Why do I continue to chase tennis balls?
I’ve long been averse to most forms of exercise — especially those requiring repetitive motions, sustained cardiopulmonary effort, or lifting weighty items.
These days, walking the dog is about the only form I get.
It’s not that I’m devoid of energy, it’s just that I can’t think of hardly anything worth actually running for, or even walking quickly.
Suggest to me that I go to a gym or jog, and I will give you a “yeah, right” look. It’s not going to happen — at least not until I make an overly ambitious New Year’s resolution I can’t keep.
And yet, when a bouncing tennis ball comes my way, I’m off in mindless, tongue-wagging pursuit.
It’s a phenomenon I tried to figure out last week, when my son visited and we played — as we always do — some tennis.
The mere suggestion of doing so seemed to get me all excited.
I’m wondering if, possibly, it has anything to do with being immersed in dogs for the past four years — if, between dog blog and dog book and dog roommate, I’m starting to behave as one, or even more as one, or at least picking up a few of their traits, including getting overly excited about tennis balls.
Something sparks inside, and I get a little more spring in my increasingly springless step.
My tail doesn’t wag. I don’t jump up and down, or salivate. That would be innapropriate for a man of 59. But clearly the glowing green orb gets me worked up. There’s just something about a tennis ball — preferably one not drenched in spittle — that gets my juices flowing enough to get off my rear end.
It could be the fact that it’s a game, rather than exercise — that it’s faster-paced and has more thrills than golf or bowling, or other pasttimes practiced by somewhat sedentary men with bigger balls and smaller balls.
These days, the only time I play tennis is when my son visits, and maybe that is part of its allure — that it’s something he and I enjoy doing together, that it’s a tradition.
On our three tennis outings last week, I noticed my legs weren’t following my mind’s commands as smoothly or immediately as they once did. A couple of times they totally ignored them, like Ace sometimes does, with a look that seems to say, ”What makes you think you’re the boss?”
As a result of my disobedient legs, I was defeated.
Even then, though, and despite any sore muscles, I was ready to play the next day. Why?
Is it because my body, deep down, wants to exercise? Is it the joy of making that rare, perfectly placed shot? Or is it the fuzzy green ball itself that triggers something in me, as it does with dogs.
I wonder: Does an old dog’s old tennis ball remind him of his youth — does it make him remember the days when he could snag it while it was still bouncing, as opposed to after it rolled to a stop?
Do I see tennis as way to try and stay, or pretend to be, young? Do I see it as a way to bond with my son? Or am I just becoming more like a dog the more I ponder and write about the species, often to the exclusion of other healthy, sociable, normal activities.
I wonder if continued dog immersion will lead to more changes in me.
Will I start feeling the need to broadcast my urine throughout the neighborhood, sleep 16 hours a day, or stick my nose down chipmunk holes? And, if so, might other things suddenly become worth chasing?
Probably not; that would be … Hold on … Is that the UPS truck I hear?