- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Racquetball is not to be confused with tennis, squash, badminton, handball, paddleball, paddle tennis, court tennis, platform tennis, shuffleboard, quoits or kick-the-can.
While it is not the sport of kings, it is not exactly a run-of-the-mill hoodlum pastime. The game requires strength, stamina, agility, quickness, brains, guts and a pain threshold somewhere in the vicinity of George Chuvalo's.
Racquetball players wear T shirts and headbands, and little red welts on their legs where the hard, hollow rubber ball has gone whistling into their skin. The welts go away after a few hours, or years, depending on when the racquetball player elects to discontinue crawling his way to oblivion.
"The neat thing about racquetball players," says a girl wearing a HI, I'M ANN DFLANEY name tag, "is that they wipe the floor with their towel and then they wipe their face."
The speaker is a racquetball player herself, so this may be taken as a tribute. At the time Ann Delaney was standing in George Brown's handball and racquetball palladium hard by Filippi's Fine Italian Food and Rocco's tavern and grill in San Diego, where the International Racquetball Association championships were under way last week.
Though the IRA tournament had nowhere near the allure of some of the sport's other spectacular events—namely, the St. Louis Chanukah Festival of Eights, the Fifth Air Force-Kanto Plains Classic in Tachikawa, Japan, or the Quickie Outhouse Open, sponsored by Art Redford's septic tank service in Tacoma—it did include competition in seven different classes. They did involve the best players in the world. And they were, as Luther J. Bernstein, the proprietor of Josey Skateland in Farmers Branch, Texas, said in stentorian twang, "For aaawwwllll the marbles."
Having succumbed in the first round, Bernstein, who identified himself as a former national champion in the field of speed skating on roller skates and who was fondly referred to by his fellow competitors as "Fruit Fly," did win some of the marbles in the consolation bracket. It was left for the game's famous names to vie for the rest.
They included the two-time defending champion in the open division, Charlie Brumfield, a bearded, bespectacled, silver-tongued San Diego attorney whose belief it was that nobody would beat him "unless they pulled down my pants"; Steve Serot, the 18-year-old wonder boy of the game playing for, as he said, "all left-handed Jews everywhere"; blond and beautiful Steve Keeley, a lapsed veterinarian who lives alternately in a garage with tie-dyed sheets for walls and in a van with "worse freaked-out grubs than me, by far"; and, finally, the women's titleholder, Peggy Steding, who is attempting to bring back monogrammed shirts and the Fabian haircut.
These contestants were accompanied in San Diego by doctors, lawyers, wallpaperers, wrestlers, YMCA guys, a former pro football player, an organizer of Synanon, a graduate of West Point, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s stuntman, Elvis Presley's doctor and a young fellow with buzzards on his shirt, which were depicted as saying, in unison, "Patience, my fanny. I want to kill something."
Any sport that attracts a contingent of this ilk must have something joyously wonderful about it. Racquetball does.