Friday, May 17, 2013

Moose League – Play that Money Ball

Many years ago, actually about 30 years ago, a man named Moose began a tennis league, well not a league actually, but soon was to be titled such.

Before I had ever heard of or met the commissioner of the league, I was introduced to his son with Moose’s Son attached to his name as if I was supposed to know who the heck they were speaking of. They could have said Son of Elk, Born of Buffalo or Offspring of Otter and it still wouldn’t have meant a damn thing to me. If it would have been Son of Sam I would have been a little concerned.

I knew my father had been playing tennis with some regular group for quite some time on Saturdays, but this had not been one of my free-to-play-tennis days.

Soon my Saturday situation changed and my father asked me if I would like to come out and play Moose League. I took notice of this, after hearing Moose twice in reference to tennis, and asked him if this is named after someone and if so, is he the father of the Son of Moose. He paused longer than usual, cocked his head slightly and said, “Yes. Do you know him?”

I began to chuckle, realizing he had answered this most asinine question - particularly so if the person of interest has a son. “I think so. I believe I met Son of Moose.” I replied. This reminded me too much of an Abbott and Costello routine.

Anyway, I had to ask my father what this Moose League was all about and he told me it is just a bunch of players who get together and play on Saturdays and Sundays.

I didn’t want to ask any more questions. All I needed to know was it involved tennis and somehow a Moose had something to do with it. I accepted his invitation.

We head out on a Saturday and show up at these crappy courts on which I would normally not play. As we walk up to the courts I notice a mix of men and women of varying ages.

Two courts are busy and a few players are in waiting. I am introduced to a few players on the sidelines and have a chance to briefly check out what's taking place on court. The level of play varies greatly and the shot selection is greater than the number of times John McEnroe has been penalized for yelling at a match official.

I finally get into a set and I am enjoying it. This a good bunch of people, all with there different reasons for being here, all the while enjoying the sport. Conflicts are rare, the levity is high and if you make a bad line call (a good number of the players are half-blind), chances are good someone off-court (sideliner) saw (again, a good number of the players are half-blind) the ball as well and may have their own opinion (more on this in a moment).

Here’s the simple beauty of Moose League, the format:

·         The player match up is usually established by Moose initially and may be adjusted at anytime as the clock ticks by. This may vary based on the number of courts available, when a player arrives, other factors or whatever hallucinations Moose may be experiencing at the time. The intent is to ensure that no two players play together more than once unless it is unavoidable, i.e. a small turnout, play going into three or four hours, more hallucinations. I have been directly accused by the Commish of being on court way too often, but this is usually during the warmer months when many are heading toward their chairs more often – no fine ever incurred.
·         The first team to serve is always on the side closest to the parking lot or the main entrance to the courts – keep it simple.
·         Sets are four games and games are decided by the team which reaches four points first - not based on the 15-30-40 scoring system. A point equals one point. If both teams are tied at 3-all, then it’s time to play the Money Ball – Moose’s version of no-ad play. I have yet to receive a dime for winning the Money Ball point - damn it.
·         Switching, which can be done after two games, but rarely is, may be prompted by a team for a reason such as blinding sunlight – actually, that’s about the only reason.
·         All other rules of play follow those as established by the USTA or ITF, whichever comes first or last, or whatever. Just kidding - the rules are followed.

·         Comments from sideliners are not allowed during play, but are usually tolerated as long as they are positive remarks. Negative remarks from sideliners are only allowed between serves.
·         Lets due to stray balls from adjacent courts are allowed after the point, but never accepted.
·         Sideliners are not allowed to accept bribes in order to overrule (attempt to overrule) a bad line call as good.
·         A server can wait for other non-court players to cross behind the baseline, but may neither complain about nor make excuse for same if they chose to serve in light of the fact. This is courtesy as one of these non-court players may be able to retrieve the stray ball the court players are too lazy to collect.
·         Sideliners are allowed to find station anywhere along the back fence as long as they are going to shag stray tennis balls. This is a duty of all non-court players. The Commissioner is usually excluded for one reason or another. Respect for court players takes precedence over non-court players and sideliners, except in most cases.
·         Profanity is prohibited unless directed at one’s self.
·         A player is not allowed to praise an opponent until said player and respective partner have won the game. Not really. There is plenty of opponent-to-opponent praise during a game, but it is usually BS.
·         Pets are allowed along the back fence as long as they are docile by nature or by medication and are house (court) trained. Oh, they have to be cute as well.
·         As hideous as a player’s outfit may be, clothing is definitely required and highly recommended for the visual health of all.
·         Food is allowed on the sidelines, but a player must offer a morsel to at least two adjacent players. No more is required unless it is a holiday and then a player must provide at least one ample serving for a minimum of a half of the players in attendance.

In all seriousness (seems quite impossible at this point), this is the longest running and most consistent bunch of tennis players I have ever experienced getting together and playing the game they love or at least, enjoy. We had three courts full today with players waiting in light of prior wet weather and the possibility of more to come.

I don’t know when it happened, but Moose league is now a four day a week event. A number of the Moose Leaguers play on structured leagues, but this is a great environment to play more relaxed, work on one’s game or perhaps have time to hit and have fun while not playing in a true (forgive me Moose) league.

I see many faces come, but very few go, and this pseudo league is all by word of mouth. You may not see a tennis friend for a few weeks or months and suddenly he or she is walking through the gate. The crowd is getting somewhat younger and more ladies are making an appearance ready to kick some male Ass, not to be confused with a Moose (they look different, but behave the same).

Once, I was going to ask Moose if I could advertise when and where we play, but I thought to myself, “No. Don’t screw up a good thing.” We almost always have a good showing and when we don’t, it’s usually for a good (only) reason – bad weather.

In the last few years we have moved to better courts and we have even had overflow when we thought we would extend the herd to other courts, but we haven’t. It’s usually about us all being together whether or not one has to wait ten or twenty minutes to get back on court.

My hat (antler) is off to Moose. He coordinates most of this crap, sends us endless amounts of e-mails (most are hilarious) and he is always there (that’s not saying much) unless he is having his hooves scraped.

Actually, he is not a moose, he is more like a rather large puppy unless you step outside of the vague lines of the Moose Charter or don’t cover the part of the court he is not - I dare mention what this entails.

If you have been or are part of another tennis format, league or whatever, interesting or otherwise, let us know by leaving your comments.

Moooooose! Sorry, it’s a cow thing – another story for another time.

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