Who else out there remembers racquetball?
If I’m correct, racquetball was one of those inexplicable fads that popular culture seems to experience every few years. Like oat bran. Or leggings.
Something pops up somewhere, people decide its the cool new thing, and presto! Everyone is playing racquetball.
Back in the 80’s racquetball courts popped up everywhere, like dandilions in July. Every mall, every gym, every town had least one indoor racquetball court. Whoopee!
I had my first racquetball experience around the around the age of 22, as I recall. I was still young and impressionable. I believed all the people who said that the game was fun and exciting and great exercise.
I was in love! If my beloved wanted to buy us both racquets and very very hard rubber balls to hit with said racquets, I was all about it!
I was still idealistic. For some incomprehensible reason, I believed that even a person like me, a person who had once knocked herself in the nose with a softball bat while swinging at a pitch, a person this clumsy, could still achieve some level of athletic success.
What an idiot.
I remember coming home from work to our tiny apartment, eating dinner and then grabbing our racquets. We put on our short shorts (it was 1978), our high white athletic socks and our sneakers. And off we went. Lookin’ fine.
I remember that there were locker rooms where we could store our jackets or sweatshirts. I remember this because I’m pretty sure it was the first time outside of high school where I actually stepped into a locker room. There were other women in there, and they all looked confident and sure of themselves. Some of them even had on sweatbands.
I remember that the racquetball “court” was a cube made out of solid rubber. I think even the floor and ceiling were rubber.
My voice sounded echoey in there, and I liked that part. I think I even sang a little the first time Paul and I stepped into our cube.
That was the last part I ever enjoyed.
Because to this day I have no idea of how to play that stupid game. All I recall is that we were supposed to smash the hard hard hard blue ball into the wall in front of us and then use our racquets to smash it back there again. Of course, given that the cube was made of the same incredibly dense rubber as the terrible ball, it was almost impossible to know where the ball would go once you smacked it with your racquet.
Sometimes it hit the ceiling, sometimes the wall on the right, sometimes the left. And sometimes it hit directly in front of your sweaty young face so that it careened back at you at the speed of light, leaving you helpless to deflect it with the tiny racquet in your hand.
The first time that happened, I discovered that I do have some athletic skill after all. I let out a shriek that could have etched glass, dropped the racquet and hit the floor in less than a nanosecond.
For the remainder of the “game”, Paul scored points while I tried to stay alive. I guess it was good cardiovascular exercise, because I can tell you that my heart rate stayed way way up there the whole time.
We played quite a few times after that. I never got any better at figuring it out, but I didn’t die either, so I guess it turned out well.
I was profoundly relieved when the next fad involved oat bran muffins.