— by Conor Bezane
I pretty much suck at sports.
You know the drill: terrified of tackle football, always picked last at dodgeball, hated the jocks. I only watch the Super Bowl for the halftime show and commercials (to read more on this subject, check out the column I wrote while studying abroad in college).
Tennis, however, is the exception. It's the only sport I've ever actually been any good at. There were summers spent at tennis camp, family doubles on the clay courts at the Oak Park Tennis Club. (Embarrassing photo alert on the left: Me, age 12, playing tennis in 1993.)
In high school, I was king of the court — kind of. It's not like I was MVP or anything, but I was famous for one thing. Ask anyone on my varsity team and they'll probably recall: my two-handed topspin backhand was totally sick! Virtually impossible to return ... when it went in, anyway, which it did most of the time.
Yet despite nearly two decades of real tennis experience — including four years on the team at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago — I completely botched Wiimbledon.
When I first read about Wiimbledon — the first organized Nintendo Wii tennis tournament — I knew I had to compete. And as a lifelong player of both tennis and Nintendo, I was a natural choice to be MTV News' official Wiimbledon entrant. In fact, I probably started playing the sport circa 1987, the same time I got the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
Little did I know my actual tennis skills were no match for the seasoned pros that would descend on Barcade Saturday. I probably would've fared better if we were facing off in a tournament of "Q*bert" and "Frogger," two of my favorite games at Barcade.
I logged almost 10 hours of training last week, enduring the throbbing pain that came with it. The first couple of days were rough; thankfully, I didn't develop chronic Wiiitis. By Friday, my arm was finally back to normal. I was even beginning to master the art of the power serve, a skill that I thought surely would be the key to winning Wiimbledon.
Yet maybe my lack of success at Barcade is for the better. I'm willing to bet that becoming a champion of Wii Tennis would destroy my tennis game in real life. Here's why: I think the most powerful players in Wii Tennis might be the ones who take shortcuts. Here's an example from pop culture past ...
Remember the Nintendo Power Pad? It was released in 1989 and came with a game called "World Class Track Meet." If you were smart and wanted to win the race, the best strategy was to shorten your steps by rapidly bouncing your heels on the pad, without actually lifting your feet off the ground. If you're not following me, click on this video and fast forward to 7:08 in the timeline to see what I mean (or watch the whole thing if you're into Mr. Belvedere and anthropomorphic video game stick figures).
I might sound like a tennis snob for saying this, but what's up with the short, jerky Wiimote swinging? The players that seemed to excel did so with quick flicks of the wrist, not the long, flowing ground strokes I'm accustomed to. Where's the style in that? As they say in tennis camp: Poor form!
And speaking of style, there was truly some amazing fashion at Saturday's tournament. The guy in the full bear costume was pretty rad. Russ Yagoda, who won the championship, nailed his Luigi look to a "T." And I definitely admired the retro styles of Jane and Matt Brogan, who won "The Andre Agassi Memorial Mullet Award for Best Overall Style" (see a list of all the Wiimbledon winners at wiimbledon.net).
As for my own fashion choices, I was one of the only contenders to show up in old-school tennis whites. I'm never going to wear those shorts ever again: They're too short for my taste, but unfortunately not short enough to win "The Nair Award for Shortest Shorts" (I was robbed, I tell ya — robbed!). Even if I lost the first round, at least I looked good doing it.
PS: To the guy who beat me at "Wii Tennis" on Saturday: Watch out. I don't really hate you (I was kidding) but I'll bet I could whoop your ass at "Guitar Hero II." Any time, any day, my friend ...