A sporting event that has it all

Thursday, October 15, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Golf, of course, is now the sport of the masses. Even young people who do not own lime-green pants with little horsey heads on them play this game. Even people who are not rich. Even people of color. Even women.

My friend Karen is probably going to be CEO of the Planet Earth some day. And this is just so that she can sneak off in the afternoons to play golf without getting fired. My friend Sally loves golf so much that she couldn't resist beating her boss at it, although she knew it meant she could kiss her year-end bonus goodbye.

These women are twisted.

Myself, I cling to tennis.

The Last-Ditch Diet

Sports to me are merely something you do to burn off enough calories so you can consume potato chips and beer that are not "lite." Running around after a ball is simply a way to go through life eating Servatii's rum macaroons and Fawn's pecan caramel clusters instead of SnackWell Fruit Newtons and tofu yogurt.

You can't tell me athletes get a workout in those little carts, dismounting only to swing a lightweight club five or six dozen times. And putting another couple of dozen more times. In four hours.

Nope, tennis is where it's at, calorically speaking.

Tennis is also cheaper than golf. There are no blacktop fees, and you can compete in what you would wear to clean out the garage. If you don't believe me, just look at Andre Agassi.

Tennis does, however, have a couple of drawbacks. For one, you cannot cheat. At least, I have not figured out a way, unless you count lying about close calls. But you can't move your ball -- by hand or FootJoy -- to a more advantageous position. And you can't lie about how many times you hit it.

There is no such thing as a mulligan. If you make a bad shot, it's your tough luck. No do-overs.

Which brings me to the other disadvantage of tennis. You have to be rather good at it. Otherwise, you spend all your time apologizing to the people in the court next to you. Golf may have the edge over tennis in this regard. The handicap system equalizes everybody.

"For example," my friend Karen says, "I take money regularly from John and he's a much better golfer." In other words, when you see some guy hanging over a putt like it's worth $200, maybe it is.

It is considered bad form to bet on a tennis game, so you really have to work at it to plow a lot of money into this sport. You have to buy a racquet with a face the size of Roseanne's or insist on tarting yourself up in name brand tennis togs.

The adoption option

So, in my opinion, people who play tennis or who used to play tennis or who have been thinking about playing tennis should have plenty of money left over for a good cause.

The good cause is Adoption Option, a nonprofit agency specializing in adoption education. "We want adoption to be a healing choice," says director Carole Adlard, "so the family doesn't end up on Geraldo or Oprah." A noble goal.

The group is trying to raise money for its school adoption and abstinence educational programs with a party called Tennis with the Pros. There will be a speed gun to check your serve, and 20 professional tennis players have promised a bunch of oddball ways to improve your game.

Plus really good food.

You could conceivably burn off calories and eat almost simultaneously. It doesn't get any better than this.

The event is Oct. 24, from 7 to midnight at Eastern Hills Indoor Tennis Club at 669 Wilmer Ave., across from Lunken Airport. It costs $50 per person, and reservations can be made at 793-7268.

Proceeds will help young people who are confused and faced with a decision about a baby. And, for them, there are no mulligans. No do-overs.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com, call 768-8393, or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Mondays on WVXU radio and as a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. Her new book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of her most popular columns and commentaries, is available at (800) 852-9332.