Conor Casey: “The Garden Party. Chapter 1: Court Order”

Written by: Conor Casey

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***Conor Casey is a professional screenwriter, actor and part time tennis coach at the Boulevard Club.  His writing credits include numerous short films most notably Captain Coulier which played at Sundance in 2009 and the TV shows “Wingin It” and “Really Me.” most recently his new short film “Mouthful”, is making its world premiere at the South by Southwest film festival.  Follow Conor @ConorMCasey, and check his website www.caseybrothers.ca***

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Cheat happens.

Every eight seconds in an un-officiated tennis tournament somewhere, someone makes a bad line call. That means if you’re a regular player who averages a bunch of tournaments a year you’ve already been cheated a handful of times since January. So how does one prevent ones-self from falling victim to this gross misconduct? There is a classic saying that goes, “If you’re worried you’re being cheated, stop hitting the ball so close to the line.” Where this makes perfect sense and promotes professionalism and honour, it does require mental discipline and self restraint; something not a lot of tennis players have. What you really need to do to stop cheating is send a message. A message that says “I want to play fair, but if you’re going to mess with me, I will destroy you.” Kind of like when you torch someone’s Miata as a way of telling them to stop parking in your parking space after you’ve politely asked them not to. Where torching someone’s car would probably get them to stop cheating, it is totally illegal and you’d have to sneak out and do it immediately after the match so that it would feel related to the cheating. Even then, who’s to say they don’t just think it’s someone punishing them for bad parking or a faulty gas line or even a mob-style car bomb simply misplaced… the list goes on. You want to make sure the cheater knows he is being punished for his bad calls. Below is how to stop your opponent and future opponents from cheating you. It does require a few moments of dishonesty, but it’s for a good cause. After all, you’re a good person who ultimately wants what all honest tennis players want: Order on the court.

DISCLAIMER: What you’re about to read should only be used in a situation where you’re sure you’re a victim of cheating (and probably not in dangerous places like South America or the Middle East.)

The Setting….

You’re deep into a match where your opponent is beating you because he’s cheating. You’ve just got broken to go down 4-2 in the third set because he called yet another one of your beautiful backhands down the line “just out.” You’re mad as heck and not going to take it anymore; perfect time for revenge. On the very next point, swallow your pride and dignity and regardless of where his shot lands call it out. In fact the more in, the better. Cold blooded?… maybe, but remember: it’s ultimately for an honest cause as your intent is to end cheating. He’ll immediately question your call, but stand by your decision, remain calm, and whatever you do, don’t say you’re getting revenge by eluding to his poor line calls earlier. Make it seem like you genuinely saw his shot out, “Sorry mate, the ball just missed.” At this point, unless you’re playing against a ball machine your opponent will go hog bonkers. After blowing hot steam your way like a freshly opened bag of microwave broccoli, he has no solution but to call a tournament director or roaming line judge to the court and plead his case. You want this. The presence of a line judge from now on is crucialto your honesty mission. If he doesn’t ask for an umpire, make sure you call one. Claim you’re doing so to keep the match “fair” and honest and to put an end to all this madness; you’re keeping the court in order. It will probably take the umpire a minute or two to get to your court.

Court’s Adjourned. Get a drink of water… towel off… regroup…. and we’re back.

When the umpire arrives act like there is a tiny misunderstanding and your opponent is over-reacting. The more your opponent freaks out the more you need to polarize your reaction the other way; appear like the good guy; innocent and sincere. Why? The good guy always wins, of course. Eventually, since the umpire didn’t see the call, she has no choice but to concede you the point (this is part of the rules of officiating). If she asks you to play a “let” simply reply, “The rule book states it’s my call.” You will get the point 99% of the time (the 1%’ers that don’t get the point either have a vicious reputation for cheating, or they’re playing on clay and there is a ball mark that is clearly negating their argument… I guess I should have said don’t try this on clay… but I guess you could just pick any out mark and claim it’s the one in question… so DO try this on clay.) From now on the umpire should stay on the court, but if she goes to leave insist that she stay, again, to keep things “fair” and honest. Hopefully compelled by the innocence in your eyes (I recommend channelling Puss in Boots from Shrek), the umpire will stay and inquire about the score. Your opponent, will immediately offer up the score, because he is leading. Let him, but whatever you do…

Entering the point of no return…

… don’t agree with him. Act as if you’re confused with his score keeping, and that he’s completely off. Start to recollect the score honestly from the beginning of the third set. “It was 1-1, then 2-1, then 2-2…” As you do this make sure your opponent is agreeing with you (he should if you’re being honest). When you arrive at the score where you feel you were cheated – let’s say the set was going swimmingly until “2-2” and then he cheated you to break and you got rattled and lost the next two games until he cheated you again – then claim it’s still “2-2.” At this point your opponent will go hog-tied-mesquite-ribs-bonkers! I mean lose it; maybe even start crying and swearing and if he is left-handed I promise you he will smash his racquet because all true lefties have really bad tempers. Don’t budge. You’re a goodwill ambassador and you’re opponents current pain is so your future kids won’t get cheated. The umpire, always with the intention to keep order and to continue play, will calm down your opponent, finally declaring, “ENOUGH! Since you both seem to agree that at one point the score was 2-2, the score is now 2-2. End of discussion. Play!” Stop talking, walk back to your side, and prepare to play. You’re message has been sent and your mission is complete, and order has been restored.

That’s how to stop a cheater. It may see like an incredible amount of acting skill is required but as long as you remember your intention is to end cheating you should be able to sell it all. Whether you go on to win this match or lose it, chances are your opponent and other opponents that witnessed this, will never cheat you ever again. Most importantly, make sure you get off the court before your opponent does. That way you can move your car to a visible place so he won’t set it on fire.

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