“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt
I may not be a songwriter and I am certainly not a singer, however, I do want to steal a page out of Taylor's playbook and write about "stormin' Norman", a recent opponent I faced in my mixed doubles tennis league.
The match started out friendly. My partner and I breezed through the first set. The other team would mumble a few words once in a while. When the second set started, these grumblings became more vocal. Our opponents wanted us to know that they did not like our line calls and the man began to smolder. As we were about to win a point, our opponent suddenly stopped playing and claimed the point was there's. One of the players accused my partner of yelling “out” during play. This was not true and I defended my partner.
The other team battled from behind to tie up the match at one set each. My other teammates won their matches and came over to our court to support us. Everyone from the other team went home. The show of support from my teammates gave us additional strength and we won the third set decisively. When the match was over, we walked up to the net to shake hands with our opponents. Our lady opponent was gracious, however, stormin' Norman gathered his belongings and disappeared without even a handshake. I was stunned by his poor sportsmanship.
When the match was over, my teammates confirmed that our line calls were indeed accurate. They even pointed out to me that we played several balls that were actually out. Perhaps the distraction techniques used by our opponents were causing me to be far too generous in my line calls. A teammate commented to me that our opponents decided out loud to make intentional bad line calls as retaliation.
Someday, Norman may read one of my books or discover this blog. He will know that this story is all about him since I have only faced one opponent in all of my life that has ever declined to shake my hand after a match. Even John McEnroe shook hands with most of his opponents and umpires, no matter how infuriated he was at them.
Norman will not ever be able to change the poor sportsmanship that he displayed on that beautiful Saturday afternoon on his home court. In the future, maybe he will grow up. As for me and my teammates, we will move on and win the championship. We will continue to kill our opponents with kindness and we will finish the season UNDEFEATED. That's how we roll!
Before I sign off today, here is a shout out to my partner who endured a lot of agony from Stormin' Norman...I support you 100% on and off the court. You are a great sport and example for us all. This video below is dedicated to you. I too believe in good sportsmanship, no matter how our opponents behave. I may not have retaliated the way McEnroe did when his partner was abused, however, I was certainly thinking it. Perhaps it's better to just kill 'em with kindness...