Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Heart of Summer is Berries and Cream

It's berries and cream weekend.


It's the weekend where the shortest grass is well worn with bare spots.



And this version of the Saturday final day was fought by two sisters who put their sibling love aside to fiercely contest the most coveted of trophies in their sport.



I do love Wimbledon. It is the second most prestigious and elegant sporting event, in my book. Second only to golf's The Masters.



I know that tennis has fallen off the North American radar screen, just a small blip as it appears to be wandering off the screen over the horizon in the mind of western culture. But Wimbledon holds an air of legitimate royal legendry. And sports need that level of legitimacy in this era of steroids, corrupt officiating, and the overall consistent contempt shown by professional athletes.



I have always loved tennis since my brother Paul was successful as a junior. I had the joy of being his best rally partner – and the dismay of consistently being beaten by him although I tried my best to better him.



Big brothers are supposed to be better than their little brothers, right?



There is beauty to stand behind a baseline and strike a well hit ball in the heart of the face of the racket driving it hard over the net and the top spin drawing it back down into the opposite side of the court by the base line. The grace of a well struck serve as you toss the ball over your head in a rhythmic movement as your racket swings back behind you - moving in motion to strike the ball with a twisting spin move to curve the ball into a corner of the service line – the racket thrown at the ball in almost the same motion of a pitcher throwing a curveball.



Tennis is a beautiful game of trying to drive the ball to an area of the court where your opponent is not. Trying to guess where your opponent will hit it and moving into position to set your feet to ready your swing to drive the ball back.



I miss it.



And while next year I will be able to play again, that's not enough. Because my brother Paul is not here to play against. He is in Baton Rouge. And in my book, there is playing tennis, but then there is playing tennis against my brother Paul.



There's nothing as fun to me as playing tennis against Paul. Okay, maybe playing golf with Paul.



So when Wimbledon plays out like it did this year, with big sister Venus Williams playing against little sister Serena, I can identify with just how great an experience that would be. And I watch every point. And I love it.



Yes, the Williams sister play at a couple levels higher than either I or Paul, although I strongly think Paul had the potential to get there.



And yes, I do root for Venus – as we older siblings have to stand together against those obnoxiously arrogant younger siblings who teased us until we punched them only to get sent to your room or get grounded.



Damn those younger siblings.



Today Venus won. And I believe her sincerity when she said in the post-match interview that her first responsibility is that of big sister, and to be conscious of her little sister's disappointment so as to not over celebrate her victory.



And that's where Venus is a better older sibling than I am. Because I would have been dancing around that pristine palace of tennis among the royalties of the sport – pointing my finger at my brother and screaming at him "Who's the winner lil' bro?! Who's the winner now!."



And they probably would not have invited me back the next year. And I probably would have gotten sent to my room.



Wimbledon, to me, is the heart of summer.



And the heart of summer is when I miss my little brother Paul the most.


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