Anyone who has known me from my childhood or teen years knows that I am not an athlete. Until I began working out at age 24, the most athletic thing I had done was run amok. OK. I also was known to throw a tantrum on occasion. But my aim was terrible. And, I am proud to say, I did kick a habit. Don’t worry, though. No nun was in it at the time as it was lying on the floor in a Halloween costume shop.
But I am an armchair athlete. I watch a lot of college and professional football. I watch college basketball, too, particularly during March Madness. I did have an interest in pro-basketball until the Seattle Sonics were kidnapped and held hostage in Oklahoma City. As a result, I don’t even watch the NBA Championship Series.
Although I am not a great baseball fan, I do watch the World Series. I do not, however, have any interest in ice hockey or rugby as they are far too rough and I do not want to witness a player breaking a finger nail. I should enjoy soccer as my uncle was quite a good player in his youth and was considered a potential member of the German National Team in pre-Nazi Germany. But my uncle was disqualified once Hitler rose to power because Hans had a circumcised penis. I know this, not because I’ve seen it, but because I’ve seen his yarmulke.
I have been known to watch golf if I need a nap and figure skating when I need to be reminded that I am a card-carrying homosexual. But my favorite sport to watch is tennis.
I began watching during the Jimmy Connors-John McEnroe Era. They were the best at the time, were from the US, and had a rivalry. So, I watched them play. I didn’t particularly like them as people, though—each struck me as a bit of a jerk. But I learned to understand and like the game through them and that era. Years passed. Their careers faded. I watched an occasional major match, but was not a fanatic. Nor did any players, male or female, grab my attention or warrant my devotion.
Then, in the early 2000s, a Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, stepped into the World of Tennis. And my world. Even though Rafa was young enough to be my son, even grandson, I was mesmerized by his beauty, impressed with his athleticism, and fascinated by his game-time quirks and rituals. For nearly 20 years, I have been a devoted fan.
If Barbra is my goddess, Rafa is certainly my god. And, oh my god, what a god.
Rafa is now in his thirties. He is tied with Roger Federer for having won the most Grand Slam events at 20. He has won the French Open, the only Grand Slam event played on clay, thirteen times and has earned the nickname “The King of Clay.” I still am mesmerized, impressed, and fascinated by him. When he plays in a tournament, I schedule my life around his matches. During that time, Rafa is as important to me as air, water, and dessert.
But several younger, attractive players have entered the scene, teasing my loyalty, trying to lure me away from Rafa. There’s Dominic Thiem, the possessor of an ass so incredible even straight sports commentators admire it, Germany’s Alexander Zverev with his gleaming smile and wavy hair, Greek god Stefanos Tsitsipas with his incredible facial bone structure, and Novak Djokovic who has among the best man’s legs I have ever seen. But the player I most relate to is Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman a fellow Jew whose short body-type is similar to mine. All are successful, accomplished tennis players. And all constantly tempt me to cheat on Rafa.
But I won’t. Even if he is married now. Maria can’t live forever.
I need help, I’ve been told, with my Rafa obsession. But those people have their own fixations: murder mysteries, the Kardashians, Hummel figures, and navel lint. Who are they to judge me? So, I say to them, “I don’t need counseling, like you think. I am not sick. Having a sports hero is normal. I have this under control. It’s harmless. So, shut the fuck up, you damn Rafa-haters!”
Oh, dear. I’ve gotten all worked up. I need to calm down. Therefore, I’m going to end this now and put on my Rafa-patterned pajamas and look at my Rafa scrapbook for the seventh time today. See you at Wimbledon.