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Cliff Richey and the Belly of the Whale: Acing Depression

You’re a frigging protozoan sitting there. You’re fixing to drown.* In the catacombs of early Christian art, the Jonah story lingers, pointing to an extensive oral history of dramatic tellings and retellings. You start reaching pain levels you didn’t think were there. Heaviness descending over you. It sits on you. The whale crudely drawn on […]

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Richard “Pancho” Gonzalez(s)

Pancho Gonzalez(s) after Carlos Fuentes’ La Muerte de Artemio Cruz My father’s bare feet, the borderlands. I could beat anyone at marbles. Practice, practice, practice, yet those other kids’ voices never stopped: “spic,” “spic,” “spic,” “wetback.” Grandma said just picture those white folks in their underwear. In LA we lived in a kind of suburbs […]

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Jimmy Connors

Note: Like a monk copying manuscripts in the dark ages, I have faithfully copied the following sentences from a source with the strangest of titles: Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, by Joel Drucker.* As I rearranged each sentence into separate chapters of my own making, I contemplated each sentence for a moment, a minute, a […]

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Shingo Kunieda, “Kami”

Questions: How Japanese is this striking poster from the Scottish designer, Nial Smith? How Japanese is this writing? Let’s talk Zen. Let’s talk tennis. Shingo as Samurai warrior elite Zen mind/no-mind so quiet it becomes one with the object of its attention. The body-sword-mind-racquet moves quickly, clearly, with a subtle power not unlike that of […]

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Boris Becker, Germany

A thought experiment: let’s push nationalism too far. The television stations in Germany would shift other sporting events to different times so the entire nation could watch Becker’s matches.   A Becker match meant drama: Sturm und Drang.  The rocking motion before the serve, then boom. (Only Sampras had a better big serve under pressure.) The […]

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Novak Djokovic

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen.  Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Early in his career, the most irritating ball bounce in the history of tennis. Changed that. Early in his career, major trouble with heat, breathing problems. Went to a Gluten-free diet. Early in his career seemed dark brooding […]

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Maria Sharapova

Sharapova painted as a relentless puppet machine in a femme fatale nightmare. “Surreal but Real” is how Tom Lohner describes his art. Sharapova painted the moment before she cracks a serve, the background paint dripping upward in anticipatory dread: each one of Sharapova’s cool assassin’s bullets accompanied by 100 decibel shrieks and screams. Some fans […]

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Guga’s Hair, 1997

Novak Djokovic’s unruly wig bouncing Djoker caricaturing Gustavo Kuerten so that he looks like a bobblehead sports doll, Guga’s hair in reality so loose and free his body so loose-limbed and free dancing and bobbing to some unheard Brazilian music while he coils uncoils one-handed backhands big flat first serves sudden drop shots Guga’s body […]

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Monica Seles

Randomly choose a number from 1-4. I  Better if the violence happens offstage as in Greek drama. Just give me the plot, the facts. The nine-inch boning knife, the deranged fan of Steffi Graf coming out of the stands, the attempted killer walking free. Catharsis means the purging of pity and fear, what spectators should […]

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Rafael Nadal and the Lascaux Cave Paintings

4,500 rpm on the forehand.  Borg’s topspin revolution doubled, squared.  All that topspin means net clearance, safety, angles.  The perfect weapon for clay, its wars of attrition.  Not far from the arena of Roland Garros lay the caves of Lascaux.  In the womb of their history lay hundreds of familiar, mysterious beasts.  Rafa’s afraid of […]