Intermediate division, called the Borg.  There are twelve players in this division, all men, and all of them have been playing tennis as adults far longer than I have.  So as I faced down my first opponent, Field Maloney, I had no idea what would result.

This first match started a trend. I was to be humbled and beaten by every single member of the Borg division as the summer wore on.  And not only beaten, but beaten bad. Like 6-0, 6-1 bad. Not a chance. If I won a handful of games, that would be stretching the truth.

I prided myself that I was giving these guys a game, and we were both getting a good work-out.  I’d tell friends about how I play tennis once a week and they would nod appreciatively, giving me silent props for going out and playing.  But then I’d tell them my win-loss record and they would agree, it’s tough.

But in recent weeks I’ve had a revelation–the men who play tennis in the Borg division are interesting characters and all are people with great life stories.   I first realized this when I found out that my first opponent, Field, was once an editor at the New Yorker magazine.

Now he runs an apple orchard that his dad started.   Then I played a guy whose name sounded familiar, Philip Elmer-DeWitt.  After he was done trouncing me, I asked him what he did for work.  “I’m a senior editor at Fortune magazine, ” he replied, ” I write a blog called Apple 2.0.”  Later as we had coffee together in his Greenfield home, he shared with me that his blog gets 25,000 readers every day! I remember reading his articles in Time Magazine decades ago. Wow!

This morning I faced down a guy named Norm who also handily beat me. After the match, we began talking and he shared with me that six years ago he was diagnosed with lymphoma and later a brain illness and that the docs said he’d be dead in six months.  He has successfully fought back with diet, exercise and perseverance, and today his body is clear of disease.

We shared some of his tips, such as a book full of anticancer remedies, and talked about our own histories of cancer and other problems. It was inspiring to meet a guy who had come back so far, and who had such a great outlook.  He gave me some advice and once again I realized that the tennis and the score is not the only thing I come for. It’s the people who I get to meet and share my life’s story with who make losing at tennis not so bad after all.