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Point of View: Idiot Savantism

Thu, 06/22/2023 - 09:19

I was called an “idiot” the other day by a doubles opponent, and I couldn’t entirely disagree. “So I’m an idiot, then,” I replied, but it occurred to me a moment later that “idiot savant” might be more germane, for things sometimes come to me out of the blue that tend to be serendipitous, as when I did the cryptic puzzles Frank Lewis used to run in The Nation, or when I made an “out” call on a laser-like forehand crosscourt volley to the far sideline in East Hampton Indoor’s men’s B doubles final eight summers ago.

It was in the third set. I forget what the score was at the time, but the battle, after Gary Bowen and I had easily won the first set 6-2, had long since been joined. I walked over to the mark, bent over, peered down, and, with a finger pointing toward the tape, said, “Out!”

You should have heard the howls. A paragon of decorum off the court, I have a tendency to be annoying on it. Why that is, I don’t know. A psychiatrist once said that it had something to do with wanting to please my father. I don’t know. The fact is I can be an idiot. Or, as in the case cited above, an idiot savant.

The argument became so heated that Scott Rubenstein, EHIT’s managing partner, had to be summoned to adjudicate. He looked down and said, “In.” And walked away.

You might have thought that that was it for Gary and me, both of us 75 at the time, and running on fumes versus far younger, and equally fire-breathing, opponents. But no, their minds couldn’t shake it, the contumely, the injustice of it all, my presumptuousness. Rage consumed them, while we, reanimated by the scene I’d made, and benefiting from the prolonged breather it had provided, regained our focus. (Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely true, for, despite the constant reminders to do so, my eye is rarely ever on the ball.)

At any rate, the tide had turned, and we rode it home.

Scott said afterward to the losers, “I called it in, and you still couldn’t beat these 70-year-olds.”

Gary was over the moon. Me too. As I said last week, the wheels sang as I drove home over the back roads that day. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but in this case one wrong did.

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