Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Which is More Important, The Grip or the Racket?

I know many squash players who, while having their own favorite racket brand and model, nonetheless aver that rackets are so marginal to play that it almost doesn't matter which racket one uses.

I think there is a lot of truth to this. Unless a racket is strangely heavy or very light a player with good experience can fairly quickly make accommodations and play at or near the level he or she usually plays. 

I would argue, however, that the grip is not as forgiving. 

For almost a year now I have been playing with an unusually fat grip. My grip is made up of the factory-placed grip, plus a spongy Karakal grip, plus another Karakal grip. I started doing this when I realized I was getting a bit of wrist tendonitis; a fatter grip is easier on the wrist. For those of you out there that occasionally have this problem, i recommend the fat grip for easing wrist discomfort -- it has worked for me.

However, today I played a certain podiatrist friend of mine, whose name will remain unmentioned, and much to my dismay the racket I had in my squash kit did not have this extra karakal grip on it. The grip is, after all, the part of the racket that serves as the intermediary between the human hand and the business end of the racket. We squash players make subtle changes to the grip as we play; either opening or closing the head of the racket as we are striking the ball, or perhaps choking up on the racket when we get into the back corners. In reality, there is quite a bit of movement along the grip, and I found the difference in grip size disconcerting. I could not quickly get used to it, as I might with a strange racket. As my podiatric opponent took the sixth game in a row (some were close, one went into overtime, but there were also a few blowouts as my issue with the grip caused a growing malaise that eventually sank into psychologic cataplexy), he voiced the opinion that the racket and grip were both ultimately not important, and that I just was playing like an idiot. While being fully cognizant that idiocy does strike the Squashist from time to time, I beg to differ; I think the grip is more important than the racket. What do you think?

PS: I was going to write a blog on the importance that this week's Hong Kong Open will play in our sport's Olympic application, but Alan Thatcher, always a step ahead, already has done that, HERE. I hope that the players in Hong Kong do not engage in endless discussion and complaints about Let/No Let/Stroke calls. That type of behavior will not do the sport any credit when it comes to the Observers sent to the match by the Olympic committee. Play, players... Don't talk, play.....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Yummm, I Smell Schadenfreude!

Interesting match this morning, against a player who overall I am probably 50-50 with. He wins a match, I win a match, back and forth it goes. We are both quite equal in ability, and we play a very similar game.

So the result is we play a lot of 5-game matches. And someone walks home with a smile on their face, and someone walks home not so happy. 

Lately I have been on a winning streak with this fellow, having won 4 of our matches in a row. Unprecedented! So I knew that this morning he would be gunning for my scalp.

Luckily, I started strong, winning the first game 11-8. The second game was tight throughout, and went into overtime, but again, I pulled out a win, so now am up 2-nil. 

The third and fourth games see-sawed back and forth, he's up, I'm up, into overtime, with some good running and great gets by both of us, but lo and behold I lose both games. 

We're tied at 2-2. Final game, a situation we have been in many times before. And he wants the win, bad.

Fifth game, like the others, is tight throughout. No one wants to give a point away. Its 1-all, 2-all, 4-all, 7-all, and finally an unforced error into the tin puts me up 10-9, game ball, and my serve. I tell myself to just do a mid-speed overhead serve into the side wall by the service box, nothing special. The ball goes where I wanted it, and my opponent decides to not hit it off the wall but rather take it off the back wall. 

But the ball hits a backwall nick and rolls out unplayable. 

Have I mentioned I love this game....?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Epic Failure at Norwegian Cruise Lines!

Sad to point out, everyone, but Norwegian Cruise Lines' boat, the Epic, has turned its once perfectly nice squash court into a storage bin for a bunch of fitness crap:

The Epic has succumbed to the all-too-frequent madness that fitness clubs fall prey to, and that's thinking that the more people they can stuff into a particular space the better off everyone is. There are a lot of reasons why this isn't true for fitness clubs -- here's one: squash members are a LOT more loyal to their squash club and will remain members for years if not decades, as opposed to flighty fitness seekers -- but some of these reasons should also hold true for a Cruise ship. If I were trying to design a top-notch cruising experience I would want to have in place some unusual treats for the cruising public, not what they have done here: provide bouncy balls you can get in your own home or the dirty smelly fitness club down the block. What is so special about this picture? Nothing! Remove all the crud and put two squash players in there -- now that's special. 

Therefore, those of you who are interested in cruise ships -- I am not one of them -- you may no longer ride the Norwegian Cruise Line until they fix this mess. Let's hope they do it right away. 

Also, just a note: I had provided two chapters to the Club From Hell, the world's greatest collaborative squash novel. That novel ended up being quite a good read, and it has just published its final chapter on Daily SquashReport.com. You can read the whole sordid tale right here.