This post is in response to:
Are you a sports fan? Tell us about fandom. If you’re not, tell us why not.
My love affair with tennis began at the age of 9. I lived with my maternal grandmother in West Los Angeles, and my mother, whom I visited on weekends, had a tiny apartment in Beverly Hills. For what reason, I don’t know, she kept an old broken down tennis racket with broken strings. Across the street from her was a school playground which had a backboard. I started taking her racket and a tennis ball to the backboard and hitting it. This gave me a break from my mother, who wasn’t the easiest person to like.
One day, a man came by and saw me trying to hit the ball. He taught me the correct way to hit a forehand. My tennis love began to grow. I told my Grandmother that I wanted to take lessons. She found a place called The Uplifter’s Club in Santa Monica canyon, which a few years later was made a public facility, where I could take a weekly group lesson for only $2.00. My teacher’s name was Tanni, for short, who had once been on the Romanian Davis Cub team, if I remember correctly. This was now around 1955, and I was on my way to being a tennis fanatic. I was the star of the class and learned very quickly. I practiced a great deal outside the class by hitting the ball against our garage door.
Starting when I was 11, I would go by myself to Professional tournaments around Los Angeles. I watched all the great players of that time period play: Poncho Gonzales, Poncho Segura, etc. I also loved the kinds of people who went to these events. Many film celebrities that I recognized at tournaments at places like the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. I loved watching other people play as much as I loved playing myself.
During my Junior High School years in West Los Angeles, every day after school, I would go to a local playground in West Los Angeles, near Barrington Avenue, I believe it was, where they had tennis courts and backboards to hit a ball against. I practiced by myself and occasionally with people who would show up looking for someone to practice with. I got to the tennis court on my bicycle that I used to get me all over town. Riding a bicycle also became a life long habit of mine.
By this time I was living with my Mother, who was not exactly an ideal parent. Tennis became my outlet and escape from home. It’s like the kids who have bad family lives take to the streets to escape. I took to the tennis courts. I feel it was the only thing that kept me sane during this time of my life. When I was 16, with only one more semester of high school until I graduated, Mother had a final breakdown, which had been building up for several years. She was committed, by the City of Los Angeles, to Camarillo State Hospital: diagnoses: paranoia schizophrenia.
To bring this to a close, I’ve been a life-long tennis fan and played most of my life. The last time I played was in 2010 when I was 67. I hadn’t played for a while and it tired me out. Maybe, too, because I played for 2 hours. I also still watch it on TV whenever it’s on, as I’ve done all my life.
Tennis has changed so much from when I was growing up. Now everyone has big rackets. I still have my small wooden one that has Bjorn Borg’s name on it. Also, now everyone seems to have the two-handed backhand–and I believe that is what is now taught–which when I was learning was considered something children did who were not strong enough to hit with one hand.
The only other sports I like at all are golf and swimming, both of which I did to a slight degree. I detest boxing and football. It helps to like a sport if you play it yourself. When the Olympics are on TV, I watch most of the winter sports. In the summer Olympics, I like watching track, swimming and bicycle racing. I attended 2 track events at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
In school I excelled in sports, and now that I’m 73, I’m really thankful for that, because I’m healthier and more active than all the other people I know my age. I think if a child falls in love with a sport and develops a life-long passion for it, he’s very lucky. As long as it’s nothing dangerous like car racing or football. Playing a sport also serves as a healthy escape from the routine of life and its problems.