Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cinderella Goes to Taco Bell

Odd Encounter of the Week: victory

My roomie Nate played tennis all through high school and even into college. We all had our thing in high school - grades, sports, girls, pogs. His was tennis. My other roomie Andrew grew up with Nate and played many a doubles match with him. They have chemistry.

I have never played tennis. I used to hit tennis balls with a baseball bat in the neighborhood. I do not think that counts. My good buddy AJ also never played tennis, though, as a former MLB draft pick, he has an abundance of athletic talent. When it comes to tennis, we are as green as Kris Jenkins at a salad bar.

With this background, it should come as no surprise that Nate recently proclaimed, "You and AJ will NEVER beat me and Andrew. No way."

Ah, one of those extreme words (see Monday's post) that always gets us in trouble. Remember, dear friends, on a true/false question, if you ever see the word "never," always choose false. But I fear I foreshadow too much. . . .

Thus, a wager birthed forth from the arrogance of my two roomies and the manpride of AJ and me. Starting in February, we would play one doubles match per week until Andrew's wedding on June 16 (his last name is Craig; his fiance and he are registered at Bed Bath and Beyond - *wink, wink*). If AJ and I beat them once, just once, during that 10-week span, they would buy dinner. If we pulled a dust and got swept, dinner was on us.

And so the matches began. I wish I could say they displayed great skill and intensity. They did not. As of two weeks ago, my team's record stood at 0-6, all in straight sets. We had not won a set. One time we only lost a set 6-4. Besides that, we failed to ever win more than three games.

Nate and Andrew began to talk junk, or more aptly, they began to talk more junk. They would say things like "So do y'all really want to take a pounding this week or should we just stay home?" or "Hey, Andrew, are you nervous? Nope? Me either." Occassionally, they would display great wit and say, "You suck."

If our matches were a movie, it would have been Rocky III. They'd be Clubber Lang but without the mutton chops, coolness, and A Team heritage. We were Rocky. Again though, I fear I foreshadow too much. . . .

It got bad. Real bad. So bad, in fact, that AJ and I contemplated which would seem more unmanly - to continue taking our beatings or to give up. After a week and a half off, we decided to play again.

We lost. . . again. The score: 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-0). After taking our first set of the entire bet, we lost in a third set tie-breaker. Heartbreak. I felt like UNC had just been bounced from the NCAA tournament all over again. I was emotionally spent and did not sleep that night because I knew we had blown our chance. When I agreed to the wager, I knew there would be one day, just one, where they were a little off and we were a little on. On that day, we would get 'em.

Well, that day came and we still lost.

I recently wrote on Redeeming Prufrock that we must battle for hope, that, unlike George Strait's hit song, it does not just come natural. By this point, we had given up on hope. Our moment had past. We had begun to think of the nastiest places in Charlotte to eat where we could take the victors. We're talking Taco Bell nasty here. And so we slouched towards the court yesterday like it was Yeats' Bethlehem.

We lost the first set - ho hum - and then something crazy happened. Nate and Andrew could not return my serve. You must know, dear reader, that my serve is about as bad as, well, anything from Taco Bell. We jumped out to a 3-0 lead and broke Andrew to win the second set 7-5. We began to believe.

We came out hot in the third set as well, holding my serve (which we called "a break") and breaking Nate's. Eventually, the set arrived at 3-3. The park closed in 20 minutes and rain loomed on the horizon. At that moment, I knew doom awaited us. We would play great, have a shot to win, and then either:

a) it would rain
b) the park would turn off the lights
c) we would blow it

Another night we have them on the ropes. Another night they get let off the hook by park security, Mother Nature, or my skill level.

But it did not rain. The lights remained on, and in ten minutes, I stood serving match point at Deuce-Ad In. I lobbed my serve in because that's all I can do. AJ took a risk and ran from the left side of the court to the right in an attempted overhead smash. All or nothing.

He jumped.

The ball disappeared from my sight as his body smothered it, arms extended, legs spread.

I heard him yell before his slam hit the court.

"COME ON!!!!!!!!"

We had done it! We had slayed Goliath. We had knocked out Clubber and his mutton chops. We had tried on the slipper and it fit.

I had the distinct pleasure of riding home with the vanquished. They offered to pay me $100 in lieu of buying dinner so they could avoid my gloating. I declined. Gleefully. Other than that, they remained rather silent, except for a few words not fit for print since folks under the age of 21 read RP. They had run out of wit, I guess.

If you see them anytime soon, ask about the match. They love talking about it.

I now know the feeling of the '83 NC State Wolfpack, of Bryce Drew and Valparaiso, of George Mason. Sure, AJ and I had ten tries to get it done while they played one mistake away from elimination. But Cinderella had to endure years of low-wage work and sibling insults before the shoe finally fit. Like Cinderella, we had waited and suffered before finally donning our extravagant foot attire.

Which leaves me wonder, "How would Cinderella like Taco Bell?"

Under these circumstances, just fine, thank you very much.


Wilson said...

Ah, thanks for mentioning Bryce Drew. We're big fans of his here at Miss. State. One of my favorite things about March is seeing that replay over and over again, and seeing the Ole Miss players collapse on the floor dejected. It never gets old.

Ben said...

We're here to serve. . . .

Kevin said...

I love how you compared yourself to Cinderella. So manly.

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