By R.D. Ferman
Recently, I decided to enter a local charity home run derby; I had not swung a bat in a long time but there were some high quality prizes up for grabs and the proceeds went to a worthy cause. To prepare, I asked a longtime baseball buddy of mine to toss me some batting practice at a local high school baseball diamond. I singled out this former teammate because during our playing days, he was practically a human pitching machine; the dude could groove dozens of consecutive strikes. Unfortunately, these days, his pitching accuracy is much more Ricky Vaughn than Greg Maddux. When I asked him what was up, he sadly confessed how his throwing mechanics have been polluted from exposure to slow-pitch softball, a detestable game foisted upon our great nation by drunks, pretenders, and lazy fat people, which is why people with integrity discuss the sham activity as often as they play it, which is never! When real Americans play ball, or simply play catch in the backyard, it is with a hardball, by God.
Baseball is not the only pastime of mine that has been corrupted by a beer league derivative. Several of my tennis buddies have suffered a drop in play consistency and/or injuries since taking up platform tennis.
Platform tennis is played on an aluminum deck that is about a third of a tennis court and is caged in by a twelve foot chicken wire fence, which enables play off the walls like racketball and squash. Over the past decade, the game has enjoyed a substantial renaissance in the northeast and parts of the midwest. The platform tennis facility construction and expansions at countless country clubs is all the evidence needed to prove the game’s rapid growth.
In fairness, platform tennis is not completely analogous to softball. Unlike softball, platform tennis does require ability and is not played mostly by drunks and pretenders, but rather former accomplished tennis and squash players. The racket skills that players in these respective sports have developed over the years actually translate relatively well to platform tennis, and there is a large strategic aspect to the sport. There are other positives; it is a welcoming antidote to the cold weather months that drag for those of us stuck in the cold regions of the country. It also generally shields participants from the insufferable, faux, Hamptons crowd that gravitate to skiing and snowboarding. Those “phony baloney, plastic banana, good time rock ‘n’ rollers,” as my rhetorical idol accurately describes them, tend to avoid activities that involve a ball that moves. Finally, it allows tennis players to avoid patronizing the overpriced, dilapidated, dungeons that are most indoor tennis clubs.
My beef is not with the game, but with how it has robbed my pool of available tennis buddies. I am easily triggered when I contact a longtime tennis friend to arrange a weekend match only for him to reply, “sorry mate, would love to, but I have a platform tournament. Let’s play in May.” And, when May finally does arrive, and I win big, will platform guy congratulate me with a firm handshake and a kind “good playin’ mate”? No, dude will mope up to the net and complain about how poorly he played and only lost because he spent the winter “playing platform.”
My other reservation is that when I eventually take up platform tennis, my first step into the cage will also serve as my symbolic first step towards the nursing home. As far as I can tell, as much as I know deep down that I am a future platform tennis addict, picking up a paddle is the tennis player equivalent to test driving a minivan. So with that, all I can ask is, tennis anyone?