By Geoff Kirbyson
Some things are just to crazy (or insane) to ignore.
Mark Arndt, Tennis Manitoba’s executive director, called me up a week ago with an idea. He wanted to make the coolest video of any tennis organization on the planet for World Tennis Day.
Knowing we only have a couple of indoor clubs in town, I wondered what he could possibly have in mind.
Then he told me he wanted to go to an outdoor club and play tennis in the snow. This, during the coldest winter of out lifetimes.
Somehow this wasn’t going to end well.
A quick call to one of the Free Press’s video producers, Tyler Walsh, and we were on. Tyler is particularly fond of video projects where there’s a good chance that I could get hurt. Losing a limb to frostbite fit the bill.
The idea was we would simulate a game in the snow. Who else in the world would be clever/stupid enough to think of this? Ahem.
We met Mark, Tennis Manitoba president, Bruce Waschuk, and Lillian Wong at Tuxedo Tennis Club last Friday. I believe it was about -45 with the windchill and I had forgotten my Sorel boots at home.
Mark looked like he was preparing to take part in the Iditarod while Lillian went all out and was wearing a tennis skirt over her pants and a visor. Bruce had just come from a meeting, so he was about as unprepared as I was.
Still, the plan was to shoot a 45-second video, how long could this take?
About an hour, we discovered. Normally a cameraman can change his location in a matter of seconds by taking a few quick steps. When those steps involve leaping through thigh-deep snow, well, it takes time.
It also uses up body heat, we quickly discovered.
We started out as any doubles game would with the spin for serve. Bruce and I won and elected to receive. Not surprisingly, Mark hit three consecutive aces. But for Tyler to get all the appropriate angles, Mark probably had to hit about 40 serves. (A similar number of balls will be found on Court 6 in the spring once the snow melts.)
At this point, my toes had switched from freezing to sort of warm. Isn’t that a sign that they’re totally frozen? I wondered what it was like getting fitted for prosthetic toes.
Now we had to shoot a few diving volleys. Mark was quickly volunteered and nodded his agreement even though he couldn’t hear us because of the thick layer of Vaseline coating his entire head. (One of diving stabs even hit Tyler’s camera smack-dab on the lens.)
Finally, we were done. If hypothermia hadn’t set in, we would have sprinted off the court. As it was, we made it off in slow motion looking like we’d been hit with sedative darts.