By Jeanne Sigler
Thursday Review Correspondent
For the past few weeks, every television in our house has been permanently fixed on ESPN. You see, when the time for The U.S. Open arrives, everything stands still in the Sigler household. I have to get special permission to flip over to the Weather Channel for Local on the 8’s or to Fox News to catch the latest headlines, which is allowed only between matches or during a commercial.
Maybe I am exaggerating a little, but my husband is a big tennis buff. His appreciation for the sport goes beyond being an armchair athlete. He actually plays and rather well, I might add. But it wasn’t always that way.
Every Sunday morning, our alarm clock goes off at 5. That gives my husband just enough time to throw on his sports gear and brew a cup of green tea, which will be poured into a to-go cup, before giving me a peck on the cheek, whispering, “I’m going now. Pray for me.”
Each week, Michael faithfully teams up with his buddy, Will, to hit the courts before the sun rises, and slam that silly little green ball back and forth until there comes forth a winner. By the time we get to morning church service, Michael is already halfway through his day.
This weekly ritual has been going on for about twelve years now. Michael knew he needed to get fit and figured tennis would be a good way to accomplish this. The fact that he hadn’t swung a racket since 1959 did not deter him from entering in with full abandon. Week after week, he and Will worked away at it, giving the game their all.
About six months into this fitness endeavor, the two decided it was time to take a walk on the ‘professional’ side by joining the U.S. Tennis Association and sign up for their first tournament. With fervent anticipation, the duo doubled their efforts, adding Thursday nights to their practice time. Ready to take on the world, Michael exclaimed, “With all this preparation, we could even take home a trophy!” Wishful thinking.
So, as the event rolled around, Will and Michael got in as much practice as their ankles and tennis elbows could handle. They were as ready as they’d ever be. They even bought matching outfits to wear on opening night.
They took their places on center court at the Westgate Tennis Center for the doubles event as Will’s wife Brenda and I grabbed some seats in the stands cheering them on. Michael served first. Fault. Oops. Well, at least he gets a second chance, I thought. Double Fault. Oops, again. “What are you doing; what’s wrong?” asked Will. “I don’t know,” replied Michael. “We did so well at practice. Maybe I’m just nervous.”
The other team clearly saw they had the upper hand. Things went south quickly and in no time it was over. A complete shut-out, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. “Poor guys.” I remarked to Brenda. “I got it all on video,” she replied.
It’s been a long time since that miserable first attempt at sports stardom. They guys continue to pound the pavement every week. As an incentive to improve their game, they even made up their own trophy, which takes turns sitting on their mantels, for the weekly “Master of the Universe.”
So, although it is unlikely either of them will ever compete at Wimbledon, I still enjoy watching them play remembering that first tournament and seeing how they’ve come a long way. And come what may, Michael will always be my master of the universe.
Incidentally, that trophy has found a prominent spot as a mantelpiece in our house for several consecutive weeks now, and I’m told that Michael really has no plans of ever giving it back.
Jeanne Piraino Sigler is an armchair tennis fan as well as a freelance correspondent for Thursday Review. She can be reached for comment as well as invitations to Wimbledon or the US Open at email@example.com