Charlie Herman continues to get the better of me. After trouncing me in his inaugural entry in the annual WNYC Pie Throwdown, Herman was beating me, 2-1, at Prospect Park Tennis Center over the weekend.
"I haven't played in a long time, go easy on me," he pleaded as we warmed up. Oh, please. When he wasn't taking tap, learning French, or otherwise overachieving, little Charlie took tennis lessons.
"During the summer, my buddy and I would play for hours," he said. So that's where he got his wicked serve.
Sure, it was wild most of the time. And, yeah, he hit some forehands that almost decked a player in the court next to us. The guy's rusty. But I've found that a rusty 1979 Volvo beats a 2010 Malibu every time.
People who played tennis when they were kids have an advantage over someone like me, who's learning it as a creaky, set-in-their-ways adult. It doesn't matter if they haven't played since they were a teenager. Muscle memory fades over time, but it doesn't go away.
I am reminded of this every 5 years, when I brush the cobwebs off my bike and take it for a ride around the block.
If I could live my high school years over again, I'd (a) insist on being home schooled, (b), skip the perm and (c), play more sports. While I made a half-hearted and brief attempt at track and volleyball, I ceded athletics to my 4 brothers. It's a guy thing, I told myself.
I focused instead on academics and the arts. I majored in Austro-Hungarian history (1848-1918) in college, spent weekends with the OSU Forensics team travelling to speech competitions, and only used Ohio State's world-class athletic facilities for jogs around the indoor track and laps in the Olympic-sized pool. I didn't even know there was a recreational sports program until just now, when I searched the university's website. (Tennis is a steal, just $25 to join the rec team. Baseball, by comparison, will set you back $100, basketball, $80, dodgeball $55. Okay, the dodgeball fee irks me. That ain't right.)
Look, the universe is unfolding as it should. I write and speak publicly for a living. I discovered Egon Schiele. And all that jogging all those years bored me enough that I picked up tennis. Yeah, the serve is weak and the forehand is pushy, and it's probably going to take me a long time to change that. Heck, it gives me something to write about.