Gay Jock: Tennis Etiquette
Gay Jock: Tennis Etiquette
By Camper English
After several unsuccessful attempts, I found a tennis partner who is perfectly matched to my skill level: lousy.
Choosing a tennis partner is a lot like finding the right boyfriend. You don’t want to get a first-timer, as they have no control. You also don’t want someone who has been around the court too many times if you haven’t. They are great for teaching you new tricks, but generally don’t have the patience required to bring you up to speed. You want someone near your level so you can practice new techniques together.
A regular partner is a lot better than a series of one-off games, but you have to start there to know if you’re compatible. The next few times you play, you learn not only your partner’s reliability (if he shows up on time or not), but also his strategy. Some guys are just in it for the conquest—they just want to take you down, then move on. Others just want foreplay, forever practicing volleying without ever going head-to-head in a real game.
My partner is a woman, which means we never get further than foreplay. We hit the balls on the public courts near The Castro in San Francisco, which means we can play year-round as long as it’s not raining. It also means we can both scope out guys while we’re practicing.
There are many rules of etiquette to follow on the courts—you can’t just go calling out “Hey Girl!” every time a hottie goes by walking his dog. This is disrespectful to the other players and also impractical because it draws their attention to the one you had your eye on. It is improper to yell out other distracting comments such as, “You keep slamming your balls down my throat!”, “Want to have a four-some?”, “I’m gonna score on you yet!” and “How many balls do you have?” It’s also not polite to keep chasing your balls through others’ games.
The problem with any public venue is that other people are there too. Our games are less about strategy and scoring, and more focused on not hitting wild shots into the courts of those playing next to us. We get less of an upper body workout swinging our rackets and more of sprinting practice as we chase down misfires before they roll off and disturb our neighbors. We look forward to days when we’re the only ones playing on all five courts. That’s when we can just open four cans of balls and let ‘em rip.
The people we share space with range from the super-sucky to the super-pros. We like playing next to people so bad that they hit more balls into our court than we do into theirs. That is rare, and we treasure the moments when we aren’t the worst people out there.
Then there are the bitter retirees, whose sense of humor stopped working when they did. They are all about etiquette, wearing full tennis whites and being polite the first time an errant ball comes their way. After that they give you attitude like you just crashed the Queen’s Tea Party with a bulldozer. The good thing about the old guys is that they don’t have much stamina and don’t play for very long.
The real couples who play on these courts are cute and sweet and we hate their guts. My partner and I are both terminally single, but unfortunately incompatible. (She’s female, remember.) We try not to be distracted by their romantic day out in the park and fight the urge to smack them in the head with an "accidental" misfire. I guess we have something in common with the bitter old queens.
By far, the most entertaining person we share space with is the Scream Queen. He wears his shortest shorts and tightest T-shirt to play. I’ll admit that he’s got a hot body, but how much skin do you really need to show for a game of tennis? I’d offer an etiquette lesson on proper attire, but I think he could probably kick my ass. He and his partner are really good and try to play as far away from us as possible. I can’t blame them.
The entertaining thing is when the Scream Queen gets into it and starts cursing himself. He makes John McEnroe seem like Miss Manners. (The difference between a professional and non-professional player is that the non-professional yells at himself, rather than the line judges.) As the game progresses, the volume of his outbursts increases and so does the pitch. By the end of his set, he stops making sentences and just screams out “AAAEEEE!” at a glass-shattering wavelength, which sounds like a cat caught in a toaster and makes Jennifer Love Hewitt seem like a baritone.
Over on our court, my partner and I are doubled over crying and turning blue, trying to stifle our laughter every time the shrieking starts. We don’t think there is all that much to get upset about, as long as the Scream Queen doesn’t have to chase our balls out of his court. It’s all we can do to keep from busting out and have him start screaming at us. That just wouldn’t be proper etiquette.