Wednesday, August 27, 2008



Copyright 2008 Elliott Joseph

September 2008

Recently, I got to wondering how I’d do, competing against the youth I used to be half a lifetime ago.

Now, thanks to the miracle of virtual reality, I could find out who was the better man, me then or me today. Through state-of-the-art computer programming I would be able to, all but actually, get on the tennis court in a battle with my former self.

Why tennis, you may ask. Why not compare my ability to dance or make love?

Sure, they’re important, too, but they require the subjective judgment of another. I wanted a contest where the score alone would decide.

It would tell me whether the seasoned cleverness and diabolical craftiness of my maturity could overcome the brash confidence and awesome physical capability of the wild kid I used to be.

I set about preparing for the showdown by analyzing the player I had been. From old photographs and a memory that was still sharp enough I was able to visualize before me a tall, lean young man with a ruddy complexion that reflected his love of outdoor combat.

His determined expression, trim waist, powerful forearms and insolently square shoulders presented a picture of barely contained energy just waiting to explode.

I knew him to be one of the world’s fiercest fighters for whom defeat seemed more horrible than death.

Nevertheless, as I saw myself standing opposite him, gray, stooped, tired before we even began, I felt I had an excellent chance of beating him. I was smarter and more experienced. My strokes were softer, but more varied.

True, my body was bent where it was supposed to be straight, and straight where it was supposed to be bent, but it could be maneuvered well enough for the doubles I normally played with my contemporaries.

Perhaps it could be made to work against this impatient tiger who was now bouncing around in his quaint little sneakers as the match was ready to get underway.

I won the toss and elected to serve first. The ball suddenly came back so fast and so deep I never had a chance to lay my racquet on it. He had aced me on my own service! The next thing I knew he had taken the first game.

Then he won his service in four straight points. The score was 0-2. I would have to use my head.

I started to chop and slice, a strategy that had been working very well for me of late. This didn’t trouble him in the least. He simply got to the ball in a few quick steps, and returned it first to my left and then to my right until I found myself running into the ground.

I think I picked the wrong conditions for the match. The sun was high in the sky and I was soon drowning in my own perspiration.

I then tried to keep the ball deep into his backhand, which I knew to be his weakest stroke. At last I took a game, but he soon caught on to what I was doing and started to lob the ball over my head as I foolishly went to the net in a vain attempt to force an error.

His lobs were so high, however. I was able to run back to get them. That, I later realized, was a critical mistake.

The court seemed to get bigger and bigger, and I began panting heavily. Then a chill ran up my arms and the ball got harder to see. The score was now 1-4, and I called for a time-out for a drink and a rest.

While I was desperately trying to recover, he dropped to the ground and started doing push-ups! If he had not been myself, I would have murdered him.

The end came soon afterwards, 1-6.

He was gracious about his win, as I knew he would be, and offered to play another set. Exhausted, I shook my head and shut off the computer.

I’ve considered programming a rematch. But why go through all that? After all, it isn’t as though I lost to someone else. His victory was my victory, too. Wasn’t it?

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