Next to yachting, polo and golf, tennis has traditionally been considered a sport reserved for the idle rich - an elitist past time where the masses had no place. But it's not Victorian England anymore, folks, and we need to recognize that tennis has gained immensely in popularity. I think, however, there is an enduring perception among many is that it's just for stuck up blue bloods.
And hey, look no further than the hallowed Vancouver clubs of Hollyburn, Lawn and Tennis or Jericho to see why. Membership fees there are exorbitant, wait lists are years long, tennis white and proper etiquette are de rigeur. I happened to weasle in to Jericho for a game the other day and was amazed to see that, at 4:30 pm on a week day, the courts were chocablock. I know that Vancouverites like to take it easy in the summer, but this was a little much. "Oh the idle rich...." I thought, shaking my head. As a little aside, though, a cooled water fountain at every court was rathah deeelightful.
But seriously, tennis does not have to be all about pomp, circumstance and exclusivity. It can be a great social past time, welcoming people of all backrounds and circumstance to grab a racquet, wack a ball and build some community with every rally. Let Jericho and Hollyburn have their fun, no harm there, but the rest of Vancouver also needs access to public courts to bring the sport invented by Kings and for kings to us, the people!
Here's a little an example of how tennis, at least for me, makes me feel part of my community. Most evenings, now that it's light so late, I head over to the best public courts in the city at Stanley Park and pick up a game with whoever is hanging out at the practice wall. It's a colourful scene down there with people of all abilities, shapes, sizes and personalities out to have fun and happy to play. There's also always new people flocking to the courts looking for a game. And then there are the "lifers" - the people who seem to never leave: like the feisty Czech dude who lives out of his tennis bag, or underwear man, who plays in his tighty whites and has a wicked backhand, or the lumbering, bearded fellow who plays in 18 hole Doc Martens or the East European woman who scowls a lot and attacks each ball with such ferocity you just have to smile. Their daily presence make the courts cozily familiar. And then, of course, there is the heron colony which kicks up a rockin', squackin' serenade to the lively rallys below. And, if you're lucky, like we were the other night, you might witness the dramatic spectacle of a massive bald eagle dive bombing the nests looking for tasty heron nibblies! Hey, Hollyburn, Hey Lawn and Tennis, eat your hearts out!
Vancouver needs more well maintained hard courts like the ones at Stanley Park. The courts at Kits Beach for example are sorely in need of repaving, given the crowds who use them in the summer months. Gregor, Louie, Parks Board folks, I'm guessing tennis isn't on the top of the city's pressing priority list, nor should it be given the desperate situation in the DTE, but it wouldn't take much to fix up a few more courts and give more Vancouverites access to this fun and inclusive pastime.