A DREAM TENNIS TOURNAMENT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

From Marilyn: I’m taking this opportunity to let you all know that today is Ellin’s birthday! Happy Birthday! Many more to come!!


Once or twice a year I binge watch tennis on TV, usually Wimbledon or the U.S. Open. My family was not into sports although we religiously watched Yankees baseball and Grand Slam Tennis. Even my father knew the names of the top tennis players. We all knew the strengths and weaknesses of these players’ games. We could do play by plays with the best of the sports commentators.

My Mom and Dad when we watched tennis on TV together   when I was a teenager

So watching tennis now in the summer or fall, brings back memories of happy hours of family togetherness.

It also brings back memories of my brief foray into tournament tennis. I joined a local tennis club in CT near our summer-house with my then husband, Larry. We both took lots of lessons and practiced as much as we could, I only played doubles but Larry could play singles as well. We became reasonable mid-level players.

For years, our summer social life revolved around the tennis club, The Easton Raquet Club. We made lots of friends both on and off the courts. Our kids hung out at the club with us and with the other tennis orphans.

The club sponsored lots of tennis tournaments, for different levels of players. One year, we had a mixed doubles tournament, only for club members. It was more of a social event than the serious tennis that was usually played there at the upper levels. The teams were made up of one strong player and one equally weak player from the club. So every strong player had a handicap. I was chosen as the handicap for one of the club’s strongest players.

On paper, I really was one of the weaker players at the club. I had terrible form, no power and a wimpy serve. However, I was scrappy. I could get to most balls, I had a decent net game and I could place my shots fairly reliably. So my team annihilated most of our competition. We made it into the finals against a really good team. The final match was staged professionally. We played on our ‘center court’ and the whole club was watching. We had an umpire, ball boys, linesmen and a score keeper. Just like on TV. It was nerve-wracking and I was terrified!

Me at around the time of the infamous tennis tournament

It was an amazing event, the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing what it’s like to play professional sports. People applauded and whistled and ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ when I made a tough shot or hit a winner. It was energizing and exhilarating. I understand how the enthusiasm of the crowd gets transmitted to every cell of an athlete’s body.

We won the tournament. I became something of a celebrity overnight. But I was never underestimated again as a player … and no more tournament trophies in my tennis career.

Since my moment in the spotlight, I’ve watched tennis differently. I see the matches from the perspective of the players’ minds. I think about what is going on in their heads. And so much of tennis is psychological. You can see players psyching themselves up or tripping over their demons. The crowds can also energize and motivate a player. It’s exciting to be part of a crowd that is visibly effecting a favorite player. There’s a palpable dynamic between crowds and players.

My one day in the limelight changed my perspective. So I can understand how spending everyday in the limelight can dramatically effect an athlete or even a celebrity. It’s not just your ego that grows. It’s your desire to hear the cheers and live up to your fans’ adulation.

This is true in a theater as well as a sports arena. I have more experience with theatrical audiences but my one athletic crowd experience gave me a taste of the athlete’s crowd fix. It’s powerful. I remember it vividly after more than 35 years!

13 thoughts on “A DREAM TENNIS TOURNAMENT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. Garry sometimes talks about how “celebrity” affected him. It did. He got used to getting special seating, never waiting in line. Having people ask for autographs — which some still do, even now. He never got a ticket, no matter what. He got a lot of special favors and he came to expect them. It wasn’t until they started to go away that he realized he had gotten so accustomed to them. I think everyone is affected by celebrity, no matter how humble they try to be. Being even a little famous changes reality.

    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ***HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELLIN***

      Love this piece on tennis and celebrity, including Marilyn’s comments about me. “Celebrity” is an interesting tonic. It’s addictive. Once sipped, you never lose the taste. Marilyn and I joke about celebs who claim to be ‘umble (Thank you, Duke Wayne). Voicing ‘umility usually means just the opposite.

      Case in point: Yesterday, a woman approached me at our local supermarket and complimented me on my John Wayne/”Old Guys Rule” tee shirt. It’s perhaps my favorite for many reasons. Obvious reasons. I segued into my oft told story about meeting John Wayne. The woman listened with obvious appreciation, interrupting with quips about how much her husband and son adored John Wayne. When I finished my Wayne story, the lady looked at me with a familiar smile. I silently counted “One, Two, Three..” “I grew up watching you on television,” the 50-ish woman said with a blush. “I’m a retired school teacher. I can’t wait to get home and tell my family I met you. You–the man who met John Wayne. It’s such an honor.” I moved back to avoid the big hug. I felt like Jimmy Stewart’s Ransom Stoddard in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”.

      Print the legend!

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      • Garry – it must feel great to know that you reached so many people and affected their lives for so long! Your kind of celebrity is the good kind. You’re known for doing an important job well. You should be very proud that people remember you after all this time. You made an impact. You made a mark. Not many people can sy that. Kudos. And thanks for the birthday wishes! I’m getting too old to really feel good about my birthday anymore though. I used to love it. Now, not so much.

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      • We all need to do a little online promoting 🙂 You do share your day with our little Bonnie who today, is 11. In dog years, I think you and she are the same age. But SHE can jump twice her height and get up on the sofa. Bet WE couldn’t do that!

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  2. Let me tell you about my foray into tennis, Ellin. We belonged to the tennis/yacht club in Deep River which became very busy every spring, summer and fall. One year I signed up for lessons and when I got home after the first lesson the police were at the door. Our two boys had gotten into trouble with their friends. They were starting fires in the woods. That was the end of it. chuckle… (Happy Birthday)
    Leslie

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