So, one of the things that’s been interesting about playing in a tennis league (as opposed to just among friends) has been being able to observe different players interact – both as partners and as opponents.  Of course, the aspect of the game that reveals the most about a player is how they make – and react to – line calls.

Now, professionals have several judges who have the job of making line calls – and anyone that recalls John McEnroe’s career will remember that he used to have quite heated discussions with officials.  In the big tournaments, the “ShotSpot” cameras can help diffuse the tendency to rail at the umps, but what about when technology like that isn’t available?  You still see a lot of arguing.

Are you crazy?

Now, the “friendly” game adds a psychological level to this part of the game because your opponent makes all the calls on your shots and vice versa.  This often pits a player’s desire to win in direct opposition to their being a good sport.  I never really thought about this much, since I’d been mostly playing with friends and when you think one of them makes an incorrect call, you can put your hands on your hips and say, “Seriously?” – but in general, it’s pretty easy to give your friends the benefit of the doubt in that they might have made an honest mistake rather than having tried to screw you.

In the league though, you’re playing against guys you don’t know, that you’re there to beat, and that may or may not be good sports.  When I got to my match on Sunday, I had a few moments to observe another match.  Team A was serving to Team B.  “A” served. “B” called it out.  I was pretty surprised since the ball was in by a good 4-6”.  “A” stopped and said in an exasperated voice, “You’ve got to be kidding.” “B” then turned and railed “ARE YOU CHALLENGING MY CALL!!?!?”  What ensued was an ugly and expletive filled tirade from both guys.  “A”s partner, who hadn’t said anything yet, turned to “B”s partner for some help, because surely the partner had seen the ball go in.  “B”s partner – clearly not wanting to overrule his already-angry partner – shrugged and said, “Well, it was pretty close…” which I thought was pretty gutless.

This much!

Clearly, the biggest losers in the whole thing were sportsmanship and the chance to have a fun match.  But as I’ve thought about it, I have been trying to think about who committed the worst offense.

Was it “A” for essentially calling “B” a cheater on a call that is clearly supposed to be “B”s? (Or maybe  he was calling him blind, but I think the implication was that he was deliberately trying to screw them over).

Was it “B”?  (Obviously if he was cheating, but if he really thought it was out, he just made a bad call)

Or was it “B”s partner because he could have probably diffused the whole thing by saying, “Err – I think that was in” and either awarding the point for the bad call or asking for a play-over, which of course in a “friendly” match is almost always granted.


17 thoughts on “In-N-Out

  1. Oh, that’s a tough one. I would think that if it was a rare thing then “A” could just let it go and assume “B” had made a bad call. But, if it happened a few times, “A” would be justified in a “Are you kidding me?”

    My son plays in leagues from time to time. He really has a great time and has never really had any stories about bad sportsmanship that I know of.

  2. Wow. I never would have thought people would remain that competitive, but…I suppose it is bound to happen. I always thought it was men more than women, but these days I think it is actually women who are much better at “keeping score” than the guys.

  3. I blame B for being a jerk face. Then I blame A for serving too well. And finally, I blame B’s partner for being a partner with B, unless it is random assignment.

  4. Sheesh. I dunno. Obviously cheating is the lowest form of behavior, but arguing like a bunch of crybabies is not too far behind. I’d expect some minor tiffs during a heated game, but at some point, just let it go. When I compete with strangers I keep an eye on them and if I suspect they’re playing dirty, I look for other teams to join.

    • Em — I agree. It’s not much fun to play with hyper-competitive people — competitive to the point of bending the rules or trying to intimidate. Fortunately, I think this is pretty rare.

  5. I think your league should hire referees, or maybe they can get some people to volunteer to act as referees, with the added rule that the players may not interfere with the referee’s work (which is a fancypants way of saying “No bitching”). Having the players call their own plays sounds like the road to hell or a sure way to encourage arguments like the one you describe.

    But thanks for the blast from the past—only in retrospect do I enjoy John McEnroe’s antics on the court, though we used to do imitations of him when we played tennis in high school. “You CANNOT be serious! That was in!”—followed by exaggerated pounding of one’s racquet on the ground. (They were the school’s racquets, not ours. I had a Japanese one that my parents refused to let me take to school on account of shenanigans like that.) When I saw him on the TV show 30 Rock a couple of years ago, I was a little astounded at how small and reduced he looked. I suppose it happens to all of us, but I’d assumed he would look a little more fierce, at least more like a banty rooster and not some middle-aged guy in a bad suit.

    • HG — hiring people is probably beyond the scope (moneywise) of our league and leaving volunteers most likely to be drawn from one of the two teams playing, so again leaving room for favoritism. The best thing is that this sort of blow-up seems to be really rare.

      McEnroe does commentary on a number of tennis broadcasts, and while he’s not in playing shape, his mind is still sharp and he calls a spade a spade. He’s definitely not commentating to make people feel better — and when someone makes a “dumb” play, he calls them on it.

  6. Let it go. It’s only a game.

    Next return from B, call it “OUT!!” and give the look, arms folded, bat twitching…

    (Just kidding. I’ve never played tennis in my life.)

  7. I’m disappointed. I thought this was going to be about burgers. I was looking forward to a picture to drool over and perhaps a recommendation on a cocktail to go with my burger. ;)

  8. This is why I run. It’s just me and the road! All I want to beat is my own PR. :)

    We have a couple that we hang out with a lot who are both very competitive. They want everything to be a competition, and it’s really annoying. We had a group of people over to play Kinect, and the woman of this couple suggested we all compete to see who got the most points, which really took the fun out of it for those who had never played before and just wanted to try out a newfangled toy. The second round we played, I stepped in and said, “Let’s just do this for fun.” The mood in the room lifted considerably. When they do this, my husband and I have a look we exchange. Hopefully they don’t notice it! All of this to say that I think it’s a bit ridiculous for adults to have to compete over everything, but I can see where “B” might be frustrated if “A” was making a lot of bad calls since a league is for the purpose of competition. I don’t do team sports very well.

    • BF — it’s interesting, I’ve realized I like playing singles more than doubles, mostly because I don’t want to feel like I have to rely on the “other guy” for success — and the converse, when i screw up, I don’t like it when it brings down my teammate.

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