Autumn at the Stagg Invitational

Mike Roberson and I shake hands after the final match. We both lost our wives this year. I am the lucky one. At 65 years old, two decades older than Mike, I can already check the box called a long, happy life: a blissful marriage of forty years with two beautiful daughters of intelligence and integrity, my gift of a career as a Professor of Humanities.

This handshake, this camaraderie, is repeated again and again both on and off the court between all 18 competitors at this year’s Stagg Invitational. As we watch each other play, we cheer for each other’s good shots and lament each other’s errors. Though not much in life is free, here for one weekend everything is free: the beer, the friendships, the endless permutations of interesting, dynamic doubles points to observe from the sidelines. Doubles, partners. That’s what I miss I tell Mike as we watch our friends play tennis. Don’t want to go through life alone.

In the photograph above, as in so many 19th century landscape paintings, we humans are but a small part of nature. Small as we are, we are “part and parcel” of a larger whole, of the beauty and divinity of the natural world. Autumn is here, Winter coming. Trees are losing their leaves as the sharp diagonal rays of sunlight bend closer and closer towards that “certain Slant of light / Winter Afternoons,” as Emily Dickinson put it. If you look closely at the bottom of the photo, you can see one or two or three fallen leaves. If you look closer still, you can see the various footprints we left in the clay. Soon the court will be swept, our footprints vanish. Only the memories will remain.

Stagg Invitational Champions: Mike Roberson and Mark Weil with Tournament Director, Steve Stagg
Mark Weil Hitting a Backhand Slice.
Mike Roberson Hitting a Serve.
Garth Krizman hitting a serve. Good knee bend for a sixty year old!

Note: Thanks to Steve and Gena Stagg for giving all of us a weekend we will never forget on their beautiful clay court in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Here is a list of the participants:  Patrick Kinnamon, Josh Carson, Steve Stagg, Josh Saffran, Mark Weil, Mike Roberson, Steve Dickson, Juan Balda, Chris Menendez, Jake Shoemake, David Hall, Garth Krizman, David Linebarger, Colin Leighton, Lynn Stewart, Grant Gaines, Spencer Holloway, Graham Hardin. All photos courtesy of Gena Stagg.

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