Joel Reichenberger: Sailors need to find fire |

Joel Reichenberger: Sailors need to find fire

The state tennis tournament can be a loud affair, with fans from potentially 32 schools screaming for competitors on 16 courts.

When the tournament winds down, they all converge on the remaining matches and two often bewildered-looking players more accustomed to the serenity of a tennis court than the insanity of a football game.

There’s one sound that pierces through that environment like a dagger.

The words may be different, but it’s all the same.

“Are you sure that was out? Are you sure?”

There’s no more constant cause of controversy and conversation at the state tennis tournament than line calls. Like fouls in a playground basketball game, the rule is you call it.

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The potential for disaster is obvious. The children making the decisions have a vested interest in calling a close ball one way or another, and being children, they don’t always have the maturity to swallow hard and move on after an unfair call.

Such bickering is a part of tennis, and every player who lashed out wasn’t necessarily trying to cheat. Watching from the far side of the net, every ball can look in.

I couldn’t help but wonder this weekend what’s the right way to handle such situations.

Steamboat’s players almost always were respectful, though they ran into a few knuckleheads.

Mirko Erspamer’s first-round opponent in the No. 3 singles bracket seemed on the verge of quitting after one important ball Erspamer called out in an all-important third set.

“I will not give you that point! That was in! I will not do it!” he hollered, carrying on for more than a minute.

Erspamer didn’t say much more than, “No, it was out.” Fans supporting both players, meanwhile, quietly agreed that the ball indeed had been out.

The problem for Steamboat was that whenever it was on the polite end of such outbursts, it usually lost the game. Erspamer gave up the next three points, lost the critical game and, eventually, the match.

The opponent, jerk or not, harnessed his anger and applied it.

Certainly there was more to the game and the match than an argument about a point, and obviously Steamboaters should be proud of the way their players handled similar bickering throughout the tournament.

But sometimes that growling is evidence more of passion than a lack of manners. That certainly wasn’t the case in the Erspamer point, but elsewhere it was.

Steamboat’s players fought with class all weekend, and that’s something they need take pride in and carry forward.

After a lackluster performance at the biggest meet of the season, they also might be wise to find a way to get more fired up when everything’s on the line and contribute more than rolling eyes and quiet mutterings to the din of a state tournament.