by Joshua Espitia
Man, fuck tennis. There. It’s out there now. Fuck. Tennis. Is that the most popular opinion? I don’t know – I know nothing about the relevance of tennis to the everyday American. I know Wimbledon takes over my TV for what feels like a month every summer (although I am constantly informed by the announcers that it is but a mere fortnight) and I have to miss out on… well, nothing. There’s nothing else on in that timeslot except for soaps, the absence of which used to upset my granny to the point of swearing at John McEnroe and throwing peach pits at the television (this is the first Wimbledon she hasn’t been around for and I know she’s grateful for that), and other inane daytime programming. How many judges have their own shows now?
I’m digressing. My point is pre-empted programming is irrelevant to why I’m railing against a sport rife with grunting and fuzzy, bouncy balls. Take away all the terrible TV you want with your vaguely erotic noises and summer sweat and sexy outfits. That’s fine. Just stop making me think about love.
Yeah, love. L-O-V-E. Love.
Seriously, just say zero. Or nil. What’s so hard about that? Never mind your weird scoring system that starts at 15 and somehow ends up at an unnamed number somewhere past 40 that could go up by 10 or 5 or 70 (who the hell knows with you, tennis?), you had to go and co-opt something we watch sports to escape?
I know what you’re thinking: “But I love the Red Sox.” First off, get off my lawn you Bostonian wannabe. Unless you’re Jimmy Fallon or Stephen King, I don’t want to hear about your love of the Sox. And if you are either of them, first off, thanks for reading my column it really means a lot. Secondly, though, I’d really rather talk about something else with you because that’s not the kind of love I’m discussing here[footnote]If, after reading the entirety of this article, you decide it is the same kind of love you feel for a team, please see your therapist before something bad happens..[/footnote]. No, I am not referring to the kind of passionate love a man feels for a sports team, that live-and-die-with-the-wins-and-losses kind of emotional commitment. I am talking about real love. Romantic love. The kind of love you only feel for another person[footnote]Or multiple people – I know how some of *ahem* us work.[/footnote]or particularly attractive goat. Tennis makes me question everything.
For those of you that don’t do sports or aren’t particularly good at context clues like the ones I used two paragraphs ago, tennis scoring replaces zero, as in no points, with the word love. Except not always. See, zero only becomes love when one person (or one team if you’re playing doubles, but that’s another metaphor altogether) has scored. When nobody has anything, then the nothing doesn’t get a name. It simply exists without labels. But after scoring that first point, which is scored as 15 (which is around about the age we find our first love – interesting), the opponent ends up with love. It’s announced as “15, love” (or “love, 15” if the non-serving party scored) and begins messing with my head. What does it mean?
Here’s what I’m asking: Why love? What’s the hidden message? Tennis is a French game and I’ve heard all kinds of theories as to it coming from their language – which is just so French – but I’m not buying it. The French are too esoteric, too bleakly romantic, and too arrogant to let it be that simple. Think about it. Pepe LePew was French. That’s really enough evidence to assign more meaning to this love thing than simple translation conveniences. Also, other countries call soccer football and fútbol – completely different words. Translating isn’t that big a deal. Hell, soccer isn’t even related to football – I’m pretty sure it was made up just to avoid using another country’s word. Love could’ve been changed is all I’m saying.
That leaves us with two options, neither of which are particularly attractive. The first seems nice until you look deeper. Tennis is saying that even if you think you have nothing, you still have love. Aww. That’s so sweet. Except you’re still losing. And as the score wracks up, again starting at 15, it moves on to 20, then 30, and then 40. It ticks up from the age at which maybe we first find love through the decades where we should have it. And after 40? Nothing. You lose. If by 40 all you have is love, you die. You’re broke and possibly alone because love can be unrequited. In fact, in tennis love is always unrequited – both sides can never have it. So while you still have love even if you have nothing, you get it all by yourself. No wonder Monica Seles got stabbed[footnote]In 1993. By an obsessed Steffi Graf fan. A man with nothing but love to give. Jesus.[/footnote].
The other option – the one I feel is decidedly more French – is that love is nothing. That’s it. It’s meaningless. Love = 0. I can picture some nihilist in a beret sitting at a café on the Seine in downtown Paris smoking a comically long, thin cigarette and spouting bad philosophy at three disinterested women who still seem to be hanging on him for some reason or other suddenly having an epiphany about the game he’s invented. “No, no, no,” he says, looking at each woman with each no. “I want you all, but you mean nothing to me beyond ze games we play. There is no love. Love is nothing.” Then he pushes all three women to the ground and stands proud and erect. “Zat,” he says, because accents are weird and he’s speaking English, “is how we must score ze tennis matches!” Then he probably eats a baguette or something, but he definitely goes on to have bitter sex with all three of them later that night. And it probably smells terrible.
I told you, neither option is a good one. Tennis is absolutely the worst. That many lithe, young bodies in tiny clothes running around sweating and grunting with speed and power and athleticism… It’s just sex on the lawn. Or in the clay. Or on some rough concrete. It’s a kinky, erotic game where balls routinely get smacked around by racquets. And it reminds us that love is bullshit, even for people so perfect. So thanks again, tennis, for showing us that love is pointless.
Love – What is it Good For?
by Joshua Espitia