Downton Abbey Blues: How to miss the best squash at ToC


photo credit: Mike Pepper

Sometimes you make a bad decision. This one is a doozy.

The day had started iffy to begin with. A storm had moved in to NYC in the early hours of Sunday morning and rain was pounding the skylight above where you are sleeping. This isn’t a don’t-forget-your-umbrella day. This is a pull out your foul weather gear, dig out the knee high rubber boots, and where the hell did you stuff that bonnet with a brim that you bought in Gloucester?

Better yet, text your late morning squash date that you’re busy bailing out the basement, pull up the covers, and stay home.

But by ten or so, the rain isn’t so deafening. You make the executive decision to not take the iffy and hour or more subway ride and go find your pickup truck on a side street. You are at your squash club in under half an hour. Sometimes rain on a Sunday morning is a good thing; it keeps everyone sane at home.

The problem with driving to play squash, though, is that you won’t be taking the train from LIC to ToC – normally a quick ten minute trip, barring no rail work, switch malfunctions, or general seven line bad luck. For a millisecond or two, you think of leaving the truck in LIC, taking the train into Grand Central, watching a few matches on the glass court, and coming back out for the truck later. But later could mean late afternoon or evening, and parking in Park Slope after six on a Sunday is basically an hour or so of exploring the neighborhood for a spot to squeeze into. And did you mention you have a pickup truck?

So, after a wonderfully sweaty hour of pretending you picked up some wisdom from watching the pros at the ToC, you shower and play dodge-the-biggest-pothole all the BQE way home. Your plan is to have a restorative lunch, do a bit of Sunday straightening-up, and then head into Manhattan in time to see Amanda Sobhy (US, World #8) take on last year’s ToC Champion, Raneem El Welily (EGY, World #2). There may be a number of rankings between them, but your gut tells you it will be a great match.

You could blame the rain that came later. You could blame the annoying addiction you have to the Crawleys on Downton Abbey, who would be much happier all around if they built a squash court or two both up and downstairs, so that Mary and Edith, Mr. Bates and Mr. Barrow could have it out with racquets instead of always sniping at each other. Much healthier, too.

But really all you can blame is your Sunday evening self. The one who succumbs to a desire for pizza (albeit homemade), a glass (or two) of red wine, and the comfy company of the couch cushions as the Crawleys look at pigs and have their newspapers ironed.

The wake-up text is only a few minutes after you peel yourself from the pillows and strains of Rondeau are still lingering in the air.

“Big upset tonight!” And there is a photo of the victor, looking super smiley as she post-game chats with emcee Will Carlin.

Sobhy won. 11-7, 6-11, 11-5,11-6

You can’t believe it. You missed it. You feel as rotten as Lady Edith – only maybe you shouldn’t equate losing the chance to see a match for the history books with losing a child at the ‘fat stock show’ (fortunately, it’s found).

So this is basically your squash lesson of the week. Go with your gut. Not with a stuffy British soap opera that lost its guts a few seasons ago. You can watch it in replay any hour or night you wish. But being at the Tournament of Champions for a live match is – what do they say? – priceless.

Sobhy is up again on Tuesday afternoon, this time with Alison Waters of England. No matter what the score, you know they’ll be better than anything on TV.


photo credit: Clayton Gates

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