Tennis--Game, Set, Match and More

Thoughts While Shavian

How can anyone get excited about hitting a fuzzy yellow ball? Isn't it a strange affair for a group of six young men to travel around from college to college trying to hit these yellow fuzzies up over a nylon fish net and drop them back into a chalked all-too-small area on the other side? And consider the amount of emotion and energy they seem to get from playing this game; they feel such crushing disappointment or such a spirit-lifting intoxication, all depending on whether their team can successfully hit more of these woolly eggs than can their opponents. Why this frenzy over tennis? What thief has stolen these players' perspectives? After all tennis is just a game, isn't it?

No. I think tennis is more than just a game, although it has often been tough for me to explain to others exactly what makes it so. First, tennis, like any sport, dictates that life continues, but only within a narrowly prescribed set of rules. It neatly removes most ambiguities and most inequities and leaves you standing on a simple, lined court armed only with your tools of competition. In its simplicity, it gives a very concrete appraisal of your progress. It promises a simple payoff--if you work hard, you will improve; if you don't you will not. Life rarely is quite this simple.

Tennis, like sports in general, allows us a brief chance to focus our energies completely. We can single-mindedly commit our time and our energies. In addition, tennis offers a rare chance to manipulate our lens-like perspectives. It allows us to narrowly focus our perspectives to the level of the game and enjoy its intensity. However, at the same time, by opening the lens further, we can allow the larger context to flood in.

Yet, because there exists this larger context, one shouldn't underestimate the importance of tennis. Every activity in each of our lives, as well as our lives themselves, shares a similar subservience to the larger scope. The larger perspective, when opened full tilt, can reduce anything to triviality.

So, if you call tennis only a game--a part of a larger context--remember that in a sense our activities and our lives are games, as well. And if you call tennis a game because its rules are clearer and its inequities and ambiguities have been removed, realize that it is, at least a very good game of games.


But after all this, whether tennis be a game or more, let us in all seriousness continue to play.