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Thoughts While Playing Tennis

By: Ethan Goffman

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If I drive the ball hard into the backhand corner that’s his weakness.

It’s working—he’s not that athletic. Can’t hit while on the move. Also not that bright—not able to figure out how to defend the corner.

He’s a little scrawny. Kind of endearing, like a tall elf, with that goatee and purple hat.

Damn I’m good! I’m creaming him 3-1! I’m not that great of an athlete either. Must just be smarter than him.

Clobbered the corner again. He covered it, but then I did a drop shot to the other side.

Man, I’m just crushing him, 4-1 now. I might be a slightly better athlete, but I’m really beating him because I’m the cannier player. Also, I’m psychologically tougher. Just better in all ways.

How the hell did that punk hit a winner off the last shot? I thought I had him. But anyone can hit a great shot once.

Can’t believe I mis-hit that bad. Right into the net.

Unbelievable how he’s coming back. That last ball was deep and with power. Did he eat his spinach or am I worse than I thought? I’m only up 4-3. Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate, concentrate! Don’t fuck it up!

Man, I suck, double faulting at a critical time. I deserve to lose. I don’t know why I even play. I’m a lousy athlete and mentally weak.

Can’t believe he’s serving for the set. What a loser I am. I should take up Bridge or something. Or just watch TV and get fat. Might as well die of a heart attack.

Hurrah, he double faulted! He’s as much of a wimp as I am!

Yes! A little slice to the backhand side was just the ticket. I’m out-finessing him.

Wow, he’s practically giving the game away. Kind of sad.

Brilliant play on my part, going back to that corner then mixing it up. I should never have gone away from that. Although he had gotten wise. Maybe I’m a one trick pony. But the trick worked once again.

Can’t believe that drop shot fooled him. Much too early. I may be tired, but he’s even more tired.

Crushed that serve—best of the day! I’m clobbering the pathetic loser!

* *

“Great game, man!”

“Yeah, great game. Thanks for coming out!”

“See you next week.”

“Have a good one.”

Man, tennis is a wonderful game! Brings people together in brotherhood! He’s a great sportsman, too. Looks kind of like a warrior dripping with sweat into his beard, like a valiant elf. Wonderful guy, the way he congratulated me and pumped my hand. I just love him to death!

Hope we have a great match next week. Hope I crush him!


Ethan Goffman is the author of the poetry collections I Garden Weeds (Cyberwit, 2021), Words for Things Left Unsaid (Kelsay Books, 2020) and the flash fiction collection Dreamscapes (UnCollected Press, 2021). I Garden Weeds is 2nd place winner of the Taj Mahal Review Poetry Prize. Ethan is co-founder of It Takes a Community, which brings poetry to Montgomery College students and nearby residents, and is founder and producer of the Poetry & Planet podcast on Ethan also writes nonfiction on transportation alternatives for Greater Greater Washington and other publications.


  1. Reminds me of the old saying on TV sports. “The joys of victory and the agonies of defeat”. Great little story that maps the cycle of emotions and thoughts we all experience when competing in games of sport and probably all other competitions. Great Job!

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