I played in a tennis tournament Sunday, the first one in my life. I almost died.
A little background...I was visiting my family in KY for the weekend, and had gotten home late (1:00 am) on Saturday night from my 20-year HS reunion (much, much more to come on that topic). We got up really early, hit the road and drove straight home to get my son and wife packed for a work camp in Missouri that pulled out at 2:30 that afternoon.
I had signed up for the annual city tennis tourney the week before, and had put on my application that I would be gone the Friday and Saturday that the tourney was to begin, and asked if there was any possibility I could be scheduled to play another time.
I checked the tourney draw before leaving town, and sure enough, I was scheduled for Friday night. I made a call, asked for consideration in rescheduling, and was told they would do what they could do and call me back.
Well, no one called me back. I arrived home at approx. 12:00 on Sunday, and thought I should pull up the ol' tourney draw on the Internet and see if, by chance, there was a change.
Much to my surprise, I was scheduled to play at one-freaking-thirty! Yikes! I hadn't touched a tennis racquet in about 5 days, I just drove 5 hours, my wife and son were leaving town, and most importantly, we were in the beginning stages of ONE OF THE WORST HEAT WAVES IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. Or at least that's what I'm calling it.
Needless to say, I was unprepared. I took water, but not enough - it was gone somewhere after the 4th game. Didn't even think of Gatorade. Probably should have eaten some lunch (I did have a bananna and a power-bar-type thing). Oh, and that 30-40 pounds I oughta lose? I didn't lose that, either. It was excruciating for all involved, mostly for those who were watching me try to play tennis. And avoid dying.
All in all, I did well. I won the first set, after going up 5-0 and letting my opponent, a nice kid named Jason who was my younger by approx. 15 years, come back and tie the set. I won the tie-breaker.
The next set was impossible. I didn't even want to win it. My strategy was to hit only the balls came my way, and to exert only the necessary energy to look like I was playing tennis. And to make Jason run and chase balls. If he wins the set, we're tied, and we get to play a 10-point tiebreaker. My strategy was to store up a little something extra for the tiebreaker.
Sure enough, the second set was Jason's @ 6-3. It was all I could do not to just let him have the victory and retreat to my air-conditioned car. But I was close, and thought 10 points were within reach.
Did I mention the heat index was 112 at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon?
I had it. Victory was within reach. My first victory in my first competitive tennis match ever was in sight. Winning in Round 1 of the "Men's C" division in the city tournament was a mere couple of points away. Hey, its no Lance Armstrong achievement, but considering my lackluster athletic pursuits, this was something.
If only I could have gotten to 10 before Jason did. I had him 8-4, and couldn't put it to bed. He crushed me 10-8. I retreated to my car with my free bottled water and my complimentary T-shirt between my legs, happier than you can imagine that I wouldn't have to play in round 2, a little over 24 hours away.
I learned a couple of things. First, I wasn't prepared. I was Gatorade-less, tight, and just not ready. Second, it was really a little dangerous to be out there in the first place. There's a time and a place for everything, and quite frankly the heat was scary (even the pros struggle, i.e. the final match of the RCA Championship in Indianapolis on the same day....dude quit in the middle because of the heat.) There certainly are more important things. There's something to be said for retreating and recouperating when you're taking a beating, to perhaps come out swinging rested and better prepared.
I'll leave it to you, all 7 of my on-again, off-again readers, to make your own spiritual applications.