Wayne’s World: On this tennis court, a different love game


I play tennis every week and believe me, I’m always prepared.

But on this occasion some time ago, I hadn’t practiced my serves, my groundstrokes or even my volleys. I wasn’t even trying to develop a psychological edge to defeat my opponents. In fact, my preparation had very little to do with tennis.

Instead, most of my preparation was about coming up with the most creative insults I could spew at the most opportune time in the game.

You see, as most men know, whenever you get together with a group of married men, especially if the occasion involves sports and/or pizza and/or beer, the bulk of the evening is devoted less to the indicated activity itself and more to our ability to degrade ourselves in the most inventive way possible.

It helps that we all love each other.

Our evenings generally include the following series of stages:

1. Play a point as best we can.

2. Follow the point with a witty insult, usually involving someone’s manhood, using as visually descriptive repartee as possible.

3. Play another point.

4. Follow up the insult in a creative way to tie up your opponent’s poor play due to the lack of said manhood, as described in step number two.

5. Repeat the process until someone is declared the winner.

You may think this sounds like misguided machismo in action by a group of middle-aged men just trying to escape the daily grind of life. I would like to argue this point with you, but what can I say, you kind of hit the nail on the head.

But that night was different.

My wife Maya was away on business and my son Tyler was at school, so I had no one to watch my other sons and daughters, Ethan and Savannah. I didn’t have enough notice to find a babysitter.

As many of you know, we have triplets. Ethan and Savannah are autistic. Tyler is a typical schoolboy.

Being a family with special needs is often a challenge, but Maya and I decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t let autism stop us from living the life we ​​wanted. Instead of canceling the tennis group, I just decided to bring Ethan and Savannah with me.

Ethan and Savannah are two of the nicest, sweetest kids you’ll ever meet. They love music, enjoy swimming, and generally go through the day with a smile on their face. They certainly have their challenges, but the ability to love life is not one of them.

I had taken them out before to see if they would like to play tennis. Neither showed much interest. I suspect it has to do with the inherent need to be competitive when playing tennis. As far as I know, neither Ethan nor Savannah have a pulse or need to beat anyone else at anything.

That said, I knew they would be fine watching their dad play tennis for a few hours, just enjoying the cool evening breeze that night.

That night our group played on three courts – four players on each court. I was playing on the middle court, and Ethan and Savannah were sitting a court away, near a fence, on folding chairs I had brought for them.

As I was out in the field, as I sometimes do when I find myself in social situations where I try to avoid any misunderstandings or mixed messages, I mentioned to one of the guys that Ethan and Savannah were my children and that they were autistic. , so if they were to talk to them and they didn’t respond or respond appropriately, they would understand why.

My friend smiled, looked at me and said, “Oh, I know! Hi Savannah! Hi Ethan!” – pretty easy.

For the next hour, everything was routine. We all played our games, and maybe there was a bit of a respite in the witty repartee as there were some impressionable minors on the pitch, but that was to be expected.

It was what happened next that surprised me.

Being a family with special needs, the normal reaction when we are in a social setting with people who have no experience with them is that they tend to be compassionate, patient, but not much interaction. I can understand that — they don’t know exactly what to do, so they tend to keep their distance. It’s almost a cordial indifference.

But in the middle of my game, as I was about to serve a point, I looked at the court next to me and saw Ethan and Savannah on the court, holding racquets, with two of the guys standing behind them, clapping and cheering them on.

“Come on Ethan! Hit the ball! You can do it!” said one.

“Well done, Savannah! Hit the ball!” said the other.

Two of the other guys were on the other side of the net, shouting cheers as loud as they could, just wanting to cheer the kids on. Ethan and Savannah, for their part, were laughing with delight and jumping in place, not sure how to hit the ball, but happy to give it a shot nonetheless.

Coming back to restart our game, I missed my serve, but that was the last thing on my mind at the time. Everyone on our court looked to what was happening on the other court, and they also started cheering on Ethan and Savannah.

I watched a group of grown men cheer on kids they’d never met before, giving up their time to play tennis to give those kids a chance to play – and they all savored every moment. Needless to say, I was more than a little choked up.

After the game, when I was ready to go, I turned to the group and said, “Thank you guys, for doing this. I tried to teach them how to play tennis but they never seemed interested. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you just did.

They smiled and said it was nothing. But they are wrong. It was nothing. For me, what I saw last night – well, that meant everything.

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