More than a Game - August 3, 2021Spiritual Tennis Truth #2—The game is more important than the players; however, what the players do in the game matters a great deal because it forms them as people and has a tremendous impact on the game.
The game of tennis is a game whereby the two competing players are competing in a sport that is “bigger” than they are. The players are representatives of the game and all they do and say will reflect on the game positively or negatively. Whether the players like it or not the perception people have of tennis comes from the representatives competing on the court; this encompasses all players: professionals and recreational along with all ages, adult and junior.
The game is designed to be played by two gentlemen, or two ladies, who are foremost in the definition of these terms. Thus in early days men wore long pants and ladies wore long dresses because that is what ladies and gentlemen wore. Dignity and honor were given to each other as players because that is what ladies and gentlemen had. Sportsmanship and ethics were assumed because that is how ladies and gentlemen behaved.
They spoke and acted towards each other like they were playing before the king and queen. This often happened at Wimbledon where the queen was often present at the matches on center court. The players would walk out onto the court, stop before the Queen seated in her box, bow to her, then proceed to their respective chairs. They literally played before her and were on their best behavior.
Were these ladies and gentlemen perfect, absolutely not! I don’t want to make them out as such and they would never admit to achieving such unattainable standards. However, they acted as ladies and gentlemen act, not as “spoiled brats” act. They were representing themselves and would not want to bring disgrace on their family name. They were representatives of their country and the sport of tennis as well and thus much was riding on how they acted.
Let me give an example of how this plays out in real life. If my kids go over to a friend’s house to play, several things are implicit as they enter the home. The rules of the family are the rules that will govern my kids. They are in their house and must abide by these rules or else they will be asked to leave.
Secondly, they represent the Beier family name. How they behave is a reflection not just of themselves but of all of us in the family. If they are well behaved it reflects well on our family, if they misbehave it reflects poorly on us. A bad reputation is hard to change while a good reputation takes a lifetime to build.
Lastly, if my kids break any of the house rules or misbehave they must be punished so it never happens again. If not, they will continue to act up and disgrace our family. They must be taught to abide by the rules and take pride in the reputation of our family name. Once a line has been crossed it will continue to be crossed unless a punishment is in place and enforced.
I remember in college there was a big sign upon the walls where our hockey team dressed. The sign said, “The name on the front of the jersey means more than the name on the back of the jersey.” In tennis terms this translates into the name of the sport is more important than the players involved. When the title of champion carries more weight than the antics used to claim that trophy, the sport suffers great loss. When players’ names carry more weight than the sport itself the dignity of the game is lost, and the trophy paraded about is worth much less.
When ladies and gentlemen play a game known for its integrity and continue to build honor into it by how they compete, the sport is richer and so are the competitors. The players are then competing for a prize worth having in a game worth watching.
We also must realize that the game is forming the players as individuals. Who they are becoming as a person is being formed point by point on the court. Finally, all of this is determined by the decisions they are making as they compete. The importance of this cannot be overestimated