Tennis for everyone

WRITING - Joe Bob's America

A lot of people come up to me and they say,

"Joe Bob, I been slicin my off-forehand volley when I have to play top-spin at the net," and I have to tell em, I'm sorry, but I can't condone anything that kinky. That's the kind of guy I am. I'll answer durn near any question you got about the game of tennis, specially the stupid questions, but if you're gonna start asking me about overhead slams, I'll send you straight over to Harry Hines Boulevard in Dallas, where you can get any disgusting thing you want for twenty bucks.

I can afford to be picky. I don't like to brag, but last year, in competitive Mixed Triples competition, I went as high as number seventeen on the computer. I couldn't play tennis worth a flip, but I learned how to make that computer stand up and do tricks.

Anyhow, not many people in America know about the game of Mixed Triples. It's big in Pakistan and Uruguay, but it never has caught on over here due to the lack of an ESPN contract. But the way it works is like this. Each team is made up of three people--an alleged male, an alleged female, and an Undecided. (They have a variation on this in East Pakistan, where they play with a male, a female, and a "surprise guest" who often tries to confuse the opposing players by dressing up as David Bowie. I don't recommend this game for beginners, and so the rest of this article will be concerned with the rules for Classic Mixed Triples and not the more complicated "Mixed-up Triples.")

Anyhow, you get a boy, a girl, and a Maybe on each team, and the first thing you do is practice lobbing the ball to the opposing team's Maybe to see if they know how to play tennis. You'd be surprised how much time and strategy this can save if you'll just remember this one simple rule. Then the next thing you do is, the man and woman take their positions like they're gonna play the usual game of wimpola mixed doubles, but the Maybe player, also called the Wild Card Contestant, positions itself directly underneath the judge's chair, as close as possible to the old coot without actually knocking his chair over. (For this technique, refer to my previous article, "Use of the Toppling Linesman Decoy," published in the October 1985 issue of Melons Monthly magazine.)

Okay, start playing tennis.

Now we come to the big difference between Mixed Doubles and Mixed Triples. Let's say you're serving. Usually you throw the ball up, hit it over the net, and wait for one of two things to happen: Either the guy hits it back, or the linesman yells "Fow." I always wondered why they yell "Fow." It'd make it a whole lot easier if they'd yell "Fault," like normal people. But they yell "Fow." But in Mixed Triples you don't wait for that call. Server tosses ball. Server hits ball. Wild Card Contestant screams "Fowwwww!" Now you start to see the possibilities of this game:

Variation Numero Uno: The guy on the other side hears the "Fow," thinks the ball's called out, and hits it lightly to the ball boy. You're up 15-love. This is known as the Natural Fow.

Variation Numbero Two-o: The guy hears the "Fow," figures it out, and starts returning everything in sight, no matter what. He gets worn out. The linespeople get P.O.'d at him. He's a basket case. 40-love your way. This is known as the Spiritual Fow.

Variation Numero Three-o: You start screaming "Fow" in a totally random pattern, including while your opponent is sitting on the bench lacing up his shoes. You start doing all kinds of "Fows"--little squeaky midget "Fows," big booming Mr. T "Fows," and obnoxious Van Halen heavy-metal "Fows." If you're lucky, he'll instruct his Wild Card Contestant to start "Fowing" right back at you. All the better. The rules here is: Every Fow uttered is a point made. This is known as the Freeform Fow.

Variation Numero Four-o: This is the best part. When it finally gets to where everybody in the whole place is "Fowing" their guts out, you hand out Sony Walkmans to everybody on your Mixed Triples team. Make sure there's some Barbara Mandrell on there, maybe a little Conway Twitty, and, of course, some early Wayne Newton. You see the beauty here? Everybody else is making a jerk of themselves, yelling "Fow" at one another, and you're playing tennis. Pretty soon you'll be Donka-Shaning your opponent into oblivion. Game, set, and aerobic dancewear endorsement.

Course, here in America, we're normally not playing Mixed Triples. So I'm gonna give out a little free advice for the ordinary, normal mixed-doubles player, too. We're going to learn something that I teach in my seniors classes, especially to the ones that are senile and forget how to actually play the game. It's called the Confused Identity Volley. Pay attention, cause I only wanna explain it once.

Let's say you're losing. Let's say you're down about, oh, three service breaks. Let's say you don't know what the heck to do, because the opposing team knows how to play better than you do. A lot of people give up at this point. They say, "I can't win this game, because the people on the other side of the net play better than me." But I want you to know and believe, right here and right now, that it's not how well you play the game that counts, it's how well you bring the other guys down to your level.

So here's what you do. It's 4-1 their way. Time to change ends of the court. You start to the right, your partner to the left. But instead of going to the other side, your partner starts mumbling incoherently and walking directly toward the bench, flailing his racket wildly. Then, when he gets to the bench, he buries his face in a towel and explodes in barely muffled obscenities, ending with the following words:

"...and looks exactly like Renee Richards."

If uttered correctly, these six words will carry only a few feet--just far enough to be heard by your opponent, who, at that moment, should be rounding the net en route to his or her position for the next game. Your partner should continue mumbling into the towel--any words will do, but I suggest obscure Irish limericks to cause further confusion--but the only words that should be actually audible are the six listed above.

Now, at the same time that this is going on, you will be traversing the court to the other side. When you arrive, make sure your opponent has had sufficient time to utter remark X--it will be time for your counter play. At this point say the following sentence, loudly and in its entirety, directing it cross-court toward your partner:

"That's nothing--you should of heard what happened in their hotel room last night."

That's it. You have now successfully executed the Confused Identity Volley. When properly used, the opposing players will sometimes stop dead in their tracks, perplexed, nervous, exasperated, and suspicious that they are being laughed at. They aren't, of course. That would be unsportsmanlike, to laugh at your opponent. They just think they are, and they probly won't be able to think of anything else for the rest of the match, except for "Who looks exactly like Renee Richards?" and "What did happen in the hotel room last night, and whose hotel room was it?" I should add that, at no time in the entire recorded history of the Confused Identity Volley, has anyone ever once said, "What the heck yall talkin about?" If this ever did happen, however, the correct response is:

"Oh, I beg your pardon, I didn't realize I was speaking so loudly. Please excuse me. That was so rude. I'm so embarrassed..." etc. Then keep apologizing about once every four games for the rest of the match, so that eventually they decide you were definitely talking about them. But that's another lesson, when you get into Advanced Identity Tennis. For the time being I'll just leave you with this tennis thought for the day:

Why won't Dick Van Patten go away?