My teams played in 28 national small college tennis tournaments. Most were in the NAIA (The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). The first I attended was in 1970. The Coaches Orientation Meeting began very early and I was a little late, thus seated in the last seat of a long row of tables and coaches.
As the tournament guidelines were presented and discussed, another latecomer settled in, right across the table from me. Nice old, rotund fellow. Smoking a cigar. I wondered who this guy coached? Not only that it wasn’t long that I noticed him drifting toward sleep, although the cigar stayed in his mouth. As the meeting grew longer so did the cigar ash, the sound of a low snore emerged from across the table. And then, as if impeccably timed, the jolly man farted,jarring the substantial ash downward to his shirt and tie. Eyes opening caught me staring at him. Then a wink, as being introduced as Mr.Al Duer, Executive Director of the NAIA. He walked to the podium and gave the same speech about the true value of, and outstanding thing about tennis, that he had given every year before–I was told. And the same as every year we qualified and he was CEO.
Mr. Duer lauded tennis for its ability to self officiate its own matches. Honesty no other sport attempted.
Certainly there were officials later on, but at that time we depended on each player to call lines on his side. To hire officials wasn’t affordable. And there were some stellar examples of honesty witnessed down through years. I seem to remember these more vividly as time passes.
None impressed me more than the behavior of Roland Thornqvist. In order to revisit this, go to BLOG 22 (Thornqvist and Sportsmanship). A call against yourself that could cost you the National Championship?
Memory is vague about a pro doubles tournament championship match that was similar. Essentially the question on a crucial point was did the ball touch the shirt of one of the players before sailing out? Those guys never said. I don’t remember their names. I remember Roland. Among other reason, he is the head coach of the Florida Gators Women’s tennis team. Success has followed him. Several National Titles under his belt. Maybe this years highly ranked team too. I witnessed a few. I have overheard this statement several times: “Thornqvist is the best college tennis coach in America.’
Being a North Carolinian and basketball fan, I felt a great pride and respect for Duke’s championship. And, no doubt the circumstances were quite different in the championship game, I couldn’t help thinking about Roland. And Mr. Duer’s speech.
Thus this hypothetical: As the referees replay the tape, over and over, Justice Winslow confides to Coach K,”…Coach, I barely touched the ball. But I did touch it.”