Saturday, February 8, 2014

Will The Real Greg Gaultier Please Stand Up?

Greg Gaultier has found a fountain of good intentions and it stinks. bring back the old Gaultier, please, the contentious, obnoxious overly aggressive player of the past. The new Gaultier in the last two finals I saw him in was content to give up on the match. He has seemed to settle for getting by. If he only knew that how he plays from here on out will determine his legacy. Right now, he looks like a petulant quitter, in fact we've all been on court with an opponent when loosing just gives up and doesn't even try. If you watch the great ones, they never, ever give up. I'm trying to imagine Palmer giving up even when down 1-8, or Gaultier's opponent tonight, Nick Matthew giving up in a match. No doubt Gaultier is a tremendous talent and I am always rooting for him to win. But when he plays in the finals like he did in the TOC and Case Open, you're left to wonder where is the mental capacity at his level of squash to sustain a world number 1 ranking.

I don't like the Gaultier who is explaining lets and strokes to his opponents or apologizing for a mishap that goes his way. I don't like the new Gaultier who is trying to win sportsman of the year, it's ridiculous, it's as if he's found some sort of religion. You don't need to do any of this and I was embarrassed for you after your semi-final win at the TOC over Shorbagy when you were draped over him hugging him in some appreciative manner, that Shorbagy tried to shake loose made the situation comical.

Forget that religion you seemed to have found, go back to your old manner. I liked it much better. Stop apologizing to your opponents, patting them with your racket on the backside, and draping yourself all over them. Bring back the swagger and the arrogance, it suits you and your brilliant game much better.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Back To The Squash Future

23 years ago I taught my son the game of squash; my son became obsessed with squash, and while he has undergone recent surgery and complications from it, he stepped out onto the squash court this past Sunday and hit some backhand and forehand volleys. He couldn't really move much and won't really be back on court for another two months. I watched him for those few moments, in fact I coaxed him to stop by the club before he went to his LSAT class, since I knew he wouldn't be able to resist, or so I hoped, in striking the ball. I watched him as he stood in the same spot on each side of the court; I think I knew what he was thinking, something along the lines like god, I have missed this game, I can't tell you god how much. I love the sound of that ball hitting the wall, the hiss of the well cut ball off the racket, I love the rhythm of that sound, like my own heart beating. And when he paused and just stood there by himself, I knew he must have been thinking how will he ever get back to where he was, how will he ever play and enjoy this game he worked so hard on? He came off the court, we said nothing, we both knew.

Years back I went to work in India and had at the time a torn meniscus and badly strained abductor. I tried playing squash but the pain was just too much and I kept re-injuring the injury. So I had to take off for 3 months. It was the worst time of my life, I am obsessed with this game and, up to that time, had not been off the court for more than a week in 25 years. What I found is like anything else, to a certain degree, you take what you do over and over again for granted. I see a homeless person on the street and feel bad that I'm annoyed that my Coop has become too small; but then I ask myself, what would that Coop mean to someone homeless, what would that place where I live and raise my children mean if I lost it. I know the answer, I would do anything to get it back, to be back where I once was. But back to India and squash. One day I took my racket and a few balls and went to the car ports underneath my high rise apartment building. I looked for an empty port because the ports were like mini-squash courts of concrete walls and floors. I started striking the ball, I couldn't even move to the ball, but I needed to hear the sound of that ball on the wall and off my strings. Luckily I took a handful of them because in the first few minutes I was spraying the ball all over the place and it was annoying to have to chase them down. But then I found my groove and started hitting the ball exactly where I wanted and would go for first 20, then thirty, then 50 shots in a row.

I had an audience. Two barefoot and tattered -clothed children were standing across the driveway, giggling and looking at this ridiculous man hitting a ball and hobbling in the car port. It must have seemed funny to them, it wasn't too funny to me, but these children around the complex came with the domestics and grounds people, so whatever I did was completely foreign to them. Their mother swept the driveway the entire day sweeping the endless dust that settles each day on everything in India. These children were there because they came with their mom to work for her 50 Rupees a day (about $1.25). They didn't go to school and they just played and settled into a routine that would condemn them to someday sweeping the dust from the driveways of some other driveway.

I gave them a couple of the squash balls that I had and they were so grateful, they had no ball to play with, nor toys, nor books to read, so this was very exciting to them. For days afterwards, they would watch me hit, and then run off and play catch with one of the balls I gave them. While I eventually went back to playing at a posh (by Indian standards) squash club and soon after came back to the states, I really regretted that I didn't get them to hold a racket and hit that ball in the car port. I would have liked to have imagined that these two children somehow found a way to a court, but not likely, there was no one there to teach them.

I made a deal from that time that I would get on court and teach anyone and anybody willing to learn what I had learned from playing and studying this game for so many years. Most of all, I wanted to teach anyone who would listen, and not just my son, the valuable lessons squash teaches and just about the beauty of this game. Mostly, as cliched as it is, I learned through squash don't take for granted what you love, by some hook or crook it can be taken away. And if it is ever for some reason taken away because you really love it, you'll find a way to win it back in whatever shape or form.

I have been blessed this last year with a baby girl, she's almost 10 months old now. I came back after playing and watching my son hit a bit, and I handed my racket to my daughter for the first time; I watched her hands as she played with the racket, those beautiful soft hands; like my son at her age, she held the racket as if it were a feather. I myself, am just recovering from a serious shoulder injury, but watching her hold that racket and that gleam in her eyes, I renewed my vows and told my daughter, that as hard as it is to come back and to play this great game, I will play and continue to learn it. I will do it simply because I love this game and what I love I want to share with her -- and others. Even though my back kills me and my shoulder hurts ever time after I play, I will do whatever it takes to have the opportunity to teach her this game her brother and I love so much. I will inspire her simply because she loves to play and has to, no matter what, the way we all have to breathe. One of the happiest days of my life was years back when my son first beat me in a squash match, if I can have that back down the road with my daughter, it will be the next happiest day of my life.