Why we all love racquetball
We all have different reasons for playing racquetball. It could be health, camaraderie, competition, etc. But no matter the reason, we need to promote our sport and keep it going strong.
As a member of the TXRA board, we are charged with helping and providing the necessary guidance to other TXRA and racquetball enthusiasts. We’ve recently launched a new website (check it out at txra.org). We are also conducting a survey to learn more about what players’ needs are and how we can help them achieve them. We encourage you to visit the site and become a USAR member.
For me, I play for various reasons. For the last couple of years, camaraderie has been the main issue, in addition to getting the necessary exercise I need.
We all go through tough times in our life. I have recently. But my racquetball family has been there for me whenever I’ve needed picking up. If not for my many friends, whether it’s been words of encouragement or on-court play, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through some evenings and weekends.
That’s why when I attend tournaments at The Maverick in Arlington, I enjoy working the tournament desk. It’s the interaction with other players and supporters. It’s the thrill of trying to keep the tourney running on time, seeing great matches and the funny conversations.
You can count on several things in life as they say — death, taxes and that Charles Cotton will always show up for his match at the last minute. Sorry Charles. But it’s true.
Another challenge? Try getting some of the open level players to ref a match after they’ve lost. It ain’t happening man. Perhaps the biggest challenge is trying to find someone to ref some of the open matches. We’ll have some players come over and say they are willing to ref. They look at a particular card that has two open players’ names and they immediately say, “Uh, no, there’s no way I’m reffing that match.”
Then there are a few gluttons for punishment like my tourney desk cohorts, Michael Scrivner and Brad Giezentanner. They’ll ref anything. But they do come back after an open match occasionally, sweating and stressed just like they just got off Interstate 35 between Dallas and Austin. Another constant that you can always depend on to ref — Johnny Boyd. That man is a machine. And he has a machine, too, in the form of an electronic scoreboard.
I’ve got no desire for that. Let me see if I can come up with some excuses by players who hate reffing: “I’ve got to run to the hotel.” “I’ve got to pick up my dogs.” “My wife is going to kill me if I don’t take her to get something to eat.” “I left my glasses at home and an I can’t see well enough.”
Five minutes later they are raiding the pizza line and laughing with friends while drinking a beer. They can’t see to ref, but for some reason they can see the football game on TV across the room and read everything on the screen sans eye wear. Go figure.
It’s pretty cool to see players come from all over Texas. The San Antonio contingent like George Bustos, Ramon Florez and Anita Johnson-Pena and Brennen Jennings are mainstays. At state doubles in October, Ramon and I started discussing the new “Star Wars” movie opening in December. We both had already purchased tickets in advance. Anita rolled her eyes and walked away as us two “children” discussed the franchise. She knows we are ridiculous, but that’s OK, she loves us anyway.
Ramon and Anita are some of the coolest and sweetest people in the world. I’m so glad they are together. I really enjoy following their exploits on Facebook.
I love going down to San Antonio to play. They are so hospitable and regionals in April are amazingly fun. A couple of years ago, when Brad “I’m huntin’ me some” Giezentanner and I rode together, I’ve never laughed so hard on the way there and on the way back. We had a blast and almost upset the No. 1 seeds in our division in the process.
Seeing everyone at the Longhorn Open is awesome as well. The hijinks that goes on makes the trip even more worthwhile. Seeing guys mess with Howard Walker is pretty funny. One year, Howard made the mistake of falling asleep in between matches. It didn’t take long for guys to pick up on that. Next thing you know, Wil Mercado is posing for pics behind Howard and it’s all over Facebook. I won’t tell you what Howard did when he woke up (it involved one particular finger) and looked on Facebook only to see himself. And as we all know, he’s the Facebook king. If you aren’t his friend on Facebook, you are missing out.
Howard has done a great job in Round Rock with his tournaments. A great way to have fun and promote our sport. Then you have a few guys in East Texas like Lance Hale of Tyler who are trying to get the interest level up in that part of the world by conducting some tourneys.
I would be remiss not to mention other events and individuals. Our Houston guys who have to travel so far for The Maverick events. And the fun we all have in Wichita Falls at the Tornado Alley tournament.
We lost a beloved individual in Ross Smith Sr. there a few years ago. That was a difficult thing to endure for everyone there. They have honored him with a plaque at the YMCA. His son, Ross, is a class act and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know him.
Another loss is Tarek Rayan, who recently lost his battle with a brain tumor. I didn’t know him all too well, but if he was at a tournament, you knew it. Watching him interact with all of his friends and seeing how much they loved the guy was a sight I’ll always remember.
I could go on for days about the fun I’ve had because of racquetball. And I didn’t even get into Sandy Long and the amazing job she does four our young racquetball players of tomorrow. That’s probably a column all by itself. And, of course, there’s Leo Vasquez and Bob Sullins who host about 10 tournaments a year at The Maverick.
Texas hosts about 40 sanctioned racquetball tournaments every year. Folks, that’s an amazing number. We here in Texas are spoiled for sure.
I’m so glad I’ve found this sport, but most of all, I’m glad I’ve found the people who are a part of it.
If you have any thoughts on great racquetball stories that need to be told, let me know. We are always looking at ways to promote our sport and those who play in it.
Until next time, aim low and roll it out.