A sport where the aggression, petty unsportsmanlike antics, downright nastiness and insatiable desire to win at all costs, brings out the worst in its competitors.
These guys just hate losing, and they’ll pretty much do anything to win.
Yes, it’s a war out there in Tuesday night mens doubles competition in leafy, suburban Melbourne (especially if there’s a chance to make finals).
The combination of men playing sport, pizza and beer, is one that turns placid schoolteachers, accountants, real estate agents and financial planners, into red-faced, crazed, tantrum throwers. Blame it on Halloween.
Tennis coaches acting as the last bastion of civil behaviour on a night of mayhem? Nope – they’re foot faulting by a couple of inches to get that vital deuce point.
If you closed your eyes and listened to the language you could be mistaken for thinking that these guys were playing for at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars in prizemoney (after travelling half-way round the world to boot).
But no, it’s for a spot in the final four.
Yet the night starts so serenely. Pleasantries are exchanged, banter at the net, a relaxed warmup that’s all smiles and winks. Even the first couple of games you’ll hear ‘good shot’, ‘well done’, a laugh at a missed volley maybe. But you know it’s only a matter of time.
And there it is.
“I can’t believe I missed that *^#@?!+#% backhand”
What follows are a litany of doubtful, late line-calls. There’s an ignominious, unforced error met with rapturous applause from some half-drunk team-mates. A brilliant winner from the away team? Nothing but cold, icy silence (a bit like the beer). Or the racquet thrown over the fence mid-match that completely breaks the momentum of the opposition team as the offender trudges around the back of the court to retrieve it.
Ok it’s sport, and for middle-aged men, getting rid of all that tension, anger, frustration and resentment with the rest of the world is a whole lot better than a few other vices I can think of. And a recent study did say that playing tennis (for males especially) can add 10 years onto your life (does that include the beer and pizza though?).
But after three sets of doubles it’s getting pretty late and even the most vociferous of opponents have finally realised that this is, after all, just mid-week social sport. Then it’s just a bunch of guys talking about beer, pizza, footy, work and tennis.
And the disgraceful behaviour of junior tennis players.