After covering the Harvard men's squash team for the past three years, the only logical thing for me to do was to start playing squash.
Since I had seen the best, I wanted to play against the best. So I challenged Darius Pandole, Harvard's number-one squash player, to a match.
Mistake number one.
Pandole grew up playing in India, where he was the All-India Junior champion three times. He was named All-America and All-Ivy three times. He led the team to four Ivy and national titles.
In India, squash players use a soft ball, as opposed to the hard ball American players use. So Darius and I agreed to use a soft ball.
Mistake number two.
We scheduled the match for Friday. I showed up.
Mistake number three.
Was I worried? Yes.
The day before I played Darius, Harvard squash Coach Dave Fish and his assistant, Jon Anz, both promised me the number-one position on the team next year if I beat Darius.
That was all the incentive I needed. I started to have visions of beating Darius. I could see it now: "Michael Lartigue Defeats Princeton's Jeff Stanley; Harvard Gets Seventh Straight National Championship."
Michael Lartigue, "the phenomenon." I would be on the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, even The Harvard Crimson.
During the warm-up, I knocked several shots past Darius. I could see the fear in his eyes. He was wondering how I was able to hit three straight shots passed him. So was I.
To start the match, I pounced on his serve, hitting a reverse corner shot that died in front of him.
I thought, "This is easy. I can beat this guy in 20 minutes and still make dinner." Darius then informed me that you can only score on your serve when you play with a soft ball.
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