In which I paddle myself for a blunder

Written by Reg Henry on .

An apology and correction are necessary: As shocking as it may be, I was wrong in my last post. Following the lead of Letsplay18 who finally fessed up to wrong facts under the prodding of the persistent Ceijai, I blundered. Better I fess up myself before she or another bloodhound of truth picks up my scent, although JohnF gets the credit for making me check.

The premise of my last post was that the Tea Party folks had nothing to get riled up about when they first started holding their protests on Feb. 27 last year. Actually, the Obama administration had passed the first stimulus bill on Feb. 17. Sorry. I thought this didn't happen until March.

While I still don't have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement, I concede that they did have reason to be agitated according to their own lights when they first started out.

On a less galling note, I was interested to read Letsplay18's recent comments about having a glass of wine with his wife in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I know that area well. My daughter graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva. My son went to school an hour and half up the road, at Hamilton College in Clinton.

But no toasting and merriment tonight at Castle Henry. The Winter Olympics are over and - worst yet - so is my paddle tennis season, which would be a Winter Olympics sport if there were justice in the world. Paddle tennis is no more absurd than curling and sometimes even involves wielding a broom to clear snow from the court before a match.

For those who don't know about it, platform tennis - aka paddle tennis, because the racket is a paddle - is played like tennis but with crucial differences.

The court is always outside in the elements, is about half the size of a tennis court and is enclosed by chicken wire. The ball is rubber and it can be played off the wire before it hits the ground. Because the game is so fast, it can only be played as doubles. Despite the wire, the game is not for chickens.

The scoring is the same as tennis but, to make serving a challenge, the server is given only one serve per point with no lets.

I have been playing for years. I love it because it is something vigorous to do outside in the winter but my tragedy is to be obsessed with a game that I am basically not very good at. Not deterred by this lack of talent, I play on a men's league team during the winter, this year mostly on Tuesday nights.

Paddle tennis is popular all around the Pittsburgh area (although there's no courts in the city itself). When I started out, it was my understanding that an ordinance in Sewickley made paddle tennis compulsory but apparently this isn't exactly true, because on one or two eccentrics do not play. This is very hard to understand. They are missing so much fun.

Most of the teams in the league come from Pittsburgh area country clubs - I play for the Edgeworth Club - but places like Mt. Lebanon have municipal courts. The Sewickley YMCA recently erected a taj mahal of paddle.

While I sometimes play up on a Division 6 team, my regular team is Division 7, and you can't go much lower than that without playing invertebrates. At this level, the players are relatively young or wily veterans, and no need to guess which category I am in. I spotted most of my team mates about 25 years, but I also played opponents 45 years younger on occasion. They call me the Grey Panther, so cat-like are my reflexes. Actually, I am hoping they will call me this, but it hasn't caught on yet.

By my standards, I had a good season but best of all I made a lot of younger friends. I wish I could tell you that we made the play-offs but we finished just out of them. I can hardly wait for next season.

As paddle tennis can't really be played well in summer - the rubber ball doesn't bounce well in the heat - this would make an ideal Winter Olympic sport. We will wear sequins if that is what it takes to get it accepted.

Still, the Winter Olympics were engrossing as they were. I liked best the snowboard cross event, where four maniacs go down the hill at once, creating scenes of excitement usually restricted to the Parkway East. And, of course, the hockey competition was great, culminating in the thrilling final game for the gold. Seeing that Canadians care so much about hockey, and they are generally such nice people, I don't mind that they won. Besides, Sidney Crosby lives up the street from me, although I have only seen him once.

As if the hockey final weren't memorable enough, the last segment of the closing ceremony was positively hilarious. It was a Canada cliche-a-rama, a self-inflicted send-up perhaps meant to confirm to the world that Canadians have a wonderful sense of humor.

What a show! If you didn't like the inflated beavers or moose, dancing mounties, trappers lugging about canoes, or giant hockey players set up in a faux table game, then you are probably dead and beyond even the powers of paddle tennis to revive.


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