Much less just chill [Backstage interlude in the League of Tennis Professionals, p.III]

They are all off them bathing in the LCD’s broadcast of court 23: RF, AM, RN, AR, GM, ol’ mercurial JM. Here, together, in the locker, just chilling, reloading the batts, there is a sense of family among them. This disagrees with the image the media puts significant effort into constructing, namely that they are ruthless adversaries, gladiators equipped with Prince, Head, Yonex, etc. People (at home on the couch watching G-Slams from afar) forget that they all belong to a guild of highly specialized professionals who live a lifestyle so singular that the competition is just, in a certain regard, one sweat-drenched slice of their life’s extra-everything pizza. They attend PR events together, haul ass to the same dreadful gala dinners and, maybe most importantly, topspin the breeze together.

Muffled sighs and serious stretching and gripping of that part of the skull covering the frontal lobes just above the eyes. There are only few people who say they would not care to be a top ten LTP player (with fame and money and commercial endorsements and ghostwriters) and even those people, during night hours of intense, futile ceiling-studies, will consider the possibility that they are not being entirely honest with themselves. It makes one think rather hard of what one has to do oneself in order not to die an unhappy fuck.

All of them are just relaxing in the locker room, experiencing various levels of happiness/discontent. The term “locker” is inadequate, invoking imagery of primitive wooden planks to sit on and skinny metal lockers that need to be fed small change. Instead these LTP lockers are lounge-like premises of transgressive luxury. Thus the couches, the carpet, the TVs, the wide range of gem-colored sponsors’ isotonic beverages, bottled water so vitamin-laced it can go pound-for-pound with fresh fruit, bowls of thick, ripe bananas and apples (nevertheless), the works. Nobody pays this cornucopia any mind. The collective eyeballs, highly specialized on detecting the spin of seams on yellow ones, are glued to the three HD LCDs: disbelieving. It is set five, alright, day two, ok, game eighty-three, NO!

–       This cannot be happening. I don’t think this is physically possible, to be perfectly honest. This is the actual meaning of W.T.F, I believe. Pinch me really hard AM, will you?

–       JI and NM are making history here, looks like. I will tell my grand-children about this match in a hushed voice. JI and NM of all people. Right in the history books of tennis. In case somebody ever gets around to writing history books on tennis.

–       How do you hold serve for what amounts to seven sets of tie breaks? How do you not eventually get broken? I find it hard enough to hold serve for an entire set, frankly.

–       That is for you measure of the service. 150 Km/h. I not call it serve, so much. I am thinking perhaps “overhead slice”, no?

–       Very funny, Rafster, hilarious. Everybody is pissing their pants from how good your joke is. At least I have a slice to talk about.

–       Bueno for you, amigo. At least I am number one, no?

–       A hora, hombre, a hora.

It is an open conversation going on, in the locker, everybody can chip in as they see fit. A field-day for Goffman et al. RN has ripped off his shirt and is scowling at the TV. Independently of his mood RN scowls, giving rise to the impression that the world is permanently at fault and he is perennially aware of and unhappy about this. Or that he just happens to be a critical person. The question is: Why is this man always scowling? The other guys find it hilarious and crack many a joke about it. He doesn’t mind. Like most of his peers he is emotionally self-sufficient: all the drive and fortitude and regret he will ever need in life are perfectly self-generated; or so it seems.


About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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