Love Stinks and Other Post-Valentine Thoughts

Thomas Marks brings years of marketing experience to his blog "It's All About Content" as the President and Managing Partner of TMA+Peritus. Prior to starting the agency in 1983, Tom was the VP of Marketing and Advertising for Bally Corporation in Chicago. He was also President of Bally's multi-million dollar in-house ad agency FFC Advertising.

With all due respect to the J. Geils Band, who I did see in concert three times, this article has nothing to do with the group from Boston, the other musical group Boston, or anything about music. This has everything to do with tennis.

They call tennis the kings’ sport, although I have no idea why. Perhaps Billie Jean King gave it that name, or the late, great comedian Alan King, who loved the sport. But no matter – I’ve taken up the game again. Not once or twice, not even for a third or fourth time, but for the first time in about 25 or more years – and this time for good. The man I have anointed to King-like stature is a nice fellow named Tom Chorney, the director of tennis at Cherokee Country Club. Regrettably, he has a huge problem. Me. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m no Haney Project. On the other hand, no one’s calling me Rocket Rod, either.

I like tennis, other than the fact that whoever came up with the scoring names, like “love,” must have been married and dumped more times than Mickey Rooney. There is no love in 6-love, only shame. But back to the game itself. I like doubles, in part because growing up as a kid in inner city Chicago, court time was a lot more affordable divisible by four than two. Doubles is a game of angles, touch, and finesse. Singles is a game of power (I never had it), speed (long gone), and stamina (I’m in it for the short run).

But it’s the angles that intrigue me – both on the court, and in my job.

Knowing the angles is about taking ideas that are unrelated and connecting them into meaningful ideas that aren’t obvious and no one ever thought of. On the court it’s a touch volley angled in the opposite direction, keeping the opponents off guard. But here’s an observation beyond tennis that most everyone can relate to. Look at the TV commercials airing about politics and advocacy. It doesn’t matter what side of the tightrope you’re on, all the commercials are shameful; or should I say love? What’s airing now was seen in 1987, 1995, 2004. In fact, I just saw an ad for the Wisconsin Supreme Court race with slamming jail doors. The Supreme Court throws no one in the joint, that’s not their purpose, and it’s not my point. I did that same ad in 1996.

In the game of doubles, it’s about the angles, about teamwork, about going in a direction that no else goes in. That’s what I like about the game. Today, more people need to figure out how to go in a different direction, how to be original (thanks to whoever did the jail spot, but as we say in tennis, your effort was a bagel), and how to play the angles. In tennis, love stinks; in life, it’s the greatest. And honey, I’ll be home after I drop-shot the living daylights out of Tom Chorney.

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