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Meltdown of the Week


Finding Roger Federer Meltdown footage on YouTube is like finding a seat on the Number 4 Lexington Avenue subway at 9:30 in the morning. [Non-New Yorkers, take note: it's rare.] The Greatest of All Time usually deals with blown shots by dragging his middle finger across his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear. Not this time. This was a semi-final match with Novak Djokovic at the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Djokovic just broke Fed in the third and deciding set and was up 15-0 when the Greatest of All Time took his eyes off a routine approach shot that could have evened the score. Federer went through lots of racquets when he was playing the junior circuit; wonder if he felt a little wave of nostalgia upon banging this one hard into the court.

On the Sideline

Other People's Children

Dad and his little tennis ace, outside the Prospect Park Tennis Center.I see children everywhere, all of a sudden.  I am staring at them, noticing how small they are standing next to their parents, the top of their heads barely reaching their dad's belt buckle or their mom's elbow.

I stare and I think, is that kid a 6-year-old, like Emilie Parker?  

Or maybe the little boy I saw today heading into the Prospect Park Tennis Center with his dad was 7, like Daniel Bardin, who, with Emilie and 18 other little ones, was shot to death by a man with a semi-automatic rifle in their classrooms in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. (The latest New York Times headlines are here, if you haven't been following them already, which I doubt.)

Children are a steady presence at the Tennis Center. They pour into the lobby with their often-harried parents a few steps behind them for their Pee Wee lessons .  They take the courts as I and my league teammates leave them at 10:00 AM on Saturday mornings, the more Type-As diligently doing warm-up laps.  Some kids head right to the service line and begin hitting red and yellow foam balls across the net to their Type-A parents.  I feel like a bumper car at Coney Island as I steer my way toward the front door through clumps of little people.

Mostly, I pay no attention to them, except to avoid colliding with them or their racquets.  But today I can't help but see them.  They stand out even though they do not stand very high at all. They are striking in their smallness and vulnerability.  Their skin looks translucent.  I'm stunned by how beautiful they all are.  I catch myself staring because I'm trying to understand just how Adam Lanza could have looked at a human being this young and soft and vibrating with energy and kill him (James and Dylan and Noah, Jesse and Chase) or her (Jessica and Ana, Grace, Josephine, Olivia). 

I am not alone in this mental effort.  The whole nation is seeing children, theirs and others, with fresh eyes and trying to understand.  I hope it leads to more than understanding.  I hope it leads to action.


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