This week I watched the tennis ATP Tour Finals.
Tennis is essentially a live-action version of Wii Sports, only rather than you and the younger cousin you have to humour, the players are intense, sweaty men with headbands.
The game was between Roger Federer, and Tomas Berdych, two men so sinewy that they look like bags of extension cords.
Berdych gets the first serve, a serve is what you call a kick-off in tennis, because there is no kicking in tennis. After the serve the players just kind of bop the ball back and forth with their rackets grunting like manatees rapturous in coital bliss. Points are scored when one player fails to bop a ball correctly and it gets past him, or bops it into the net stretched across the court. I noticed that the matches are eerily quiet.
Apart from the ‘Bop’ of the ball, the squeak of the player’s shoes, and an occasional drizzle of polite applause from the crowd, the match is conducted in mortuary silence. It was so quiet that I slowly became hyper aware of any noise I produced. Mid set, my nose began to whistle as I exhaled.
In the mausoleum silence of the match the mild squeak became the piercing howl of a banshee. Breaking the silence felt blasphemous and wrong, like swearing in mass, or playing music through your phone’s speakers on the bus… After an eternity the first set ended, with Federerer ahead 6-4.
Sound and colour flooded back into the room, I relaxed a little. All too soon the serve for the second set is struck and that unholy void-like silence descended on the room again. I shifted uncomfortably on the couch, every mild adjustment making the leather creak like some great door creeping open with sepultural menace.
The match continued, Federererer dominating the set by hitting the ball the best. The all-pervading quiet spread like an oil stain. I became aware of the tiny noises of my body in between the metronomic ‘Bops’ of the match. I could hear the gurgle of my digestion and the rushing of the blood. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I was sure I could make out the static crackle of my synapses firing.
Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, when I thought the silence would swallow my very being! It ended. Sound and life rushed back into the room. Federerererer, yet again emerged the victor of the set, 6-2, and was crowned the Winner of the ATP Tour.
Good for him.
Good for him and his headband.