Sunday, June 29, 2008


With apologies for the poor photo above, one of the highlights of last week was our dinner Wednesday night with Kurt Streeter, on the right, along with his cool mom Kathy, on the left and, next to Michelle, Kurt's wife Vanashree and our mutual friend Athima.

Kurt and I worked together in Los Angeles and he was one of my favorite reporters: curious, enterprising, incredibly hard-working and always striving to improve. But his best quality, as a reporter and a person, is his huge heart; he's just a great, great guy, one you feel lucky to count as a friend. Kurt grew up in Seattle, so we had the city as a common background, and his parents met at the University of Oregon, a second link. In fact, they had some celebrity there: Mel was a star basketball player for the Ducks -- the fourth African-American ever to play there, and one of only six black on campus at the time -- and he and Kathy were one of the first interracial couples to marry in Oregon.

Kurt grew up as a tennis prodigy, winning a Seattle City Champsionship and many junior events before becoming captain of the University of California tennis team and later turning pro. At one point as a junior he roomed with Andre Agassi at tennis camp. Read about that here.

When we worked together at the LA Times, Kurt was a beat reporter covering Metro, the public transportation system. He did a fine job, and also began spending "off hours" reporting an off-his-beat story that interested him, a feature about a young girl who was a boxer. Long after I left the paper, Kurt wrapped up his sidelight reporting and turned the story into a five-part series, "The Girl," that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Largely based on that, Kurt landed what he calls a dream gig, as a sports columnist for the Times. He's very good.

Anyway, after our very enjoyable dinner at Bizzaro, an Italian place we'd never been in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood, Kurt and I squabbled a little over the bill. He thought Michelle and I were contributing too much (we weren't), so I told him he could make up the difference by giving me three tennis tips.

Here's what he said:

* "First, read 'The Inner Game of Tennis,'" by Timothy Gallwey.

* "Try to finish," he said. Follow through. Don't check your swing.

* "Definitely keep your eye on the ball."

* "Stay centered and upright. Stay loose. Don't get all hunched over."

OK, great. I even got a bonus suggestion or two. And lord knows my still-unresuscitated game could use the help. So I went online and looked up the Gallwey book. I hadn't heard of it, but apparently this is a classic sports-psychology sermon, from 1972, and I'm sure it's useful for good tennis players.

"The problems which most perplex tennis players are not those dealing with the proper way to swing a racket," the book begins. "The most common complaint of sportsmen ringing down the corridors of the ages is, 'It's not that I don't know what to do, it's that I don't do what I know!'"

Well, actually, that's not the problem that most perplexes me. I'm still dealing with the proper way to swing the racket.

Until the next time I see Kurt, I'm keeping my eye open for "The Outer Game of Tennis."

1 comment:

freda said...

great post, next time I come to visit I guess I will bring my tennis racket. better idea, you guys come back and bring yours. Better chance of good weather here, and Sandy could play with us.