It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair… It was easier to win Dallas each successive year, it was harder to win Texas than ever before.
Dallas has been in a mental funk for a few years now. Getting beat down at sectionals repeatedly can do that to you if you don’t understand the bigger picture. Most people will have no idea what I’m talking about. They’ve been beat down in flight play or at cities so many times they didn’t even know the playoffs had a sectionals or nationals. The last time we had a sectionals champion at 4.0 was a Somabut team in 2009. That team took 3d in the nation and Bob’s 2003 team took 2d in the nation but since then his teams have been a shell of their former selves. Still, other than those two teams Dallas hasn’t won a 4.0 sectionals title from 2002 to today. That’s as far back as I could research. In that time period, Houston has won four times, including the last three; Lubbock has won twice; San Antonio has won twice; Dallas twice; Amarillo once; and Waco won the National Title in 2006 under Bill Sanders who is back representing Waco this year.
So first, to all the people in Dallas who think it is full of cheaters, evidently Dallas isn’t very good at it because it doesn’t have much to show for it over the last 12 years. And it won’t this year either. Dallas 4.0 tennis is getting worse, pure and simple.
The story is yet to be told on the state of Dallas 4.5 tennis. The good news is that a lot of the same guys who have had sectionals success are back in the mix this year. The bad news is that it’s a lot of the same guys. You need those guys, but you win it all with the guys no one has ever heard of. But Dallas did go to nationals in 2011 and 2012 taking 3d place in 2011. Over the same 12 year span in 4.5, it looks a lot like it did in 4.0: Houston has won four times; Dallas three; Austin twice; NOHO once; Brownsville once; and San Antonio won the National Title in 2006 under Jorge Vazquez who is also a member of this year’s San Antonio team. And when you look at the captains of these teams you see a lot of repeat names. And that’s where I think the key to this all lies.
Some captains have teams that go 3-5 and enjoy the year. That’s great, the system needs these guys more than it needs anyone else. These are the guys that pump all the players into the USTA machine and keep them playing. Nothing else works without them.
Then you’ve got the guys represented by the sectionals champions above. In most years they are in it to win big. Flight play and cities are typically an afterthought. In golf vernacular, the Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday. For these guys, the season doesn’t start until sectionals.
The rub seems to be the guys who are in between. We think we should win. We watch the same guys win all the time. If those idiots can do it why can’t we? Familiarity breeds contempt. We want to keep the same guys we haven’t gotten it done with before, but we want to get it done this time. Why won’t you let us have our turn? Sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. And occasionally when one of these teams does find their way into sectionals they are the ones that get smoked and wonder what happened. Having finally snuck into their first R rated movie, they aren’t really sure what they just saw. And don’t even get me started on how much harder nationals is. Just look at some of the great Texas teams that got smoked at Nationals.
Unfortunately, I don’t know what the answer is. I think some of it probably lies in a little more self-awareness. Maybe I’m a nice city level player. That means I’m going to get beat in a big match occasionally, and I did. It doesn’t mean everyone that beat me was a cheater. And maybe one of them really was a cheater. But if I have the same accusation every time I lose it just makes me the boy who cried cheater. Eventually no one is going to believe me – or you. And if we’re really going to do something meaningful about the actual cheating we need to be right when we make the accusation. That also means understanding the rules. It’s the only way we’re going to have any credibility. And before you start, I’m not condoning cheating. But I am as tired of hearing people complain about it as I am tired of watching it occur.
So take some solace in this, Dallas – the guy who knocked you out of your trip to QT, the guy who drilled you in the deciding singles match that kept you out of cities, the guy who took away your shot at that ugly sectionals T shirt – that guy is about to get the crap kicked out of him this weekend. And if he actually wins, he’ll be bumped up anyway so you don’t have to worry about him next year. So this weekend I’m going to have a few extra beers and sleep like a baby. Because that’s the far, far better thing that I do.
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done before; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.