Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And So, The Time Has Come ...

I had spent about a year trying to rehab my right knee, but after suffering continued pain I finally consented to undergo repair of a meniscal tear in early October. Now it's three months later and, unfortunately, there is still significant pain upon exertion. 

When the orthopedist got inside the knee he noticed a microfracture and, surprisingly, osteoarthritis (since he had earlier said there was no sign of arthritis). I have a grade IV deformity of the lateral femoral condyle, in fact, and a nice case of runner's knee (i.e., chondromalacia patella). 

With all that, I had to also consider my family history. My brother had to get hip arthroplasty in his late 40s. My mother has bilateral knee arthroplasties. My half sister wins the prize with one knee, hip and shoulder arthroplasty each. These surgeries are all caused by osteoarthritis, which seems to be a family curse.

I played a test match in squash about 2 weeks ago and the result was a win for the Squashist, together with an unfortunate realization: It took me 4 days for my knee to recover from that match, and that sort of stress on the knee is just not tenable if I want to remain active.

Later, after recovery, another test, this time a tennis match on a Har-tru court. Tennis is easier on the joints, no question, and the ability to slide on the Har-tru makes for a still reduced amount of knee stress. A day after the tennis match I felt fine.

John Musto, the squash pro at the Princeton club, who is for my money the best teaching pro out there, has said that he can retrain me to take smaller steps that will reduce knee strain. However, I was taught way back when to use my height to cover the diagonal in 3 or 4 long strides, and so to retrain my approach to movement would at least take months of hard work -- which my knee doesn't have in it!

I want to remain active for as many more years as possible before I get what I think will be an inevitable knee replacement. But that time will come a lot quicker if I stick with squash. So, painfully, I've made the only decision that makes sense: I have to hang up my squash racket and call it a day. 

For me, squash is without doubt the best of the racket sports, and the greatest individual sport there is, truly. I loved it the very first time I thwacked an American hardball on a cold New England court back in the winter of 1974. I've had a pretty good 40-year run, and along the way I've met a lot of great players. I will greatly miss playing the sport and meeting its people!

I will discontinue this blog since I feel a squash player, not an ex-squash player, should be commenting on the game. The good news is that there are enough bloggers and news sites out there that squash-obsessed players can readily get their fix. I have increasingly relied on DailySquashReport.com to get news and views (and even squash-related fiction!) about the game, and there are many good bloggers out there with some interesting things to say.

Keep playing (as long as you can!) and good luck.

James Prudden

A/K/A "The Squashist"
LinkedIn Profile

Monday, December 30, 2013

Digital Squash Magazine Not There Yet

I've been trying to keep my yapper shut for a while to give the magazine time to get over the inevitable miscues of a new publishing endeavor. But the time for caution has past.

I have complained about Squash Magazine before, but I was very hopeful that the new arrangement with US Squash, in which the two "merged operations," would benefit both the magazine and, probably more importantly, the website. The magazine, despite being peppered with grammatical and layout mistakes, is demonstrably better, although it still suffers from reportage based on events that have happened too long ago to make for scintillating reading. But there are new elements that have appeared and the overall tone has improved. So, okay ....

The website for the publication, which was nothing short of pathetic before the merger, now is, well, still pathetic. In viewing the site on December 30, I see a series of articles, all of which are dated October 1. There is a column dubbed "Recent Posts," which again lists articles dated October 1. There is the slight saving grace of a column labeled "US Squash News" that does indeed have more recent items, but who is going to bother to look for these few items when the rest of the homepage screams October 1, fully 3 months earlier?! It's a shame.

I had hoped that the involvement of US Squash would include some concern about the website and its presentation, but that is clearly not the case. If so, then please god kill the site. Why have it available when it is an embarrassment? I don't get it. 

The website has its own tile ad on US Squash's homepage, so clearly the organization wants readers to go there, but for what? 

My (unsolicited) advice: Kill the website until there is the time and money to support it.

My even better (unsolicited) advice: Kill the publication, and put all your efforts into a great website.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Separated at Birth?

I'm in rehab.

No, not the drug/drink kind of rehab, but the physical, my knee sucks and I have to fix it with hours of boring bike work, rehab.  I go to the gym, get on the bike, ride for 20 minutes, then go do weights. I pick things up, I put things down.

It's not very stimulating, to say the least. 

But today I'm working out on the bike, and there was a report on Snowden. His big mug comes up on the screen. And then it hits me. 

Follow me now:

And Kevin Klipstein, President and CEO of US Squash:

Possibly separated at birth? It's a thought.... 

Now, back on the bike..... 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Qatar, WTF?

I watched some of the Qatar Classic currently underway, proudly sponsored by the Ali Bin Ali Group. In truth, some great matches, with perhaps the most memorable being the Selby vs. Willstrop match. Selby has been dominated for years by James Willstrop, but today as fate would have it Willstrop hit a shot up the middle (a shot that seems to be more and more in vogue) that Selby anticipated, and Selby responded by hitting a behind-the-back dropshot to the other corner for a jaw-dropping point-game-match winner: 13/11 in the fifth game. Selby laughed, then looked to the heavens in thanks. 

There were several other great matches, but all that played out in front of a crowd that appeared to number 10. 

No, seriously. Here's a screen shot of the crowd 5 seconds after the conclusion of the Karim Abdel Gawad vs. Tarek Momen match, which Gawad won, 12/10 in the fifth. Another great match, watched by a precious few. 

What is the story here? Despite the support from the Ali Bin Ali Group, is the squash-loving population in Qatar so vanishingly small that they can't muster up a few spectators? It's frankly embarrassing. And I would think old Ali Bin Ali would be rather displeased.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I have thrown aside the crutches that had supported me for a week or so after my operation, and since have been content to go through the various steps of rehabilitation. At first, I simply stretched. But two weeks ago I got on an exercise bike and went through the motions, albeit with zero resistance. This last week I have exercised on the bike with mild to moderate resistance, and have done some other weight work that is about 50% what I would normally do. The important thing is to gradually apply more resistance, but very gradually, and stretch like a cat, and don't rush it. Something I can normally be counted on not to do.

Yesterday I went for my second post-op evaluation. I told the doctor it feels pretty good at times, but other times it feels like the tracking is off, like there is some crunching going on in there that shouldn't be happening, and, rarely, I experience a little pinpoint of pain. 

I'm about halfway through my scheduled 10-week rehab. The doctor said my knee is rehabbing okay and not to get worried. I confessed that I was indeed worried that the knee just wouldn't be able to take the stress of a hard squash match, and told him that I was thinking about the various options, namely:

  • Play squash anyway, suffering the occasional insult of pain. I have been doing this pretty much for the past 2 years, though, and it has lost its appeal....
  • Or, play racquetball instead. I know, sacrilege, but the reduced movement of the game should be better for my knee, yes? And it is not such a terrible sport, is it? Baby squash ....
  • Play racketball on a squash court. This is done fairly regularly in Britain, why not start something up here? Again, the benefit is it is easier on the knees. Perhaps racketball on a squash court should be promoted more in the US as the next step for older athletes with dodgy knees who still want to get out there....
  • Give up squash altogether, in the realization that the knees will not allow it, but concentrate more on my tennis game. Hell, I won a B tournament a few years ago, I'm not that bad. Tennis has always played second fiddle to squash, but maybe it's time to rethink that. There is more straight-line running in tennis and reduced scrambling, so it is a little nicer for the lower extremity, and points are faster.
The doctor's advice was to wait and see. "It is too early to tell how the knee will end up, and the tracking problems you have are not uncommon after this type of surgery, particularly when osteoarthritis had to be burred out of the knee. Sit tight, keep rehabbing."

But he added, "You know, you've played a lot of sports on that knee. It's your right knee, your dominant knee, you push off with that knee, causing extra stress. It's just that now your knee has started to betray you."

I didn't like the way he said that. Although, in truth, that's the way it feels. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Squashist Not Happy at All

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been having knee trouble, which was eventually diagnosed as a meniscal tear. I had tried to rehab for almost 10 months, but things didn't get better and in fact recently had gotten markedly worse. So I scheduled, and had two days ago, arthroscopic surgery to correct the tear and get me back on court again. 

Unfortunately, when they went into the knee to do the job they found not only the tear but also a hairline fracture, which certainly explains my problems rehabbing! I am now on crutches for two weeks, no weight-bearing, and hooked up to one of those icing machines. I've also discovered an appreciation for oxycodone. Mmmm.

But here's the problem. The doctor says I have to rehab with no court running for 3 months. I asked him, what about squash, can I play afterwards, and he said probably, but he indicated it might not be a very good thing for a knee that has had these injuries to go back and play a sport that can be so stressful on the knee. Tennis, he said, would be better. More straight-line running, less frantic re-direction and scrambling. 

Part of me thinks he is right. I don't want to go back and play a bit, only to reinjure it and make it worse. 

And part of me thinks he sucks.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

US Squash: Are You Forgetting Someone?

The other day US Squash announced that they are "seeking Regional Squad Assistant Coaches for the advertising [sic] 2013-2014 season." This is an admirable effort, the purpose of which is to "bring together the broadest base of talent from across the country" so that promising players can train together with like players in their region. The goal is to eventually enhance the National Teams.

There's only one problem. The country has been divided into 7 regions: New England, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, the Mid Atlantic region, the Great Lakes region, and the West Coast.

This nicely accounts for the traditional 'squash states' along the I-95 corridor, and recognizes the Chicagoland area, but completely overlooks Atlanta and the rest of the South, where there has been significant activity lately, and all of the Midwest, Dallas, and Denver and the Mountain states. It also lumps together the entire West Coast, which is one big lump. 

I've heard one complaint several times before about US Squash, whose very name implies a nation-wide organization, and that is this: US Squash routinely overlooks and does not care for squash players unless they are in the customary powerhouse states. 

What about smaller squash communities that can be no less dedicated? Memphis, I know, has a solid core of squash enthusiasts. I've played in Louisville, and they love their squash there. I've played in Dallas and Denver, what about them?

US Squash wants to grow the game, and they work hard at it—a very dedicated bunch of people over there... 

But they have to break out of an old pattern of doing business and pay more attention to the first two letters of their name. Think national, fellas, it's time. (And that's good news, by the way.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Out by Court 3

 The DailySquashReport.com recently held a short story competition, and over 20 people submitted something. Three winners were announced, and they were all good stories. My attempt, named "Out by Court 3," was not a winner, alas. It was an attempt to show two people simply having an interesting conversation while waiting to play. The story twangs around a bit, and perhaps suffers from a lack of focus. My only excuse is I wanted to portray a reasonable conversation, and in life these things don't necessarily follow a script. 

The DailySquashReport.com site will eventually publish all of the stories, mine included.....


Martin Allen was early, so he happily took some time to gab a bit with Angelica, the finest receptionist the club had ever been blessed to have. Late 20s, with thick blond hair, Angelica was not only a goddess to look at but, perhaps even better, had an infectious personality that lightened everyone’s mood when they were around her. Her deep blue eyes twinkled and her deep-set dimples beckoned. The ladies of the club, who by all rights should have been jealous of Angelica’s gifted physique, instead found themselves smiling back at her as much as did the men. There was mystery surrounding Angelica, because as much as guys like Martin flirted with her, often shamelessly, Angelica never took up anyone’s offer to take her out, and indeed no one seemed to know if she was going out with anyone or not.

Martin tried, and though Angelica chatted warmly with him and even complimented him on his snazzy new suit, he still was unable to figure out the enduring puzzle of Angelica. Many had tried, and all had failed. The carrot was out there dangling in front of their salivating heads, but no one had succeeded in taking a bite. But the trying was worth the effort.

Martin moved on from the reception desk, scanning the entrance to the club and nodding at a few familiar faces. The club’s 6 singles squash courts were all busy, and it looked like the doubles court was switching off one foursome for another. Down the corridor and to the left were changing rooms and 3 badminton courts, 2 of which were busy, and downstairs were a nicely sized fitness area, a pool, a restaurant and a bar, the latter of which was already filling up with patrons exercising not with their muscles but their livers. The South City Squash and Badminton Club was already rocking this Thursday night.

Martin went to his locker and changed, noting as he did that his racket grip was looking haggard and would need to be replaced soon. Martin then went to take his ceremonial pre-match piss, during which he chatted with a pisser just to his left about the wonder of the newly installed flushless toilets. No water! How does it work? Martin didn’t have a clue, nor did the other man. “What will they think of next?” asked the man, not expecting an answer. “Flushless crappers!” Martin said as he washed his hands.

He noticed with a start that the other man didn’t wash his hands. Just walked out to go to the gym. Where his piss-stained hands will shortly grab ahold of the exercise equipment and soil the experience for everyone. That’s disturbing, thought Martin, that’s really goddamn disturbing…

With a shrug, Martin ambled out to the courts and went over to court 3 where, to his surprise, he found his opponent Jake Alexandersson, already waiting, sitting on the carpeted steps that ran along the wall in front of the court.

“Doctor, what the hell are you doing here? I didn’t see you come in.”

“I left the hospital a little early, so instead of going home I just decided to come here. I worked out a bit, then just came down to watch some squash. How are you, Martin?”

Martin eyed Jake. With his Nordic roots, Jake was big, and he had made it a point to stay in shape. Martin didn’t like the fact that he had worked out beforehand, which meant Jake would be especially tough to beat today. “I’m fine, Jake. I got here a little early myself. I spent a very pleasant 10 minutes luxuriating in the presence of Angelica.”

“Yes, indeed, and who can blame you. However, may I remind you you are married, as am I, so lets both just stop acting like horny teenagers and let the woman live in peace, shall we? It’s sad, though, because I do believe I am the only one who could really satisfy her, and yet some other woman got to me first, and so my wife and not Angelica is therefore living her life in, well, to be frank, ecstasy.”

“Yeah, Jake, right. You are the greatest lover in the western world, I’m sure. In fact, your name and number are plastered all over the men’s room down at the train station. You get very high marks, apparently.”

“Martin, please, don’t be jealous.”

“Nice shot!” said Martin, loud enough so the players on court could hear him. “That was a very sweet drop from the back of the court, did you see that?”

“Yes I did, and let me forewarn you that that is exactly what I’ll be doing when we get on the court.”

“So what’s up since Monday, how are your cases?”

“You know how I feel about my usual workload,” said Jake, “usually a congo line of neurotics coming through my office, weepy over perceived slights. However, I got a real doozy this week. Ever hear of Capgras or Cotard’s?”

“Hey, I’m the lawyer, you’re the psychiatrist. No, never heard of them.”

“Well, there is something called the Capgras delusion, which is quite unusual. The feeling is that it is caused by neuroanatomical damage, but precisely what and how is up for discussion. In any case, Capgras is a delusion in which the patient feels that a spouse or other close family member has been replaced by an imposter. The imposter looks exactly the same as the real thing, but may have evil intent, or is in some other way different from the true item. I’ve seen this a few times before in paranoid schizophrenics and patients with neurodegenerative disease leading to brain dementia, as in Alzheimer’s. Injury to the brain, like from a motor vehicle accident, can cause the same delusion. There is another similar though rarer delusion called reduplicative paramnesia, where a patient is convinced that a particular place has been duplicated, with both existing simultaneously. These are weird phenomena, and are all caused by wiring in the brain going astray.”

“That’s pretty funky stuff. I’m afraid my work in real estate law has nothing remotely as interesting.”

“Well, the interesting thing is trying to talk with these patients and nudge them forward, either to get them to recognize that the delusion is in error or at worse to get them to accept that there might be something wrong with their perception, even though they ultimately disagree. These people can be very stubborn, so you can imagine the conversations with a woman who is convinced her husband has been replaced by an imposter. She wants nothing to do with him, feels he is entirely evil, will certainly not sleep with him, and indeed panics when she is around him. And yet her husband is the only one she misidentifies. Everyone else in her family is fine—no problem with the sister, brother-in-law, son, etc. She gets very agitated when told that everyone else disagrees with her, and that her husband really is her husband.”

“That really is a doozy. So what are your plans for therapy?”

“Oh, that’s not the doozy! Wow, did you see that, a backwall boast that ended up unhittable at the front corner—the ball just stuck tight to the sidewall.”

“Lucky! That shot would have just pissed me off. So that’s not the doozy?”

“No, Capgras is strange but I’ve had a few cases. No, the doozy is Cotard’s, which is a similar phenomenon but incredibly eerie. I now have my first case, and I find it very unsettling to talk to these people! Cotard’s syndrome is simply this: the patient believes that they are dead. They themselves are the imposters. The patient’s delusional psychosis is so extreme that they can no longer recognize themselves, becoming convinced that they are dead or parts of them are rotting away, or perhaps they never existed. The problem lies in the fusiform and amygdala areas of the brain, which recognize faces and supply emotions to that recognition. These delusions are all related somewhat, but Cotard’s is just strange, over-the-top stuff. It’s like I’m giving therapy to a zombie.”

“So what can you do?”

“You can’t do anything about the physical problem, you just have to deal with the symptoms. And in these cases its fistfuls of antidepressants and antipsychotics, hoping that the delusion breaks. This case I just got is a woman, late middle age, crazy as a hoot owl in heat. I have no clue how to help her.”

“I can imagine how weird that must be; very strange. Well, that’s why I’m a lawyer. You notice that the guy in the blue shorts is pretty damn deceptive, it seems every shot he makes he holds at least a little. He’s good, that one.”

“Yes, but I argue if you hold that much you lose the surprise factor. Your opponent is never going to trust his eyes until he sees the ball off the racket, so the hold deception loses its value. I say hold the shot from time to time, just to mess with them, but do it selectively.”

“Okay, point well taken. By the way, I also know a thing or two about brain anatomy and how it affects one’s perceptions. Some studies that have been done have found variations in the structure of the brain in people with differing political views. I was turned on to this by my good friend Mark Falwell on the Democratic committee, you remember him? He’s a neurologist. So he says that studies using MRI scans on people who self-identified their political views found that the more conservative subjects had larger amygdalae, which as you point out helps process emotions. Liberal subjects, on the other hand, had larger gray matter in something called the ACC….”

“That’s the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the part of the brain that monitors uncertainty and conflicts of information.”

“Yes, exactly. Anyway, my Democratic friend interprets those results to mean conservatives tend to be emotional nutjobs whereas liberals are careful discerners of fact. Perhaps a biased interpretation, I realize…. Another study on political differences asked subjects to tap a keyboard when the letter M appeared on the screen, which it did most of the time. However, occasionally the letter W appeared, for which the correct response would be to not tap on the keyboard. Turns out the liberals made significantly fewer mistakes than the conservatives, which meant that the liberals were better at discerning conflicts in established patterns and were not as impulsive as those crazy conservatives. What do you think about that, doctor?”

“You are not going to sucker me into another political discussion, Martin. I know your liberal credentials are impeccable, but I’m no right-wing crazy, despite your attempts to characterize me as such. I’m moderate on pretty much every issue.”

“That was a nice point, and that’s it, they’re coming off now. I see the one in blue shorts won, just by looking at his body language. He’s damn good, I have to admit. One more thing, and that is that the conclusion some have got from looking at the two studies I mentioned, and several others that are out there, is that conservatives want to avoid self-harm, that’s of fundamental importance to their world view. Liberals, on the other hand, want to avoid harm to the group. They take that stance when looking at any given political problem. The result: two separate ways of viewing life’s challenges and two camps of people, forever at odds.”

“Those studies are interesting, Martin, but let’s put aside the political angle and look at subtypes of people and how they are different from ordinary people. I’m talking odious people. What about the pederast, for example, a repeat offender, the lowest, vilest criminal, whose actions rightly generate repugnance and disgust, and plenty of anger. What about him? We may find out quite soon that the pederast has some heretofore unseen brain anomaly, or some genetic variation, that predisposes him to do the things he does. What if he is hardwired to do the things he does? Those types of revelations are coming, and how do we as a society deal with them? It will test us, these revelations. Perhaps these people are living through what their genes, and their brains, have demanded of them. Just like the person with Cotard’s, who has a brain anomaly, or the conservative who is hypervigilant about his own welfare, who is preprogrammed to act a certain way based on his brain structure. In the end we may be talking about someone who is considered abnormal physically—not mentally—through no fault of their own, but yet medical ethicists and society as a whole will have decided, you know what, that’s too bad, because the derangement that is in these people’s bodies leads them to do despicable things but we as a society don’t care why they do it. We care that they’ve done it. And they will pay accordingly.”

“I think a just society is asked to do a lot of things that perhaps individual people would have a hard time doing, but no society would be able to look the other way and excuse such evil. Science only goes so far, Jake, after which emotions must take over.”

“I’m not disagreeing with you, by any means, it’s just that science will increasingly paint society into a difficult corner, for reasons like this and many other reasons. Some long-held beliefs will be questioned, and the answers may not be pretty. They will lead to disruptions. But it’s time for you now to shut up.”

“I beg your pardon!”

“Look, the court, they left over 5 minutes ago. What the hell are we doing up here gabbing? Let’s get on the fucking court!”

“I can’t disagree with you on that score, doctor. It is time to kick your ass. That’s a physical phenomenon that is a lot less interesting than what we just talked about, but a lot more satisfying.”

Later, on court 3, someone’s ass was kicked.

Author’s note: The medical terms and studies discussed in this story are factual.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fools and Sycophants

Maintaining a decades-long tradition of rendering poor decisions based almost entirely on either profit or addle-brained nincompoopery, the IOC today let wrestling back into the Olympics and denied squash its rightful place.  On-lookers were stunned as the wrestling delegation immediately got into those cute thong-like things they wear for a quick celebratory round of crotch-grabbing, while the base/softball delegation, who had already resigned themselves to defeat, slunk off and injected performance-enhancing drugs in the bathroom.

Meanwhile, squash players the world over sighed and headed back onto the courts. There to play the greatest individual sport yet created, a fact that does not need the IOC’s confirmation.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What To Do on the Eve of the Decision?

The IOC decision will be made on Sunday, September 8. 

Squash remains the underdog, with wrestling being the betting-man's choice for re-inclusion. I think squash will come in second place, with soft/hardball not having any chance whatsover. However, no one knows how the IOC will vote. Although soft/hardball has a lot arguing against it, there is a lot of advertising money backing up the sport, so the sport may be brought back into the Olympic fold in a cynical grab for ad revenue. Wrestling has done some work making their sport better, but have they really done enough? And would it make the IOC look silly to throw them out and then readmit them in the space of just a few months?

We in squash know how appropriate the sport would be to the Olympic ideals, but who says those ideals are governing the Olympics anymore?  And yet, who knows, the bid process may have changed the opinions of just enough of the voting IOC members that the sport may possibly squeak through. It is possible, and on that hope I choose to remain optimistic. 

As it so happens, on the very eve of this momentous decision a great squash event will take place. On September 7 John Nimick's Squash Engine, the group that is responsible for the wonderful Tournament of Champions in NYC, will put on their 4th "Showdown at Symphony," at Boston's Symphony Hall. Details about the event are here.  The "Showdown" pits two top Egyptians against two top Brits: Amr Shabana and Mohamed Elshorbagy, versus James Wilstrop and Nick Matthew. 

In this one-night playoff, matches are to 2 games, with a 1- or 3-point tiebreaker played if the games are knotted at 1-all. It is a fun night, but the fact that the next day will be such an important one in the world of squash will make the atmosphere positively electric. Definitely worth attending if at all possible....

The IOC Better Choose Carefully: Part Deux

If they don't do the right thing, the dog is toast. Capiche?

Monday, August 26, 2013

The IOC Better Choose Carefully: Part I

Olympic decision time is nearly here, and it seems that prayerful meditation has achieved some promising results: 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Achieving Quiet

I have not been blogging much lately because, fact is, this has been a phenomenally bad summer for The Squashist. I have not been able to play much at all, spending most of my time in a perpetual Groundhog Day of rehabbing. Not playing has kept me away from writing about squash, since to do so would put me in a bad mood, since I can't play!

I had been playing last spring for some months with a balky knee, and as a result didn't try to make heroic gets. I played less often and spent more time rehabbing in the gym with light exercises. I thought my knee would gradually get better, but that turned out to be a very misguided notion. One day, wouldn't you know it, I planted my foot to turn and something gave. I felt a sharp pain and got off the court immediately. 

It turns out that I had a small posterior meniscal tear and a traumatic bone bruise. I went to my orthopedist and we decided to see if rehabbing it would work. I went to my PT, got some rehab advice from him, and that has been what I've been doing. We had set a date for mid-August for me to go back to the ortho for another look, hoping that I might be ready to play. But the knee, while considerably better, does not feel completely okay, so we have set another date, in mid-September, to check the knee again. If not better by then I will go ahead and get it arthroscoped; I probably should have done that 3 months ago. 

All this has transpired at a time when the company where I work is undergoing severe financial strain, and as a result a few people had to be cut and salaries were reduced across the board. As the editorial director, this causes all types of personnel problems for me, not counting the obvious economic impact of my own reduced salary. 

I was thinking about this rotten summer I've been having today, because in the old days, back when I had a good knee, I used to love escaping from daily woes by going to the squash club and playing almost 3 hours of singles squash, then maybe getting together a doubles game, then going to the gym for a half hour weights session, and then finally getting in the steam room and boiling myself silly. The result from all that activity was a wonderful sense of mental quiet, a quiet that those who meditate seek to attain but that I never have. The only way I have ever achieved mental calm -- no internal dialogues, no replaying of interactions with others during the day, no arguments replayed in one's mental cinema -- is through the physical morphine of squash. 

I need a dose. Fast.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Putting the 'Bad' in Badminton

You may remember the Olympic badminton controversy, in which players were deliberately tanking matches so they could enjoy an easier path to the medal game? That was bad.... So bad there was some concern that badminton might be the sport kicked out of the Olympics (instead it was wrestling, which was nonsense ...).

But this is pretty bad too. A little ass-kicking delivered from one Thai badminton Olympian to another:

Hey, can we all please get along? 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Olympic Drugfest

The world has recently been treated to the horrifying news that rhythmic gymnastics is embroiled in a judging scandal. I'm shocked, shocked. And I thought all these "artistic sports" were on the up-and-up.

Well, you would at least think they would be better than all the doping that has been going on in several sports over the years. The obsessive-compulsives at Wikipedia have compiled an incomplete but extensive list of athletes who have been caught cheating using performance-enhancing drugs. And as the Olympic committee will sit soon to vote on whether to readmit wrestling, readmit baseball/softball, or admit squash, they might want to act in concert with their propaganda, and vote in a clean sport that does not have episode after episode of drug-fueled competition.

Check out the wiki list. You'll see plenty of wrestling and plenty of baseball, plus plenty of cycling and alarming amounts in swimming, a ton in weightlifting and other strength sports like shotput, and the world's favorite, futbol. On the comical side, there is a snooker player listed, wow.

And, in the long list of names, truth be told, there is one squash player. Karen Kronemeyer, of the Netherlands, got caught taking benzylpiperazine, a party drug that gives a bit of a euphoric high. Unlisted, but Stephane Galifi, former Italian #1, was also busted, for pot and possibly cocaine.

But these two busts don't make the sport corrupt, they only indicate there are a few partiers on the squash circuit who ought to tone it down a notch. They aren't bulking up on steroids or injecting hyper-oxygenated blood back in to their system.

Here's a run-down on the top 10 druggiest sports....

Yet you can bet that when it comes down to decision time at the Olympic committee meeting in September, will there be any hesitation in voting in wrestling or baseball/softball, based on their thoroughly corrupted past? I doubt it. The IOC talks the talk but they most definitely do not care about setting an example.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ramy Ashour and the Egyptian Revolution

 The other day on Alan Thatcher’s blog (here) we saw a picture of Ramy Ashour out celebrating during the protests that are currently sweeping Egypt. There is a lot to say about these protests, but what I would like to start out with is simply a plea to Ramy, “Get outta da streets!”

Ramy, the best squash player on the planet, does not need to go out and get himself killed in what could be a bloody mess. I sympathize with his feelings, and I know it would be hard not to join in on the demonstrations for what must seem like a fight for independence akin to our 1776, but there is another argument, that Ramy is the leader of the sport and is an Egyptian recognized around the world. Could he do his country more of a favor by being an exemplar of the sport, perhaps even playing it in the Olympics in 2020, or should he be one of millions taking to the streets and clamoring for change? Could he use his celebrity status to articulate the wishes of freedom-loving Egyptians, perhaps even to rally like-minded Egyptians to the cause? It’s a tough call, of course, but I say Ramy, and indeed all the many top Egyptian squash players, should sit tight. Use their influence behind the scenes, definitely, but sit tight and represent the New Egypt when the time is right. 

The latest tumult in Egypt puts American sensitivities in a quandary. After all, the government of President Mohammed Morsi was elected in a democratic election that was judged to be fair by outside observers. If many Egyptians don’t happen to like what Morsi is doing, then in a democratic country they would be expected to organize, demonstrate peaceably, and throw the bums out in the next election. I was not a fan of George W. Bush, and when, amazingly, he was elected again, I was beside myself, but being a good democrat I just stayed back, licked my wounds, and planned for the next election. Likewise, those Republicans who consider Obama to be a socialist Kenyan from hell and the worst president ever are doing the same, but in reverse. That’s the American way….

So the American impulse is to root for the demonstrators, who want to expel the Islamists who now rule, but to do that they are really rooting for a military takeover of a democratically elected government. It’s a disconnect. What should happen is Morsi and his crew should listen to the demonstrators and make changes to their governance, but they are hard-liners convinced they have all the answers, and so the positions are locked in, and the military awaits. There will be blood.

Ramy! Let none of that blood be yours….

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

US Squash Wants a Big Final Push

There has been much commentary lately about the chances for squash to finally get into the Olympics, and the commentary seems to boil down to this: Wrestling stands in the way.

But there is no doubt that this time the squash bid to the IOC is a good one, and that getting the sport into the Olympics would make a great difference in terms of worldwide funding for the sport. It means a lot on multiple levels, including for the fans, the elite players themselves, the squash associations around the world, and the Olympic experience. Although wrestling does indeed stand in the way, squash still might be able to pull it off.

Kevin Klipstein, CEO of US Squash, released this video in which he explains the current situation and asks for personal and club involvement to raise the additional funds necessary to make one final big push. I agree with everything he says, and have been impressed during this campaign with US Squash's dedication to pursuing the Olympic dream:

I plan on shelling something out for the cause, and I hope you do too.

I do notice that Kevin looks like such a nice guy in this video, but I actually played squash with this very same man a week or so ago and I can assure you he is not a very nice fellow on the court. He showed not a bit of mercy, which is a fundamental quality of an advanced soul.

As it so happens, I also played squash recently with Bill "Buck-Wild" Buckingham, US Squash's Director of Member Services, who much like his boss Kevin appears to be a nice sort, but give him a racket and all bets are off. He played very well though, upping his game to the point where your reporter was forced to resort to spasmodic lurchings about the court to squeeze out a win. Buckingham seemed to have it out for me.... I have to watch that guy....

And one more member of US Squash I'd like to mention.... Peter Lasusa. Peter and I go way back, back to Columbia, where we both attended college, and even further, as we both knew one another through intersecting personal friendships back in high school. Peter is a very successful businessman who became Board Chair of US Squash. That type of volunteerism is nothing new to Peter, who has been active in a range of causes over the years, including doing work in support of squash at Columbia as well as the University Club of New York. Peter proved so adept at his position at US Squash that they kept him on for a few additional years. His tenure has been an active one, and his counsel has been wise indeed, and is something that Kevin Klipstein and the rest of the US Squash crew will without doubt miss.

Peter and I used to have an active singles squash rivalry, and to this day Peter claims he bested me by at least a few percentage points over the full span of the years. I of course think he is delusional. The important thing is, he can't prove it! Peter then became obsessed with the doubles game, becoming a very good left-wall player, and on that score he did indeed prove too much for the Squashist.

Peter will be leaving US Squash as his tenure, extended though it was, is now up. I can only say to Peter, thanks, from the US Squash community, for an exceptional job. And if you'd like me to beat you in singles, give me a ring.