I wrote earlier ( http://www.irasabs.com/?p=2240) about how I lack the killer, cuthroat instinct. How it shows on the court. I am definitely competitive and want to win and try what I think is my best. But if I lose, big deal. It’s only a game. And I am constantly saying just that to new doubles partners: “Relax. We’re here to have fun. You never have to apologize for a bad shot and say, I’m sorry.”
Observers of my tennis game have commented on my nonchalance about winning. They say my niceness shows up, that I don’t run desperately for each ball, that my net volleys are firm, but not so forceful as to knock someone unconscious if I hit them in the head. I should be tougher.
All that changed yesterday, December 7th, when I was playing and became pissed. Now I must interject that I have had some personal setbacks, disappointments, anxieties about a relative dying, friends with their own problems. And the doubles game was going slowly. I grew impatient for a speedier match, and all my suppressed negativity broke through. I was outraged, annoyed, ticked off—at the world and the difficulties of living a life. At the raw deals people are stuck with, and their daily burdens. It all busted loose. I may have wanted to scream and shout.
So I took it out on the tennis balls. I served rapidly, faster and harder than ever before. I hit powerfully for me, deep and accurately. The other team was commenting on how impossible returns were. And what was going on stroke after stroke?
I was experiencing new and rare emotions that I couldn’t recognize. I felt enraged and ornery and furious and threatening. God damn evil and dictatorial. Some caused I’m sure because a relative of someone I know had been murdered a few days before. If I’d had a hammer, I might have hit someone in the head. There was a lot of pent up energy.
So I channeled it into my game.
When it was over and a few hours had passed, I thought about who I had become. I’ve seen movies about boxers from the ghettos who had resentment and anger that came out in the ring. I once met a professional hit man who said that he was born with his fists clenched tightly—he paid for our pizza. But I don’t have those backgrounds. I have been taught that it is important to compromise, to get along, to have harmonious social interactions, to have people like you. Never to dominate and slaughter, defeat at all costs, or be indifferent to your opponent’s misery.
I wonder if I can be that nasty way again? If I can transform myself at will, like that story in which gentle Dr. Jekyll became deadly, wide-eyed Mr. Hyde? There is no doubt after what I saw myself do yesterday that I would be a much better tennis player. What do you think?