“There is a point in tennis, when I thrust aside as irrelevant all thoughts of point and games and sets, and am absorbed instead in the sheer and savage delight of swinging at a moving target.”
- Mark Rowlands, Tennis with Plato
1. unmixed with anything else
2. unqualified, utter
Synonyms: mere, simple, pure, unadulterated
1. fierce, ferocious, untamed
3. wild and rugged
1. a state of happiness
2. a foretaste of all things made right
Synonyms: rapture, bliss, delight
SHEER JOY: Daniel Buschert
SAVAGE JOY: Mikey Kelly
RESULT: 20-2 at #2D on Sectional Champion team.
Daniel looked like a long haired hippie when when bounced onto the tennis court. I used to nickname him "Angel" here on the blog because of the light-hearted nature he had on the court and his "gorgeous" hair. He was always smiling when he come up to me and ask a question, usually about how he could get better. He played no other sport but he had kind of a natural way on the tennis court. By his senior year he may have been the best pure doubles player on our team.
Mikey was intense. His freshman season he had hurt his hand and instead of not playing, his switched and used his left hand to play the match. He was still upset that he lost when the match was over. He was a competitor in every sense of the word, obsessed with playing his best in every match. Obsessed with playing his best in every sport he played, as he had all three seasons covered: tennis, basketball, and baseball.
Apart, these guys had problems. Daniel couldn't quite get the competitive edge he needed with other partners or when he played singles. He would play with sheer delight, sure, but maybe a little unfocused or undirected. Mikey, on the other hand, would boil over on his own. Controlling his anger was something he worked on throughout the seasons.
But when they came together to play as partners, they found the balance. The balance that we're looking for as a team this season. It didn't come without a fight. In 2007, when Daniel was a junior and Mikey a sophomore, we paired them at #2D to see how they could compete. They put up a pretty good record but struggled in close and important matches. In fact, at the end of September they lost 3 matches in a row heading toward Sectional, and after a disappointing loss to Bremen I wrote this in the match report: "Again frustration and fear drove this doubles team instead of enjoyment and opportunity."
The thing about Daniel and Mikey was that they had problems to conquer before they could really live and play with sheer and savage joy. Daniel had to overcome fear. Mikey needed to overcome anger. They were wounds that were on them, that came out in times of pressure. In fact, if I'm guessing, these wounds will plague them throughout their life. We all have these types of wounds.
But the beauty of Daniel and Mikey was that they decided to deal with them, together. The turning point was probably the first round of Sectional, where I decided to go ahead and let them see if they could turn it around. With nothing to lose, the played loose and aggressive tennis. They had lost to the Fairfield team they were playing in two quick sets during their losing streak. But with their confidence and control, they defeated them in two sets. It set the stage for a dramatic win for the team as well.
Then it carried over into the next season. In a similar situation the next season, with our backs pressed against the wall in Sectional, down 1-5 in the third set of the decisive match, they again found confidence and control to make a huge comeback and save the Sectional for the team.
What we learn with Mikey and Daniel is that to have sheer and savage joy may mean that we have to confront some weaknesses in ourselves. We may be given toward anger, fear, sadness, deceit or any number of other things that steal our joy. Mikey, Daniel and I had so many prayerful conversations about these things and their causes. I'm a firm believer that in Christ these wounds can be turned into moments of pure, sheer, and savage joy. Pure and ferocious. Pure and powerful. Mikey and Daniel show how this has worked out.