By In Joe Vault, Tennis

Tennis and life

Almost a year ago, I went to see the doctor for my annual physical – what I have started to call my “’OK, so what medicines do I have to take now?’ visit” – and the nurse took my blood pressure and said five words that you probably don’t want a nurse to say after taking your blood pressure: “Oh, this can’t be right.” It is possible, I suppose, that ‘Oh, this can’t be right,” could be GOOD news, as in “Oh, this can’t be right because it’s so great.” But somewhere along the way, doctor’s visits stopped providing good news, at least in my experience. The best I could hope for was neutral news like, ‘Well, you’re no worse than last year.”

Anyway, she took my blood pressure again, and she looked at the numbers, and she didn’t say anything at all but her face said, “Oh, this can’t be right.” And her feet said, “Um, I need to go get the doctor this instant” because she bolted out of the room at about the speed of ER nurses on television. Within a minute or so, the doctor was in there, and this time HE wanted to take my blood pressure.

Two thoughts clanked around in my head:

1. It’s possible that my blood pressure is high.

2. Man, this is the fastest I’ve EVER seen a doctor, including the time I had kidney stones. High blood pressure seems a pretty good strategy to avoid that annoying and interminable wait in the examination room where there’s nothing even to read.

The doctor took my blood pressure, maintained a nice poker face, and said with the equanimity and calm of a commercial pilot: “Well, we really need to get your blood pressure down.” He prescribed me some blood pressure medicine which I was to pick up on the way home (“On the way home!” he repeated), and he told me to get a blood pressure machine, and didn’t say anything else during the examination. Before I left, though, he reiterated that I needed to get some blood pressure medicine, like, immediately.

“I don’t want to alarm you,” he said in a calm, easy voice. “But your blood pressure is in the stroke range. A couple of points higher, and I would have had you admitted into a hospital.”

As powerful as those five words “Oh, this can’t be right” might be, the two-word combination of “stroke range” carries a significantly heavier punch. I got the medicine, got the blood pressure machine, got my blood pressure under control fairly quickly. And you can probably guess what I did next.

Right. Nothing.

About a month ago, I put on T-shirt that used to fit me. It didn’t fit anymore. It wasn’t one of my favorite T-shirts. It wasn’t even a particularly nice T-shirt. But when I put that T-shirt on, and it didn’t fit, something just snapped in my brain. Something in there just screamed out, “ENOUGH!” Human motivation is as mysterious as love or the weather in Omaha.

And I decided to change my life. I decided, at age 47, to renew my efforts to become the No. 1 tennis player in the world.

* * *

My tennis career, if you can call it that, ended with 16-year-old human wall named Manesh. It began when I was 14 years old, and we moved from Cleveland to an apartment complex in Charlotte, N.C. The complex (though there was nothing “complex” about it) had tennis courts, and ruling those tennis courts was an 857-year-old man named George who gave lessons for five dollars a pop. I like to think of George as my own personal Mr. Miyagi, with the slight differences being:

1. George wasn’t particularly engaging.

2. George wasn’t a particularly good teacher.

3. George looked like he was going to have a stroke every time he went on the court.

Still, George did teach me the basics of how to hit a tennis ball, and the truth is that I had something of a knack for it. Tennis was the only sport I played where, within a short time, I was clearly better than my friends. My childhood illusions never had time to grow in other sports because I always knew people who were better than me. Barring a miraculous series of events — being best friends with Derek Jeter, for instance — you are probably not going to become a Major League infielder if your best friend is way better a baseball than you. You are probably not going to become an NFL wide receiver if you are (optimistically) the fourth-best receiver in neighborhood games. You are probably not going to become an NBA point guard if you are no better than the third best player in the car ride to the gym.

But tennis – I felt like I was pretty clearly the best tennis player in my circle, and while that might have been because nobody else in my circle especially liked playing tennis, well, so what? Best among my friends could lead to best at the school. Best at the school could lead to best in the city. Best in the city could lead to best in the state, which could lead to best in the United States, which could lead to best in the world (at least in those days).  Just five short steps to greatness. I practiced and dreamed in equal measure.

Once I joined the East Mecklenburg High School tennis team, I had a spectacular triumph … an 8-6 superset loss to one of the better players at the school and in the city. Yeah, right, it was actually a loss and, in truth, he had a terrible day, double-faulting away games, But the coach happened to see me in one of those rare games when I was making first serves (I had a powerful but spectacularly erratic first serve), and he jumped me like 20 places on the tennis ladder. He told me that I had a real chance to be one of the starters, and he set me up to play a challenger match with the aforementioned Manesh. I got the sense this was sort of like setting me up with one of those tomato cans that Mike Tyson fought when his boxing reputation needed to be replenished.

I don’t want to exaggerate, but Manesh was 2-foot-11 and weighed 13 pounds. He hit the ball so softly that it would sometimes bounce behind him because of the rotation of the earth. My clear thought before the match began was this: The only thing in question is the score. I was right. Sort of.

See, here was the problem with Manesh: Once the match began, every one of those bloopy, droopy, gloopy, poopy shot he hit went over the net. Every one. They would usually go JUST over the net and bounce up BEGGING to be crushed. But they went over the net just the same. I would hit a drop shot. He would chase it down and bloop it over. I would hit a lob. He would run back and bloop it over. I would hit a put-away volley. He would not let it put away, run it down, bloop it over.

I’m not sure exactly when I stopped trying to win the match and instead tried to hit Manesh with the ball. I guess it was when I was behind 5-0. To describe it as a meltdown is an insult to the word “meltdown.” I disintegrated. I evaporated. I degenerated. You know that thing that happened to the Nazi at the end of “Last Crusade?” I did that , leaving behind only a single wristband. With every Manesh bloop, and every enraged forehand I hit 20 feet long, my future became clearer and clearer. I wasn’t going to be the No. 1 tennis player in the world. I wasn’t going to be the No. 1 tennis player in the United States or in the state or in the city or on this team. It was my last sports illusion, and it blew up like Alderaan. Manesh was my Death Star.

I more or less gave up on tennis then. I still picked it up from time to time but without passion. To bring in one more movie reference, I felt about tennis the way Alvy Singer felt about homework once he found out the Universe is expanding. What’s the point?

* * *

I’ve written here before about various battles with weight … though that is usually the realm of my brother Tony. He lost more than 200 pounds in what I consider an utterly remarkable achievement. I have at times lost 25 or 30. It never sticks, though. I like pasta and French fries way too much. And I don’t like to work out.

It’s the second of those that has been the great challenge for me. My buddy Chardon Jimmy likes to say, you can maintain your weight if you work out, and you can maintain your weight if you eat well, but to LOSE weight at our age you have to do both. Every since turning 40 I  have found that to be utterly, painfully and thoroughly true. A distinct pattern began to emerge every time I took a pass at healthfulness.

Step 1: Begin a dieting and exercise program.

Step 2: Lose weight.

Step 3: Start getting sluggish on the exercise program.

Step 4: Stop losing weight.

Step 5: Ask ‘What’s the point of eating well if I’m not even losing weight?”

Step 6: Pasta. French fries.

Step 7: Gain weight.

Step 8: Go to Step 1.

The thing that was striking to me was that, without exception, I stopped exercising BEFORE I stopped dieting. I couldn’t figure myself out. I tried all sorts of different things. I tried running – tried that Couch 2 5K thing. Barely made it off the couch. I worked with a couple of different trainers. Both great. Neither lasted. We bought a treadmill. I hit that thing just about every day for a month, then stopped entirely. Friends told me about runner’s highs (“You just have to stick with it”) and classes (“You’ve got to try cross-fit”) and various supposedly fun videos (“Zumba!”) and holistic things they felt sure would appeal to me (“You would love yoga, man”). But, none of those things stuck, and the frustrating part was I could not understand why.

And this gets to the heart of something I’ve come to believe: It seems to me that the only way you can make a real change in your life is if you know yourself. I think about my father. For 40 years, he smoked a pack or two of Kent cigarettes every day. Then one day, he just quit. Like that. He said it was because Tony had asked him to, but I’m not sure about that. My other brother David and I had asked him to quit about 50 billion times already. So the only two options are:

1. He loves Tony more than us.

2. He had his own reasons.

I believe No. 2 (it’s better that way), and I believe that all of us need to find our own motivation. Diet books, trainers, friends with suggestions – they can be life-altering IF they click with your motivation. And if they don’t click, they don’t work. You have to understand yourself. You have to know not how you SHOULD feel but how you DO feel. If someone had asked me what would be a bigger motivation, a doctor telling me I was in danger of a stroke or a T-shirt fitting a bit too tight, it’s obvious what I THINK is the right answer. But, in practice, the right answer is the other thing.

In any case, after the T-shirt thing happened, I finally understood something about myself: I need a goal. No, it’s more than that. I need a dream. I have long known that I can’t work out for the sake of working out – it doesn’t connect with my mind. So I gave myself goals. Run a 5K. Drop 40 pounds. Stuff like that. Even this time, I began with the goal of dropping a couple of sizes so that the T-shirt would fit.

But then, finally, it occurred to me that none of that is enough. Because after I ran the 5K, what next? Another 5K? A 10K? A marathon? I knew myself well enough to know I wasn’t going to do any of those things. Not enough. And if I lost 40 pounds, then what? Lose another 20? Maintain? Not enough. Even the T-shirt fitting thing is fleeing — I’m only a few French fries and spaghetti dinners away from plumping back up.

And that’s when I realized the mistake I had been making all along. I didn’t need a realistic objective. I didn’t respond to a rational target.

No, I needed something bigger, something ridiculous, something beyond the boundaries of sanity and in the realm of those childhood dreams I let go of 30-plus years ago.

I needed to become the best tennis player in the world.

* * *

Greg and Bob are the tennis pros at the JCC where I play tennis. Greg was once one of the top juniors in the United States – he was actually ranked No. 2 in the country in doubles, though that might be at least in part because his playing partner was a guy named Jim Courier – and Bob was a good college player, and his brother is a chair umpire on the ATP Tour. I’ve been hitting around with those guys – mostly Bob – for about a year now.

The first time I hit around with Bob, I had to stop three times during the hour. The first two times I felt like I was going to throw up. The third time, I believe I did throw up. It was humiliating. But Bob is a Northeast Ohio guy, so we talked some Indians baseball during the awkward breaks, and he told me not to quit, and that it would get better. No part of me believed that.

The next few times we hit, I would still feel like throwing up but, more disturbing, I had this dull but persistent pain in my back/hip. And so, repeatedly, I would have to stop and we would talk Browns football. It was fun still. A few of the old tennis feelings came back. I started hitting the ball a little bit better. I started to get a little bit of my wind back. I asked my doctor about the back/hip pain; he suggested a few stretching exercises and left me with the impression that hip pain was directly tied to the 40 or so extra pounds I shouldn’t be carrying.

In any case, it was pretty good. I really do enjoy playing tennis, I’m not bad at it, and each time out is a little bit of an escape for me. It’s funny, I have been having numerous conversations lately with friends about what takes them outside themselves – that is, what do you do that allows you to escape from work and emails and traffic and the daily grind. They talked about going to the beach, going to the lake, going to the mountains, golf, hiking, biking, running, fishing, whatever. Those things are fun, but none of them take me away. Tennis does.

All of these things clicked together a month ago with that stupid T-shirt incident. Who knows why? I decided right then and there that I needed to dedicate myself to becoming the best tennis player on earth. I didn’t tell this to Bob or Greg (and they don’t read this blog, so I should be fine there) but I started to do things. I joined the USTA – something that was WAY harder than it should have been (Um, USTA, you might want to rethink that Web site). I bought a few tennis things. My wonderful wife, as a late anniversary gift, bought me a tennis ball machine. I joined a JCC doubles team.

And I began. I went on a weight-loss diet. I carved out time for a daily workout schedule – mostly by doing fewer Kansas City Royals blog posts. I wrote up a practice plan. I had to hit so many serves. I had to hit so many forehands. I had to hit so many slice backhands, so many topspin backhands. I began working with Bob and Greg on strategy and technique – I didn’t want strategies and techniques that would make me a BETTER player, I wanted stuff that would make me a GREAT player. Grip changes. Thought changes. Swing changes. I began working out with tennis specific drills.

How is it going? You can probably guess how it’s going for a 47-year-old man who not too long ago was throwing up because he could not handle an hour of basic tennis drills. If you are a tennis player of any worth at all, you could undoubtedly beat me.

But how is it going? The back/hip doesn’t hurt anymore. I’m down 20 or 25 pounds and losing more all the time. I can fast walk/jog two miiles without vomiting. My movement is getting better. My serve is a lot more consistent. I have played two doubles matches – my partner Alan and I are 2-0, and have not yet come close yet to dropping a set.

The T-shirt fits better (but not quite well enough).

And, in the craziest turn of all, I’m still driven. I’m still focused and happy and don’t want to stop. I can tell you I want to drop another 25 pounds, and I want to get off the medicine, and I want to be able to go swimming with my kids without feeling like that white blob from “Hero 6,” and all that. I want that T-shirt to just hang loosely on me like it once did. Of course I want those things.

But I’m not going for any of those things. I’m going for No. 1. Thirty years after Manesh, I’m going for No. 1. Realistically, I think could get Djokovic at, say, the 2017 U.S. Open. Hey, he’ll be 30 by then.

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38 Responses to Tennis and life

    • Andy says:

      Just last night I was discussing how you don’t put out as many Royal blogs as you have done in the past. We figured it was easier to write about the Royals when they are doing poorly i.e. the past 30 years. But now it’s because of Tennis. Well, good for you. Tennis has always been my favorite sport for the same reason as you. The one sport I was better than most kids….because most kids don’t play tennis.

    • John J Perricone says:

      Good for you, Joe. I’m 49, gonna be 50 in a couple months. Even though construction has left me with many injuries over the years, it’s helped me maintain my weight pretty well, but just like you, I need to lose some weight. I like your idea, and I’m gonna try to come up with something like that too. As Sammy Sosa once said, “Keep it continuous.”


  1. Richard Parmar says:

    i really enjoy reading you writing.


  2. Clashfan says:

    I love you, Joe.

  3. Jeff H. says:

    Sounds like Manesh was basically Michael Chang. You need to find Manesh and schedule a rematch.

  4. Cathy Schroer says:

    As your weight drops, your USTA rating will go up! Way (or weigh) to go Joe!!!

    P.S. If you promise to come back to K.C. and take over the sports writing desk, I’ll stick my neck out and captain a new mixed doubles team and dare you to join it!

  5. Alejandro says:

    I’m a 47 year old man and just like you I was overweight and didn’t feel like I could take my kids to the beach or pool…that I was being a pretty lousy role model for my boys. And nothing any doctor could have said would have been the kick to the solar plexus hiding under 40 or 50 pounds of beer and pasta that I needed to get motivated. You’re absolutely right, you have to know yourself and something inside you just needs to snap…maybe it’s a shirt that doesn’t fit, maybe it’s something else. Loved this piece.

  6. "D" Shannon says:

    Joe, you may not have intended this – but this is inspirational for me.

    I have Parkinson’s – mostly likely from my TBI.

    Lethargy and apathy are symptoms of Parkinson’s. Tragically, all too many of us are aware that depression and anxiety are prevalent amongst us Parkinson’s patients after the tragic suicide of Robin Williams.

    In short – “my T Shirts do not fit either.” I know working out would help my Parkinson’s symptoms – yet, I don’t work out.

    What you just taught me is: I need a Big Hairy Out of this World totally unrealistic Athletic goal that will inspire me with passion and purpose.

    I don’t know how I will do this, as we do not have much money. But I just decided, after reading this article, to do what you are doing in tennis but in Baseball.

    I will go to Atlanta Braves Fantasy Camp this coming January and so wow them they will put me on their 25 man roster batting 3rd. Me – a 54 year old overweight man with Parkinson’s.

    Yep, silly as that sounds this actually MOVES me to want to get off the sofa, to the gym, and scratch and claw my way to find some extra money to attend Fantasy Camp in shape and able to drive the ball oppo off Avery or Greg McMichael (very nice guy who runs this program for the Braves).

    Even though I walk slowly – often needing a cane(s) I want to steal 2nd off Eddie Perez.

    Honestly, I’ll probably be picked last for every game. Greg told me there will be some women on the team – they will probably outhit, out run and field me.

    None the less, I am going to be on the 25 man roster come next April 1st 🙂

    Lookout Freddie, Jason, Justin and Oso Blanco – there will be a new ‘big stick’ in camp next February!

    Thank you Joe. Your example gave me some life back. I’m going to the batting cages now.

  7. Marco says:


    My experience is that setting results based goals (lose x pounds, accomplish y thing) leads to failure every time because as you pointed out, after you hit that – what next?

    For me what clicked was focusing on process: Changing my mindset from “I want to weigh less” to “I’m the type of person that does things that healthy people do”. And as it turns out, doing lots of things that healthy people do has the side effect of making you more healthy.

    Good luck. Getting healthier is simple, but it ain’t f’ing easy.

  8. David says:

    Seriously, I hope Manesh is reading this. If you two end up playing, record the video and post it. I will watch it one thousand times.

  9. Scott says:

    Joe, love your writing and read everything you write that I can get my hands on. Sadly your link to “The Royals might actually know what they are doing” on the NBC site seems to be broken. Since the Royals never seem to know what they are doing (a problem my Mariners can relate to), I need to read the article!

  10. Trent Phloog says:

    Well, if fewer Royals blog posts is the sacrifice we have to make to keep you alive… well, I guess I can accept that. Reluctantly.

    Wish you all the best in your quest to change your life!

  11. Dave says:

    More power to you! A caution from personal experience. I’m one who stayed in shape–actually was probably in better shape at 40 than I was at 20. (And I’ve stayed in great shape, considering aging, for another 25 years.) But, high BP runs in the family, and I needed meds in my early 40s. Found the right mix, and I was on them for years. I had a cuff at home and used it often.

    But, the results got boring, always 112-118 over 68-76. So, I stopped using the cuff eventually. I still had my doctor’s check-ups that showed by BP was staying there. Then one time not all that long ago, a month after a check-up, my wife became very ill. She recovered but only after months. Very stressful time for not only her but for me too. I needed some oral surgery. Went in, they took my BP and told me “Not today. You need to get your BP under control.” It was 181/112, not far from stroke possibilities.

    Long story short–for all of you, not just Joe, yeah, it’s now under control again. Back to the same boring readings. But, I don’t intend to ever stop taking them now. And you, Joe, and others, if you find yourself with high BP and are taking your readings, don’t stop. For me, if I hadn’t had that scheduled, it would have been months again before I’d have had it taken, if I would have made it that long.

  12. Anon says:

    Count me as another reader who wants to know what became of Manesh. . . .

  13. Jay says:

    It helped when I bought a Fitbit. You wear it on your wrist and it counts your calories output based on your daily life. I have mine hooked up to my iPad and also into a food tracking/calorie type of thing. Since you are such a lover of your tablet maybe it would be a good investment for you to.

  14. Joe, you are incredible. No one else can write like this. Keep that blood pressure under control so we can read you for another 47 years.

  15. Spencer says:

    So fascinating to read this. I’m a 45-year-old scratch to slight plus handicap golfer. I played college. I wanted to play professionally. I wasn’t good enough. I shredded my shoulder and had rotator cuff surgery on July 23. Then I decided something. I’m going to play the Champions Tour. I’ve got five years to work at it. I would assess my chances of success at about one in a billion. That’s not the point – I’m tired of aiming for good or very good. Having ridiculously ambitious goal sis healthy. I had them when I was young and didn’t know better, and it’s so liberating to have them again. The journey is what matters here, not the destination.

  16. Chad says:

    Awesome, Joe.

  17. Bill Chambliss says:

    Had a similar doctor’s office experience. They drew blood to do some basic counts. Came back and told me “Our machine must be broken.” Sent my sample to the local lab. Turned out, the doctor’s machine was right. Leukemia.

    Fortunately for me, it was 13 years ago.

  18. Dan says:

    Hi Joe, Here is part of a reflection I gave last week. It may have some relevance to your journey. I apologize about the length, but I wasn’t sure how to email it to you.

    “Last summer, I went to my doctor for my annual physical. The results were concerning to say the least. I was nearly 100 pounds overweight. I had high blood pressure, bad cholesterol numbers, and was pre-diabetic. A few days later, I went to visit my family on Cape Cod. I parked off the highway and biked the five miles to my aunt and uncle’s condo. It was a path I’d biked easily many time before, but this time I became so exhausted I needed to take a break. Twice. Finally, I received a postcard from the TV game show “Who wants to be a millionaire”, informing me I was in the contestant pool and could be called to tape a show at any time (I’m still waiting for that call). I shuttered at the though of appearing on national television at the heaviest weight I’ve ever been.

    I had to make a change. My health and fitness (and most importantly, my TV debut) were at stake. I called Miriam Hospital’s weight loss center and entered a study called Act on Health. I wrote down everything I ate, logged all my exercise, and went to weekly support meetings. It worked, and by the winter, I had lost 60 pounds, felt great, and had greatly improved my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. However, I had been down that road of weight loss before. After months of hard work, I would hear the siren calls of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream pints and Belgian beer and the rice cakes and sugar free puddings that had become staples started to lose their luster. I would inevitably give in to the temptation and gain the wait all over again. I wanted this time to be different.

    My wife bought me a fitbit, a pedometer that would count my steps and chart my weight and activity. For a math geek like me, this was awesome. I could us the numbers to keep me motivated. I also read that taking 10,000 steps a day is a bit of a magic number for your health. People who took 10,000 steps a day had very low rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. I was in. I knew I would need something to motivate me after I’d reached my weight and health goals. This seemed like the perfect fit.

    I decided around the holidays that I would take 10,000 steps every day of 2014. I had had the fitbit for about month, and was already taking 10,000 steps most days. I figured it would be pretty easy, or at least manageable. And it was. Until January 9, when my fitbit stopped counting steps. No matter, I went on a walk that day. I’m pretty sure I got 10,000 steps. I counted that day as a yes. I made it through January. It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I had to jog in place before bed. On plenty of days, my step total read something like 10,115 or 10,226. But I did it. I made it through January. On to February, when I promptly got sick, and on February 6, I walked only 8826 steps.

    I did not reach my goal of taking 10,000 steps every day this year. Of course I didn’t. It was an inflexible and unrealistic goal. Sometimes life puts barriers in front of our goals. I didn’t walk 10,000 steps the day I got sick and couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t walk 10,000 steps the day I had to take to my dog to the emergency vet hospital to have his eye removed, and I didn’t walk 10,000 steps the day I attended my brother-in-law’s memorial service after he lost his battle with brain cancer. Sometimes we have to put our goals aside and attend to what’s front of us.

    But even though I didn’t reach my ultimate goal, I still try to walk 10,000 steps a day, and I have every single day since April 26. Now, most days I walk 12 or 13 thousand steps without even thinking about it. I walk 20 thousand steps two or three days a week. What used to be deliberate decisions to walk have now become habits. I walk to the store, park a walk away from my destination, and take regular 5-10 minute walking breaks throughout the day. My steps are easier because of the steps I have taken before.

    Although the steps I have taken are mine, they were not taken alone. My wife Erin has also committed to take 10,000 steps per day with me. When I’m tired and don’t feel like taking a walk, she encourages me to join her. And I encourage her to get on the elliptical machine when she doesn’t feel like it. I also have friendly competition with friends on fitbit, as we encourage and challenge each other to take more steps. My steps are lighter because I don’t take them alone.

    Although I love the math involved in counting steps, and, yes, I’ve done all sorts of analysis of my steps, from their standard deviation (about 4000) to figuring out my most active day (Mondays), that gets thin even for a math geek like me. I have bigger reasons for taking steps every day. I take them for my health, for fitness, for my well being, for respite, for fun, for time with loved ones, and for time alone. A specific goal, like taking steps, becomes easier to achieve when it is attached to a larger goal, like health. My steps are more robust because I know why I take them.”

  19. Phaedrus says:

    For anyone struggling to make changes in their life, I’d recommend reading, “Out There: A Story of Ultra Recovery”.

    It was written by a guy that was an alcoholic, obese, depressed, etc. He decided one day that he was going to run a marathon and he completely changed his lifestyle. His attitude became, “I’m an athlete now and an athlete wouldn’t eat that cake, drink that beer, etc”

    He now runs 100 mile races and counsels other alcoholics. It’s not the most well-written book, but it really helped me (I’ve been depressed and searching for meaning for many years now).

  20. Herb Smith says:

    Pure awesome. Please keep writing about this.

  21. MisterMJ says:

    So your passion for tennis ended with a loss to a pusher like Manesh (defensive/counter-punchers tend to excel at junior-level tennis)? Either there’s hyperbole in your account (wouldn’t be the first time) for the sake of narrative or you were one delusional kid.

  22. bigcatdaddie says:

    Joe, best wishes on your weight loss and tennis. I hope you will write about this a few times per year.

  23. Ivan says:

    Great Work Joe! I love how you craft your stories! And hey as a tennis player any story with tennis makes it that much better

  24. Ryan says:


    There was no hyperbole in his account. Manesh was really 2’11” and weighed 13 pounds.

  25. tombando says:

    It was actually Manush, he was 66 and soon got throat cancer… but I kid. Lost 25 since March, lost 65-70 2000-02, but its always a running battle to keep it off. I hike. You do tennis. Good luck Poz and keep it going.

  26. Andy says:

    Now, “stroke range” has an entirely different meaning!

  27. Jacob says:

    I think joes run to #1 will be what makes Americans watch doubles tennis again! Bring on the Bryans

  28. Alex Hayes says:

    “I don’t want to exaggerate, but Manesh was 2-foot-11 and weighed 13 pounds. He hit the ball so softly that it would sometimes bounce behind him because of the rotation of the earth.”

    Haha, I laughed out loud at that

  29. Todd says:

    Joe, I grew up in KC and am a lifelong Royals fan. You have given me countless hours of enjoyable reading over the years. I now live in Phoenix where I am a certified health coach and personal trainer. If you still come out to spring training, I would be honored to train you for free while you are in town. I’m no good at tennis so we would have to do the type of workouts you dislike, but it would keep you strong while traveling so you wouldn’t lose a step in tennis once you got back home. Anyway, it sounds like you are doing great! Keep it up! I fully admit, I’m not making this offer out of the goodness of my heart. I want to still be reading your stuff 40 years from now!

  30. :-) says:

    The key is finding exercise that you find meaninful. I.E. something you enjoy doing. Treadmill has to be the most boring thing known to man. Sports are great. You can be social and competitive while having fun and getting exercise and won’t get burned out.

  31. 20 years ago I won your JCC adult championship. I know you won’t be very much impressed by that as a tennis title, but it meant a lot to me. I’m still playing regularly, but more like the dancing bear — it’s not that it dances well, but that it dances at all.

  32. Patrick Dunn says:

    Good for you Joe. I just hit 61, and know how hard old habits die, but die they must if I don’t want to be hobbling and panting through the next decade.


    Joe, best wishes with the tennis career and please take good care of yourself!

  34. Great work, Joe. I think we’re all really happy for you, with the possible exception of the guy who posted just to note that he had posted first.

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