Hello again from the last frontier!
I never did tell you all about the big tennis tournament we had in January. There’s a reason for that.
With tomorrow’s big Super Bowl Party at Jim & Sue’s, plus a few other incidents, I’ve been considering the whole notion of competition, specifically, how we deal with losing.
When it comes to sports my feelings regarding competition are a bit of an enigma. I am not a naturally gifted athlete, not even close. An ex-boyfriend of mine once joked that if you set me loose in an empty football stadium and placed a single, full, open can of soda somewhere on the field, I would walk right toward it, trip over it, spill it all over myself, and injure myself in the process. Sad but oh so true. Yet, despite the fact that I am athletically challenged, I love to win when I play sports and I am not always a very good loser.
Now some of you who know me might be thinking, no way, I’ve seen you in action, you’re very athletic. Ah, appearances can be deceiving my friends! Any grace, coordination, strength, or flexibility that I possess were paid for with a whole lot of sweat, tears, and occasionally blood. Seven years of dance lessons as a child (and, I let me tell you, I practiced and practiced), endowed me with the physical prowess of… the average person. In fact, one of the most traumatic moments of my life happened in my acrobatics class – I cannot see a horse to this day without feeling a profound sense of shame.
My dance class was rehearsing for our big end of the year show. The song was “Pony Boy” and about twenty of us girls would be dressed as horses and performing stunning displays of acrobatics. Stunning! Now, I’m about as flexible as a stick. The only acrobatic trick I truly excelled at was handstands or walking on my hands–proving that I am equally good at being straight and stiff whether upright or upside down. The high point of this number was a waterfall sort of move. We were all in a line, all went into handstands together, and one by one we’d fall into walkovers (picture dominoes falling). A “walkover” consists of doing the splits and “walking” yourself upright. Folks, I gave it my best, I truly did, but I sucked. Imagine a line of graceful young bodies doing these walkovers and then – THUD – me falling flat onto my back. Kind of spoils the effect. After months of this, our teacher was determined to help me (and to keep the audience from laughing). She lined us up and made us do the waterfall move over and over and over and over, until I got it right. THUD, THUD, THUD, THUD. You can imagine how popular I was by the end of that class. Defeated, she moved me to the end of the line and told me to just do something that looked like a walkover.
I’m not bitter. The only reason I am even moderately good at any sports is because of those dance lessons. Well, back to the tennis tournament…
Prez loves tennis. He would play tennis around the clock if his poor old battered body would let him. (He is also one of those sickening natural athletes, blech). Every time we visit Posada, he tries to organize at least one tournament. Prez is also a quintessential good sport. He does his utmost to ensure that the teams are fair and balanced. Each year, he has cheerfully taken on the lowest level player as his partner and every year, with the exception of one, he and his partner have won. (My partner, Harry Walker, and I won the first year – entirely thanks to Harry). This year, Prez sat down and paired up the contestants, and when it came to me he put me with the visiting Rotary dentist because even though we’d never played with him this fellow went on at great lengths about how tennis is his favorite sport and he’d played for years. FOR YEARS! He neglected to tell us that he hadn’t actually played in years.
The day of the tournament arrived and I was pumped. I knew from the first couple of volleys that I was on! And I knew, from a few more volleys, that my partner was off–way, waaaaaay off. He could have been on a different planet, he was that off. I held my composure through the first two matches, offering Mr.Dentist helpful hints and words of encouragement, believing that he would improve as the day went on. By match three I was fighting the urge to pelt him across the head with my racquet. And, shamefully, by match number four I’d lost all semblance of civility. I cracked. The ball would come across the net and I’d just swing without even looking or caring where it went. Where it went was usually up, up, up… and out of the park. I was a very bad sport.
You may now take a moment to “tsk tsk” me.
I could tell you it was largely Mr.Dentist’s fault for not giving us an accurate description of his abilities. I could also tell you Prez is not without blame for pairing me with a partner he’d not properly assessed. But none of that matters. Sportsmanship is about playing as hard as you can and having fun. It does not include pouting and throwing temper tantrums when things don’t go your way. I made my partner feel bad. I threw the last match, which cost another team their place in the final match. I embarrassed myself (and Prez) with my bad behaviour. What kind of loser am I? A bad one.
The funny thing is I’m always railing about what poor-sports other people are. At every tournament Prez has organized, someone is always whining about the rules, or their partner, or the time of the matches, or whatever. We’ve had a few Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments in the park and, once again, some folks aren’t happy unless they’re complaining. Prez and I don’t even like to watch professional sports on TV because of the message so many athletes send to the world. You make millions of dollars playing a sport you love, you have fans spending their hard earned paycheques to see you play, and you don’t even have the decency to refrain from getting into fist fights, swearing, or whining like a baby? Grow up.
But sport isn’t the only arena in which our competitive natures are unleashed. Consider all the facets of your life in which you feel that you are competing against one or more people. It could be as overt as fighting for a promotion over your co-workers, or as subtle as making sure your lawn looks better than your next door neighbour’s. You may not realize that you are competing but none of us are immune from the urge to do more, have more, look better, or simply “be” better than someone else.
The stunt biz is highly competitive and I hated that part of it. Sitting in a room full of other stunt women, some of whom you really like and respect, knowing that only one of you is going to get the job, is an unpleasant and almost surreal experience. Competition among women, especially when it involves men, is the subtle art of pretending not to care while doing everything in your power to win. Which brings me to another recent “incident”.
Let me start by explaining that, when it comes to the Prez, I never for even a second doubt his love and loyalty to me. And as for other women, well, I know there are few who could fill my sandals where my husband is concerned. By that I mean that there are very few women out there who a) honestly don’t want children b) enjoy moving from place to place every few years or months without having stable jobs or incomes c) don’t wear make up, jewelry, or who own only one pair of high heels d) love fishing and a variety of other sports e) don’t bat an eye when given ten minutes notice that there will be 15 people coming for dinner f) etc., etc. It’s not that I am any great shakes; I just know that the Prez and I are custom made for each other. Still, I’m only human, I have my moments.
Enter: The Woman in the Small White Shorts.
This is the first time we have ever been in Baja, or anywhere for that matter, that I have not been Prez’s playmate. We made a deal before we came down here this year that I was going to write and he was going leave me alone, removing any temptation I might have to “skip out” and go hiking or fishing or any of the fun things we normally do. He has been true to his word and the writing is going splendidly. So he was overjoyed when a new visitor arrived in the park looking for someone to do things with. She’s friendly, athletic, attractive, fun, she loves tennis, and she’s really, really good at it. Isn’t that great?
I popped by the court to say hi during their first game together and there she was, in these very small white shorts and matching small white t-shirt, looking fit and sexy, leaping around the court like a gazelle. My heart sank. An unwanted image popped into my mind of me, in my baggy old-lady shorts (the only pair of tennis shorts I own), shanking balls out of the court, and Prez shaking his head in frustration. Why oh why did I put off buying new tennis shorts for so many years? Why didn’t I practice more? Why can’t I be a naturally gifted athlete? Why am I spending all day writing while my husband is running around with Small White Shorts?? I told myself I was being silly. The little voice in my head chided me for being so insecure. I quickly gagged that voice and made sure to hunt down a new pair of shorts the next time I was in town. Like I said, I’m a bad loser.
Prez soon caught on to my feelings of inadequacy and assured me, then reassured me, then re-reassured me that I am the one and only love of his life and that no matter how great any other woman is, or how small her shorts are, he only has eyes for his Princess. Aaaaaaaawwwww. Didn’t I feel like a loser,and a winner, after that!
So my New Year’s resolution for 2006 is to be a better sport. To always try my best but to also always be happy whether I finish first, last, or anywhere in between. Also, to quit saying “sorry” on the tennis court. Hell, who cares how I play when I have such a great new pair of shorts to play in!
So, what kind of loser are you?
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!