My preceptors often in things that matter have been of the animal kingdom, but I’d like to tip my hat now to a human being, namely my 12-year-old granddaughter, whom I view as a mentor even though we’re separated in age by seven decades.
While she stroked the ball well in a middle school tennis match at Sportime several weeks ago, it was her composure that, in sum, struck me.
During the match though, I squirmed in my seat, tensed whenever she addressed the ball, and cried out — Mary said that, luckily, we were too far away for her to hear — whenever it appeared her opponent had called “out” balls that were, as anyone with eyes could see, “in.”
You would have been forgiven for wondering what was wrong with that picture: a composed pre-teen with an octogenarian basket-case onlooker — whose favorite wine is, appropriately, Frenzy — in the familial entourage.
At some point, we lost track of the score, though it seemed that Ella, as the match went on — a longer one than I had expected — was winning most of the rallies. Though when they shook hands and came off the court, I still wasn’t certain as to the outcome. Was it thumbs up? Thumbs down?
Thumbs up it was — 4-1, 4-1.
Had I won so resoundingly — even today — I would have looked up and pointed to heaven, strutted, preened, and would generally have been insufferable. But not she. All in a day’s work.
Pay attention, Jack. Pay attention and learn. . . .
Bud Collins — I know I’ve said this before, but it does bear repeating — once told me, pointing to his head, that “anybody can hit the ball, Jack — it’s what’s up here.”
As I was walking to my car in East Hampton Indoor’s parking lot this morning, a fellow player heading out stopped to say, “I’ve watched you play the last couple of times, and you’re really playing well.”
At long last, I told him, I was feeling more balanced — there was less remonstrating with the gods, less flailing about, less gnashing of teeth . . . nothing too much.
And, lo, I have a 12-year-old to thank for it.