In 1973, sports legend Muhammad Ali lost his title to Ken Norton, only to regain it in memorable style a few months later.
In 1974, Ali avenged his defeat against Smokin’ Joe Frazier back in 1971.
In 1978, Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks. A few months later, he won it back.
So that the defending 7.0 mixed doubles champions from Hunter’s Green lost to West Meadows 2-1 Sunday in their season opener is of little concern to team captain John Cotey, even if it was against a team that was 0-2, had lost 5 of 6 lines and is playing in its first season of mixed tennis.
Okay, well maybe that part concerned him.
“Ali had a lot of famous quotes, and one of them was ‘If you lose twice in third-set tiebreakers, but it’s only the first match of the season, then did the tree make a sound when it fell in the woods where a bear was, yes, taking a shit in those woods?,” Cotey said. “I believe Ali said that sometime in the 1970s, but it’s as apropos today as it was then. So I’m not worried. That much. Like, not a lot. Just some. Maybe a little more than some. Or quite a bit.”
West Meadows stunned Green Machine 7, taking lines 2 and 3 in the dreaded tiebreakers as the players and teams at Brandon, Arbor Greene and Harbour Island celebrated the news by tossing their racquets into the air and declaring that “the King is dead!”
John Slatniske and Sharon Patterson bounced back from a first set loss to force the 10-pointer but couldn’t finish it off, and Cotey and Phuong Cotey won the first set 6-4 and then lost a 11-9 heartbreaker tiebreaker.
“I think we might have been a little hung over from sectionals,” said Slatniske. “Or maybe I was just hungover from last night.”
Slatniske played with a heavy heart, as the team is now without Chris Ricketts, Slatniske’s best buddy and close confidante and star from last season. Ricketts decided to move up to 8.0, and Slatniske could be seen looking off into the distance for support from the player he used to call “Sweet Bunny.”
But none came. “We have a physical therapist on our team, and yet, there was no one there to rub my neck after a tough loss, to caress the small of my back, to play with my ear lobes to cheer me up…like Chris used to do,” Slatniske said.
In Ricketts place, however, Rudy Paul excelled, teaming with newcomer Cherie Smith and rolling to a 6-0, 6-3 rout at line 1.
“Ricketts? Never heard of him,” said Paul, as he left the court. “Is that something like when you get scabs on your ankles or something? I think I knew a guy who had the ricketts once. And no, I will not play with your ear lobes, get away from me, Slats.”
GM7 will get back at it next week if it ever stops raining, trying to work its way back from the bottom against Arbor Greene, who lost to Harbour Island Sunday.
“I just told my team afterwards that Ali had to dig deep as well after suffering depressing defeats,” Cotey said. “Ali said ‘I hated every minute of hitting of the ball machine and practicing, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ There is no reason if Ali could rise against racism, win a gold medal and world championship, become a cultural icon for standing up for what he believed in, and be a hero to the world, then why can’t we, Green Machine? Why. Can’t. We?”