I have a friend who’s really bad at tennis. He knows the rules and where to stand, all the stuff that gives him the appearance of looking like he may know what he’s doing, but he’s bad and he knows it, he still insists on playing. He goes out there to punish himself, and others, a bit sick.

He signs up for leagues, fudging his USTA ranking, gets in a league, and upsets a majority of the competition with his poor play. He even joins doubles leagues, every week complaining of one ailment or another, all to explain his play, but he never limps on the left ankle that he ‘twist’ in the parking lot. He acts angry at his play, slamming his racket, hitting balls with enough force to send them over the cage, the kids love him for that, but the players get angry, it isn’t because he isn’t any good, it’s the fact that he thinks, or acts, like he can play at a level, or at all, with them.

Why? Why does he continue this behavior? Does he have someone at home or in his life that will question him? The strangers on the court talk behind his back, make faces when he shags balls, or otherwise dance around his horrible play.

An older gentleman that had watched his folly for two seasons approached him once. The man sat down with him, expressed his feelings about how his play affects the way others play, and that it takes away from their enjoyment on the court.

Several days after that talk, the one with the old man, he started to hit balls against the wall alone. He could be found out there after the lights turned off and everyone else had cleared out. Weeks into it, he realized he wasn’t getting any better. He felt alone. He didn’t know what else to do. He threw his racket in the dumpster, tossed his balls on the playground, and went home to his family. They couldn’t have been happier to see him come through the door empty-handed and smiling, they filled his hands with their backsides as they hugged, ate dinner, and never missed Dad again, and they certainly didn’t miss the tennis racket.

The players at the park wondered where he had gone, and some even missed him. They’d catch glimpses of him leaving the park with his kids, as they stretched for their night’s games, wonder what he’d been up to, but they eventually moved on. He moved on too, and new friends and neighbors never knew of his tennis playing, but they did find out that he’s a heck of a bowler.