Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Tennis and Democrats

So you're playing in the finals at Wimbledon. The first set goes well, but it takes a tiebreaker for you to win it 7-6. Phew. The next set you totally lose it. Your serves crash the net six ways from Sunday. Your opponent, a crafty veteran, perks up and crushes you 0-6. But you get your second wind. Perhaps the Queen smiles at you and you are inspired. At any rate, you win set 3 in another tiebreaker 7-6. Then the Queen leaves and you nosedive into another bagel job in the fourth set, 0-6. It's all tied two sets apiece, but your opponent is looking for an easy win. You glance appealingly around the crowd, hoping for any stimulus to get you going. And there she is in the sixth row waving at you, your long-lost girlfriend from Bulgaria. You thought you'd never see her again. Even though you're about done in, you must impress her. After all, she left you because she was convinced you'd never make it on the big-time tennis circuit. You pick things up and manage, just, to squeak out the winning point in a tiebreaker, 7-6. You've won! Wimbledon Champion!

Or so you think. The fans, the officials, the media agree. You get your prize money. Only your opponent doesn't think so. He stomps off the court, his face like thunder, refusing to shake hands or accept his runnerup prize. The next day he comes up to you and insists that he should have won the championship. He shows you the scoresheet. He says that because the sheet shows that he won 30 games when you won 21 and that he won many more points than you did, that he should receive the championship. You don't know what to say. He knows the rules. He's been playing by them for years. He knows that players take the rules into account in determining their strategy. For instance, a player behind by two breaks of service may let a set go and play harder in the next set, as you did. But the opponent is adamant. He calls you a thief, a liar, a dishonest player. And all the time you have played and won exactly according to the rules. And you know for certain that if your opponent were in your shoes, he would take the prize and not think about it for a second.