Monday, February 24, 2014

Recapturing the Locker Room Culture

Dear Reader,

Below is a letter I sent to my league teammates at the end of our tennis league season along with the photo you see.  We made it to the district championships that lasted 3 days and the photos correspond to the 6 of us that played each successive day, from top to bottom.  Be aware it is crass and contains cursing so if you want to abandon ship now, I shall think no less of you.  I have also written footnotes at the end of the letter to better illuminate who these people are and help with the “inside” jokes.

A tennis league is similar to any Bowling, hockey, or softball beer league.  You have a goup of dudes who played sports their whole lives and want to continue to have a competitive outlet and sense of camaraderie (outside of work) that can only be found amongst other athletes.  Guys tease each other mercilessly in these situations, but it comes from a place of goodwill and trust that is established over time.  Otherwise, it doesn’t work. This letter was written in that spirit.

For the record, we went 0-3 in Districts, winning only 2 out of 9 matches.

An Open Letter to My 8.5 Districts Teammates

“Gentlemen, it was an honor getting my ass kicked with you in 8.5 Combo Districts.  As you know, this was my maiden voyage down the districts road and I was forewarned that an ass kicking was likely, regardless of my optimism and enthusiasm.  I personally took two ass kickings, but strangely enough I managed to win a match with my 60 year old gay lover, CoCo.

You can never predict how things might pan out when the season starts. There are just too many unknowns. Nobody, however, could have predicted the season long love affair that developed between a 60 year old Billy Idol wannabe and a wholesome kid from Colorado.   Hell, I hated him the first time I first met him several years ago as a new member of the club.  After 15 minutes of not shutting up, he left my wife and I alone and went his way.  I turned to Nikki and said, “Who the fuck was that douche”?  Incredibly, despite the shaky start to our relationship, we flourished together and went undefeated in match play, leaving every single opponent with a bewildered look on their face, slowly shaking their head and asking, “What the fuck just happened”?  My favorite was the pirate “Z” from the Napa team telling Chris (in his heavy accent), “You are shit, your partner is the 4.5.  All this slicing and dicing bullshit…”  I don’t know if T-Bone and Coco will thrive in the future, but it was one hell of a run.

As for our midget Co-captain, I expected a little bit more from a guy who claims to have played Sampras and Todd Martin.  Perhaps the results were the same then as they were this weekend, I don’t know, he’s never mentioned the scores.   I’ll forever be grateful, though, for his unending reserve of wisdom in regards to tennis.   He’s always analyzing, always thinking, and I will take that with me moving forward.  One of my favorites from him is this:  “You remember that incredible Davis Cup match between Mcenroe and Wilander?  Boy, that was a great match”.  That will always be incredibly useful for me on the court moving forward.  Thank goodness he’ll be the Captain for the next 4.5 league.

In regards to our other Co-Captain, Pedro Seck-A-Leck, I will never forget the wisdom he imparted on us about how to beat a traffic ticket.  Nay, how to “lessen” the financial impact of a ticket.  In a nutshell, the key is to show up and argue just long enough until the exasperated judge says, “Will you shut up if I reduce the ticket amount”?  I think we can all relate to the judge. I’m glad I learned this on the ride down to districts Sunday morning so the trip wasn’t a complete waste of time.   The time spent talking about the tickets was longer than the amount of time we were on the court together.  It’s unofficial, but we think we may have set a districts record for shortest time playing.  I’m sure Pedro will research that and lay it all out for us in the upcoming weeks.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fantastic matches I played with the Massage Therapist, Mike Wilson, and rabid ABBA fan Alan Johnson.  Mike and I managed to get to a third set tiebreaker before succumbing to the precision volleys of Yoshi.  Despite the loss, I can take solace in the fact that Mike offered Coco and I one free couples massage valid for one year.  As for Alan, my greatest regret for the season is that we didn’t make one tightly strung Frenchman cry during the Silverado match.  Not every wish comes true, I guess.  We were so close.

I never got to play with Fernando, but I can thank him for being the inspiration behind the never-ending ABBA loop that plays in my head every second he’s around.  Check out his song, “Fernando”, you’ll dig it.   Lance, thank you for being the multi-talented utility player for the team.  You can do it all.  I’ll never forget the day you played a home match and then immediately came over and cut my grass.  It’s pure creative genius that you would think to play in cargo shorts so you wouldn’t have to change uniforms for your landscaping business.  Although we never played together, I’ll always have fond memories of playing on the court next to yours and watching John Daly fire forehand rockets mercilessly at your head.  It still brings a smile to my face.

Although I’m sad to see Lewis leaving tennis, I’ll be intently tracking his new career as an ice dancer.    Against all odds, he managed to lose a match while playing with Drew.  Again, we’ll need our statistician, Pedro, to check this out, but we’re pretty sure this has never happened before.  I suppose, Like Andy Roddick, he knew there was no point in continuing to play against the best if he couldn’t win with the best.  Good luck and godspeed, Lewis.

James, I’ll be sad to see you leave as well.  Your loyalty to Rancho Solano tennis is legendary.  I know you had a lot of opportunities to play for other teams over the years, yet you remained steadfast in your commitment to Rancho.   I can’t thank you enough for drinking all of our free beer and never bringing anything in return.  I know your SoCal teammates will love that quality as well.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge our 21 year old illiterate, virgin, Team Captain, Drew.  Your leadership in guiding our team was absolutely instrumental to our success.   Your delegation skills will go down in Rancho history as the greatest ever.  It was truly inspirational watching you shirk your duties until the last minute each week until Pete jumped in and took control of the scheduling and lineups.  I’m sure the entire team will echo my sentiments as I raise my glass in a toast and loudly declare, “Drew, this won’s four yu!!”

In closing I think it should be known that this season has been the most fun I’ve had in league play ever.  I sincerely enjoyed the camaraderie and the tennis.  Enjoy the photos and I hope they bring a smile to your face from time to time.”

The Fellas:

Chris Cole (Coco) – Top photo  (First on left) -  I really didn’t like Chris the first time I met him.  He comes across as somewhat smarmy and overconfident.  It’s not until Nikki and I watched him perform as the lead singer of a working band that I came to understand his personality.  He’s a showman, and he’s good at what he does.  This skinny white dude cranks out jazz standards and old soul music with incredible ease.  He and I got paired up as a doubles team and had early success (we were undefeated when we played with each other).  Very quickly we became known as Coco and T-Bone, the lovebirds.  These things develop organically and you can’t fight them.  The more you fight the worse it becomes, so we went with it.  The "pirate" I reference is a foul natured guy with a pony tail.  Chris is unconventional in the way he plays and it pissed "Z" off.   He was insulting Chris by telling him I was the 4.5 player (This is a combo league that paired up one 4.0 player (me) and one 4.5 player).

Brad Mills (midget) – Bottom photo (First on left) – Brad is a sweetheart of a guy, and short (5’5”). He played junior tennis is Southern California and says he played against some future pros, notably Pete Sampras.  He is full of trivial facts (string tensions of players) and says blatantly obvious things, but we all love him. He sales and manages real estate.

Pete Sekelick (Pedro Sek-A-Lek) – Bottom Photo (Third from right) – Pete is a lawyer and loves to argue.  He’ll argue about anything and everything.   If you say the sky is blue, he’ll do the research and provide the documentation as to why it’s actually “light blue”.  In addition, he provides weekly scouting reports on upcoming opponents, breaking down their records and tendencies.  He's into minutiae. He butts heads with every single team captain in the league.  Go figure.

Mike Wilson (Massage Therapist) – Middle Photo (Third from left) – Mike is a chiropractor so naturally he gets teased as being a “massage therapist” in the same way a dentist gets ribbed about being a “Medical Doctor”.   He is one of the most positive guys you’ll ever meet.

Alan Johnson (Medium Al) – Middle Photo (Third From right) – I originally knew Alan as “Big Al”.  That’s what everybody called him when I was new to the league. He lost a bunch of weight and now he’s affectionately known as “Medium Al”.  In one match we played a doubles team with a French guy.  He was a big hitter, but also a head case.  At one point he missed a ton of consecutive serves and had to be consoled by his partner.  We're confident that if the match had gone longer he would have cried. Alan does some sort of work in the IT field.

Fernando Delmendo (‘Do) – Top Photo (Third from left)- Growing up in our house there was a lot of ABBA being played.  I must have heard “Fernando” a million times so that’s the first thing that pops into my whenever I hear the name.  I was playing with “Big Al” one match and I started singing that song because Fernando was on the court next to us.  We had a good laugh about it and I ended up making a copy of ABBA’s greatest hits for him.  I don’t think Fernando likes it, but as I said, you can’t fight these things.  Fernando is a lawyer for a big corporation.

Lance Wong – Top Photo (First on right) – For some reason Lance wears cargo shorts when he plays tennis.  That’s the kind of thing you would expect to see at the public courts, not at a fitness club.  To his credit, he has stuck with the shorts despite our protests.   I don’t think we have a nickname for him, we just like to make fun of his shorts.  He and Fernando played against a guy in districts who looked quite similar to the golfer, John Daly.  This guy was hitting absolute missiles from the forehand side.  Lance said his only goal for the match was to not move backwards from the net, lest he appear intimidated. He’s the CFO for a building materials company.

Lewis Broschard – Middle Photo (First on left) – Lewis has a great sense of humor and is extremely self deprecating.   Last year he went something like 0-8 in League play because he was paired with a super senior (65+) who didn’t move well.  He didn’t enjoy it.  This year, for districts, he got to play with the best player (Drew), by far, at the club.  He said if he couldn’t win a match with Drew he was selling his rackets and taking up ice dancing.  He promptly lost.  Lewis is a Fire Chief.

James Lee – Bottom Photo (First on right) – James is in the process of moving to Southern California for a new job and this will likely be the last season he plays at our club.  In a desperate attempt to move up to a 4.5 rating, he played with several other 4.0 teams that he thought had more potential.  He did eventually make it to 4.5, but we have to give him crap about it.  In all fairness the talent pool at any given rating ebbs and flows with time so sometimes you have to make a jump to another team.  It’s quite common.

Drew Collin – Bottom Photo (Second from right) – Drew was the team captain for this league in name only.  I’m pretty sure Pete and/or Brad did most of whatever a captain has to do for these leagues.  All the e-mails came from Drew, though, and they all contained gross misspellings and grammatical errors.  As far as we can tell, Drew hasn’t had much success hooking up with women so we like to give it to him a little bit.  He’s a good kid, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment