Brooklyn in the morning: light, warm, and bright. I was on my way to Barcade for Wiimbledon 2009, the third year of the tournament. The first year, I couldn’t make it for some reason. Last year, my niece got married, so again, no go. But this year, I was at the bar/arcade half an hour early, a little excited, a little nervous. I’ve been playing Wii Tennis for a good while, but mostly against the computer. Every time I did play a human being, I won. Which didn’t mean much, since I hadn’t played many people.
The games got going around 10:30am, and my name was called. My opponent was a girl probably in her early twenties; her boyfriend was there to cheer her on (and to play himself, I’m sure). We played best of three, meaning I had to win two games. It was quick; I lost only one point.
Okay, I said to myself. At least you weren’t a first-round loser.
My second opponent was a young guy probably also in his early twenties, and I didn’t lose a single point. 40-love, 40-love, oh, sweet victory! You are mine.
Well hey, I said to myself. Maybe I’m better than I thought.
I never thought I’d win the tournament going in, but who knew, right? Lady Luck could be on my side and the bracket I was in could’ve been marshmallow soft.
In the third round, I played this guy (tangential note: if you look at my shirt, you’ll see the cover of my novel, my half-assed attempt at guerrilla marketing, making a T-shirt of the cover and the title and URL on the back side). I think his name was David, but I can’t be certain, because I’m terrible with names, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll continue to refer to him with this possibly incorrect name. I won the coin toss, so I served first.
And lost first, 40-15. It was all a blur. Every time I made a shot, David hit it right back, twice as hard, with a ridiculous amount of spin.
The great David Foster Wallace once wrote:
The idea that there can be wholly distinct levels to competitive tennis — levels so distinct that what’s being played is in essence a whole different game — might seem to you weird and hyperbolic. I have played probably just enough tennis to understand that it’s true. I have played against men who were on a whole different, higher plateau than I, and I have understood on the deepest and most humbling level the impossibility of beating them, of “solving their game.”
DFW was talking about actual tennis and not Wii tennis, but the logic translates down quite nicely. David and I were not playing the same game, not at all. In the second set, he got me 40-30. Because I wasn’t a total newbie, I gave him a tiny bit of a challenge, but never once did I think I had a chance of winning a game.
Afterwards, we had a nice chat, and he told me he was here with his friend Michael, and they played the game all the time. They even simulated the game conditions by drinking beer and playing loud music while they practiced for the tournament.
Michael went all the way to the finals. Actually, I thought he’d won the tournament, but the whole double-elimination scheme was complicated: Michael played the guy who dressed up as the bad guy from the Karate Kid (black uniform) and beat him (coming back from love-40!), but then the Kid, since he was now the loser, had to play the winner of the losers bracket (which you went to once you lost — I lost my round, too, though it was really close, going to three games and a couple of deuces), the muscular guy. And whoever won that…played the winner of the real bracket, Michael. And whoever won that…was the winner? Yes, it was something like that. And Michael lost to the Kid, and the Kid was declared the champion. Though if you really thought about it, the two guys were even, having won and lost once to each other.
Whatever. It was all for fun, anyway, and actually, for prizes, too. The winners got Wii consoles and such, and even some losers got to go home with some parting gifts, thanks to a raffle (I ended up winning a pair of Wii tennis racquets and also a smartphone).
Afterwards, I stopped at Momofuku Milk Bar and had myself some rosemary ice cream. Only in New York.