I decided to go into work a little later than usual because I'd stayed late the day before and because, with imminent pay cuts, my attitude is sour and because I needed to blow off a little steam and, frankly, because I could.
I dropped my kid at school and headed to the gym, where I rode the bike straight up hill for 45 minutes. Then I pummeled the speed bag for another 20, imagining my fist connecting again and again with Arnold Schwarzenegger's pinched face. He really didn't have a chance.
I was sweaty and generally disgusting but totally rejuvenated as I headed to the locker room. My morning of hooky couldn't have been better. Then I spied—on one of the many giant flat-screen TVs lining the hallway—the fifth and last set of the Andy Roddick / Lleyton Hewitt semi-final Wimbledon match playing out. Allah O Akbar! My fabulous morning had become even fabulouser.
Forget work, I thought. I set down my bag, wiped the sweat off my face and stood akimbo to watch the match play out.
As a die-hard tennis fan, it's with great shame that I admit that, until that moment in the hall—a mere three days before the final weekend of play—I hadn't seen one match of the 2009 tournament. Not even a highlight! Things at work had, for the previous two months, consumed every minute of my time that wasn't already consumed by all the other consuming stuff that consumes my life. In fact, it had been so long since I'd switched on the television that I would've needed to refer to the user manual for the remote control. And I don't even know where to begin to look for that.
All my sorry ass had time for between bureaucracy and birthday parties were written reports of the many dramatic moments. Thanks to the fantastically detailed Straight Sets blog in the New York Times, I was able to wring my hands with angst over what I'd been missing: A tearful Ana Ivanovic literally throwing in the towel against Venus in the fourth friggin' round because of an injury? Absolute heartbreak. Serena, busting through to the final in the longest women's single semi-final match in the history of the tournament? Heart-stopping.
Of course, there will never be anything as thrilling, as monstrous, as gargantuan as last year's five-plus-hour men's final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was the match to end all matches, the one you live for as a spectator. It was an epic of rain and sweat and determination and rain and anguish and strength and agility and fatigue and rain and hours and hours of glorious, amazing tennis between two of the finest sportsmen ever. Yes, I'd have sex with either and/or both of them.
When Rafa withdrew a few days before the tournament began, the dashed hope of a re-match was devastating. But as I stood in the hallway last week staring up at the screen, watching Roddick fire off aces and Hewitt answering with some of his own, I began to feel a surge of excitement not unlike that which I'd experienced last year. It's the kind of anticipatory, nearly unbearable excitement that never comes with a blowout. It's the kind that makes a fan a fanatic.
The tail end of this nearly four-hour match would not be the Roger-Rafa Redux I craved, but it was high-caliber tennis nevertheless, and it would more than feed my jones. Because I'm a hopelessly addicted fan, I continued to blow off my arrival at the office like I was hitting the snooze button on a Monday morning.
So there I stood, joined now by one other guy, watching the last set, getting more and more worked up until I was clapping at the end of each point won by Roddick (Hewitt's a twerp). And when the score was 40-30, just before Roddick was about to serve for the match, another dude wanders up to see what the hullabaloo was all about. Then he says to me, “Isn't this from last night?”
I turned to look at him. “I don't know,” I said. “I haven't seen it. I'm watching it right now.”
“Yeah, this is from last night,” he said. He had a white towel draped over the top of his head and it bobbed up and down as he nodded. “Roddick won.”
Yes, that was the sound of the needle being violently dragged across vinyl.
“Duuuuuude! Did you seriously just say that?”
I ask you: What kind of tool does this? Has this guy never taped off the ticker on ESPN because he's watching a game that's being re-broadcast? Has he not avoided text messages from heckling friends? Where is the respect? I mean, for chrissake, I was clapping. Loudly. In a gym. Any numb-nut could have deduced that I hadn't seen the match.
Well. Any numb-nut, that is, but my Spoiler.
“Wow,” I said as I turned my attention back to the game. “Wow.”
Roddick tossed the ball high into the air and arched back to hit it. “I guess this is it then,” I muttered. All of my enthusiasm was—pfffffft—gone when he smashed the ball. The two men volleyed a bit before Hewitt hit his final forehand long and ho-hum, Roddick did the fist pump or fell to his knees or cried. It didn't really matter anymore since now I had to hustle in to work.
The Spoiler muttered a sheepish apology and made his way back to the sorority slider or Stairmaster or some other wussy apparatus. I went the other way, heading for the door, but made a sharp detour and went back for a few more minutes of hammering on the speed bag. And that night, I set the alarm for 5 a.m. to watch the remaining matches in real time.Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.