The funny thing about tennis, my Grandpa used to tell me, is that no matter how hard you work, no matter how good you get, you'll never be as good as a wall.
My Grandpa didn't like most sports. Football players, he said, are nothing but drunks in training. Golf is what rich people do when they don't want anyone to call them lazy. And soccer? Well, I'm a civilized person so I'll refrain from sharing his thoughts on that.
For my Grandpa, there was only ever one sport in the American landscape worthy of attention and that sport, of course, was baseball. We used to sit on his porch in the summer, listening late into the evening as Marty Brenneman and Joe Nuxhall called the games on 700 WLW, the big AM talker in Cincinnati. Marty with his sharp wit and Joe with his everyman charm made for more pleasant evenings than I can count. I always enjoyed just being there, grandpa with his leathery skin and tick glasses, me with my short arms reaching up for the rests, wishing I could be just a little bigger so I could rest my head in my hand the way he always did.
"Don't worry, Joe," he told me. "You'll grow up one of these days."
"Nuh uh," I said. "I'm gonna be little forever."
Grandpa was more than just your average fan, though. He knew all the statistics, he'd read every baseball book our small library had to offer and he devoured the morning box scores like a Baptist reading his Bible. The man had an encyclopedic knowledge of the game, and he relished the chance to share it.
"Do you know who has the most career doubles?" he asked.
"Tris Speaker. 792. Do you know who they called 'The Sultan of Swat'?"
"That's right. He hit so many homeruns they called Yankee Stadium 'The House that Ruth Built.'"