I am not one to wager, other than the occasional $4 ticket for the Powerball lottery, whose prize recently went up to something like $350 million. If I were to ever win Powerball I would stare at the winning ticket and then collapse in a twitching heap of neurologic pandemonium, probably to die on the spot from over-happiness. Someone somewhere won that Powerball, and his or her face is probably sore from smiling so hard.
But the chances of actually winning Powerball are vanishingly thin. Beating Schumacher, on the other hand, is far more likely. Not guaranteed, by any means, but worth a shot. By prior agreement we and our wives are going out on Saturday to an expensive restaurant specializing in fish, so Schumacher, still smarting from his ignominious defeat the last time we played, offered a wager: whoever wins has to pay 65% of the overall bill for this dinner. I thought, fine, the bet is on.
After exchanging the obligatory trash talk during the week, we met this morning. I thought we both played pretty well. I won the first game quite quickly, but Schumacher did not seem to be phased in the least, indeed he seemed to expect it. The second game was tit-for-tat until we found ourselves at 10-all. A few rallies later, and some poor shot selection by yours truly, and Schumacher got the second game, 13-11. Ugh, I hate losing in overtime….
Third game, again close throughout. Physicians like Schumacher are used to taking charge and that might be why he is very much a shooter. I realized that he loves to volley drop my inaccurate crosscourt shots, particularly those coming from my backhand side. So I start telling myself that every shot must be down the wall: no cross-courts ever on the backhand side, and rarely on the forehand. The strategy keeps me in the game, until we end up at 10-all again. Uh oh…. Stupidly, I then changed tactics and went for a few ill-advised drops of my own. But Schumacher is much better at the front court than I, so every time I tried a drop shot he got there, held his shot nicely, and either ripped it up the wall or boasted around the corner. Not once did he choose the wrong way, always hitting the shot as far as possible away from me. Game 3 to Schumacher, 15-13. Ouch…
Game 4 started badly, with me quickly going down 6-0 as I tried to shoot my way out of trouble with drops and odd angles that Schumacher quickly chased down. Like a lot of players, I have a grab-bag of unexpected shots that will work against a lesser-skilled player, or maybe earlier in a match against a player like Schumacher, but when he’s warmed up and has his eye ready for the ball, it’s just a waste of time, and all I’m doing is giving him easy points. I realized I had to go back to the original plan, only hitting rail shots as much as possible, and indeed got a bit back in the game, but the deficit was too much, and I went down ignominiously at 11-6. Wager won by Schumacher, 3-1.
Schumacher left the court talking about how he and his wife were going to order the most expensive item on the menu, lobster thermidor, and that we had better stick to salad so that we could afford the expensive meal.
“Lobster thermidor for two please,” said Schumacher, “and they’ll have some iceberg lettuce!”
Heh heh. Ugh…..