Friday, August 3, 2012

Don't Stop Me Now (or Ever)

Fortunately for me, my idea of writing every day just means that I post it on my blog before I go to bed. Good thing, because there's little chance this will be written and posted before midnight tonight (**actually, I'm posting this at 11:50 pm so I guess I made it). It's only day three and I'm already fighting myself to actually sit here and type words. Plus, I wasn't all that pleased with yesterday's post and now I'm certain I'll never write anything good ever again.

I'm also going to do it a little backward tonight. Instead of picking the song and then writing about the memory or ideas it invokes, I'm choosing my topic first and with any luck I'll find a suitable song to attach to it by the end of the post. The reason for that is I have a list of almost 30 songs selected for this month (almost 30 because I figured more would come to me during the month) and not one of them struck my fancy tonight.

I got to tonight's post idea in my typical convoluted fashion. I was watching the Olympic tennis today (as I have all week) and whenever I think about tennis at the Olympics I think about Jennifer Capriati. Jen was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame last month, so I knew I would be writing about her sometime during this challenge. It was just a matter of when.

I was a Capriati fan from about the first time she stepped on the court to play a professional match. I don't even know why I liked her so much at first. She was bubbly and cute and she hit the hell out of the ball, sure, but there was something that drew me to her. In the past five years, I've come to believe that troubled people can sense each other and be drawn together. Usually people as talented as she was are able to mask their insecurities with bravado and persona. And she was able to do that for a little while too, but not for long.

Everyone has heard the story. She was a top 5 tennis player before she was 15 years old. In 1992, at the age of 16, she beat Steffi Graf at the Olympics in Barcelona to win a gold medal. By the time 1993 ended, she was wearing a nose ring and hanging out with crackheads and heroin addicts (allegedly) at a hotel in Florida. She's my people.

From 1994-1999, she played tennis intermittently and had mixed results. She became a cautionary tale for parents who push their kids too hard. Everyone was rooting for her for sure, but no one was expecting success for her. She was the poster child for “what might have been.”

For some reason, I always believed she'd come back. I remember being laughed at by a co-worker in early 2000 when I suggested she might still one day win a grand slam tournament. He had reason to laugh. At the time that I said it, she hadn't even reached the quarter-finals of one in almost seven years.

So imagine my delight when, on my birthday in 2001, while I was hanging out with some friends who were in town to go to a circuit party, Capriati was playing in the final of the Australian Open against Martina Hingis. It was a perfect match up because I always thought Hingis was the wicked witch and needed to be vanquished. Who better to do it than my damaged super-heroine. After she unexpectedly won the first set, I called my friends into watch with me and we celebrated every game she won in the second set by doing bumps of ketamine. What's really remarkable is that I still remember that final service return winner she hit to win the tournament. It was like I had won. It's easily one of my five favorite sports moments ever.

One of the reasons I was so excited for her was because I hadn't seen her appear happy to be on a tennis court in almost ten years at that point. I thought, she did it. She exorcised her demons. She played brilliant tennis for the next six months, winning the French Open along the way. She even managed to defend her title at the Australian Open in 2002, coming back from 4-6, 0-4 and saving four championships points along the way.

I was just starting my descent as she was resurrecting herself, but she was always an inspiration to me. I loved that she just never gave up. Even when she tried to give up, something inside just wouldn't let her do it. That's always spoken to me. I decided to just give up every day for a couple of years, but I just kept going. I still don't know exactly why.

I think the other thing about her that I relate to is that even in her comeback, she was flawed. She had a bad attitude toward anyone who challenged or questioned her. She never really got over her insecurities and self-doubt. But she persevered and kept going. In fact, after hurting her shoulder at the end of 2004, she never played another pro match. But she also never officially retired. She had multiple surgeries on her wrist and shoulder between 2004 and 2007, but she refused to accept that she had to quit. That's the quality she possesses that I most would like to have. No matter what life throws at me from here on out, I hope it never even occurs to me to give up or quit. And I just thought of the song I want to go with this post.

p.s. My original idea for the song was to use the song that was number one the week she won the Australian Open in 2001. How's this for coincidental: the number one song that week was Independent Women by Destiny's Child.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I like this song. I used it sometimes when I was doing the cycling classes at the club. It was a bitch. People hated it because it was tough, but I thought it was great for the same reason.