Freudian Slips: Racquetball 101 with Strings Attached

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

November 06, 2004

Racquetball 101 with Strings Attached

Knowing me is ample forewarning that I will go out of my way to play a practical joke on anyone. My dream job would be replacing host Ashton Kutcher on the TV show Punk'd. Okay, so I don't have his Georgeous George good looks or as many notches on my belt buckle but Ashton has made a lucrative living out of doing what I have been doing for a lot longer for free. The verb punk'd has been recently added into the English language and, although Ashton Kutcher may take sole credit for it, I am a senior contributor. My practical jokes run the gamut and admittedly some go overboard. I have lost friends along the way but that is the nature of the beast. Others backfire like the time I mailed myself in a cardboard box to Ohio to visit a girlfriend. I offer the following advice to any hopeless romantic out there in a long distance relationship. Constant postage for love letters is tough on the wallet but the shipping and handling when I mailed myself nearly killed me. The following is a summary of how I came to impersonate a college professor and the formulary for a practicial joke.
In the summer of 1995, my brother Jimmy ran into a friend. The two had just graduated high school so naturally they made small talk about the direction of life. His friend made the mistake of announcing he was taking up the sport of racquetball as an elective at a local community college. Conversation is not a bad thing in and of itself but never courier fodder to a Tornatore. My brother convinced his friend that I was the adjunct professor for his college course. Gullibility aside, it is widely known in my circle that I played tournament level racquetball player during my heydey. I still play recreational racquetball but I stopped competing when it started reeking havoc with my skin disease whose enemies include rigorous exercise. Now back to our story. I laid low for a couple of days then I shamelessly telephoned my brother’s friend. I told him I picked off his name on the course registry, and was giving students a courtesy call before classes started. He admitted to having never played racquetball before. In fact, he confessed to having never been to college before. He was like a double virgin ripe for the picking. The early part of our telephone call can be called the sales pitch for the jokester. For those that don’t know, racquetball is a fabulous sport that is like a game of chess at 125 mph. I talked about the speed of the game, reflexology, and strategy. I made a believer out of him and judging the tone of his voice he now seemed anxious having me become his professor. By now, I knew I had sold the sales pitch and step two was trust. Trust is always the lynchpin in a practical joke. I confided that Racquetball 101 was going to be my first experience at teaching and that I planned on going easy on my students. I told him to never admit in public that the two of us know each other and to always call me Professor. I outlined my only class requirements. Show up for class and get a passing grade on one final written exam. Easy as mom’s apple pie. The rest of the ruse went something like this. “I’ve never been a good test taker, what is the final exam going to be like?” he asked. “Don’t you mean, what is the final exam going to be like, Professor?” When you have gained trust, the jokster can get away with saying crap like this. If trust was to be questioned, it would be revealed in his answer. “Ugh, yes." his answer was tangled in anxiety. "You know I meant to say Professor.” “Easy skipper, school hasn’t started. You can call me Joe right up until that first bell rings. As far as the grading goes, it’s not like your racquetball game is going to be evaluated on the court. It’s the effort you give and then the one final exam. I want to see you diving for balls and you might as well round up some kneepads. “You got me a little worried about how I am going to do.” “Don’t worry. No need for performance anxiety. You got an in, man. I’m going to go easy on you. Not only do I appreciate you and my brother being friends but I’m also a good friend of your sister, who is very dear to my heart. I won’t let Racquetball 101 flunk you out of college or ruin friendships. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, but this has to be a secret kept between you and me, do you hear me?” “What do you have in mind?” he wondered. And so I began to unroll the red carpeted hook. “The semester starts in a few short weeks. So we got to get a move on it. I’m risking my career here, but how about I mail you out the final exam? She’s the slowest typist in the world but my secretary just got the hard copy back to my desk.” I thumbed through the blank checks in my personal checkbook for a sound effect. He asked for reassurance. “Joe, you would really do that for me?” Denying reassurance then giving more of the hook is a thing of beauty. It takes patience and an ability to hold in enormous amounts of laughter even with the risk of farting omnipresent.
“Hold up, not so fast." I said haltingly. "I’m not going to give you the correct answers just the test itself. After all this isn’t Mickey Mouse high school anymore this is college. I want you to look the answers up using available resources. This class has no textbook. When you get to college, most of your electives won’t have a hardback text. Now you study the test I’m sending you. I want you to sleep with the test like it’s your high school prom date. That test is 80% of your grade for the semester so what you do with the test is on you.” Before I hung up the phone, I verified his mailing address. Two days later, I mailed him the following bogus test. For readers not familiar with the game of racquetball, this test was born of bullshit then dunked in horse dung. You don’t have to understand the game of racquetball to appreciate this impossible exam. There are no right answers. There are no answers at all. Poor kid. CAMDEN COUNTY COLLEGE RACQUETBALL 101 FINAL EXAM PROFESSOR TORNATORE Name___________________ Directions: Answer the following questions to the best of your ability. Each question is worth 5 points and there are no deductions for correct answers. Anyone caught cheating will need to repeat the course. MULTIPLE CHOICE 1. Racquetballs come in various colors. Name the color racquetball not allowed for tournament play: a. baby blue b. algae green c. rosewood d. eggshell white 2. Tournament play is the best of three games. Games are played to 15 points but the tiebreaker is played to: a. 1 b. knockout or submission c. 16 d. dusk 3. A serve must travel the airborne distance pass what mark on the court: a. half court b. superior court c. the front wall d. the chalk line 4. The best offensive maneuver in racquetball is called: a. nutmeg b. scrapple c. Nellie Bean d. murder incorporated e. looks like a lizard 5. The initials of the sanctioning body of racquetball are: a. USR b. USRA c. USSR d. Canada e. ROYGBIV 6. In what continental United State is racquetball illegal to be played on Sundays because of a silly blue law: a. Nevada b. Illinois c. New Jersey. D. Ohio 7. Identify the only legal serve: a. hitting three walls before the ball lands b. hitting the ceiling before the wall c. hitting the back wall on the fly d. b & c because a sounds too ridiculous 8. The founding founder of racquetball is: a. Abner Doubleday b. Sirhan Servehand c. Wally Balltree d. Anne Marie Sabitini 9. How many timeouts is an unranked player allowed during a consolation game in tournament play? a. zero b. none c. two d. his parent’s discretion 10. Racquetball most closely resembles this sport: a. tennis b. ping pong c. nude beach volleyball d. Eastern European squash e. hackey sack 11. Currently the number 46th ranked racquetball player in Brazil is a. Buenos Nachos b. Jorge “High On The” Rivera c. Juan Samuel d. Enrique “Speedy” Gonzales TRUE OR FALSE 12. If your racquet breaks, play can be continued by hitting the ball with an open hand but not a clenched fist? TRUE or FALSE 13. Black soled sneakers and construction boots are both allowed footwear on regulation sized racquetball courts. TRUE or FALSE 14. A nervous server can accidentally drool saliva on the ball without penalty before a serve but not during continuous play. TRUE or FALSE 15. Players can freely substitute ping pong paddles or tennis racquets instead of racquetball racquets. TRUE or FALSE 16. Coaches and personal trainers are not permitted on the playing surface once a match begins, not even to serve liquids to a dehydrated player. TRUE OR FALSE FILL IN THE BLANK 17. In a doubles match on a serve the teammate of the server should stand on _____________ and _______________before play resumes. 18. ________________ is the number of back-up racquets a player is allowed to carry in his gym bag. 19. The body ritual _____________ in the ________ signifies the end of a game, especially a shutout. 20. ____________________ is the penalty for verbally mocking an opponent before a three set match. For the life of me, I wish I could have seen his precious face on the first night of class when his real professor showed up and handed out the real syllabus. Once college began, my young apprentice made a point to get in touch with the Tornatore brothers. I don’t want to repeat the atrocities of what he said a decade ago, but the three of us laugh about the whole prank now. Playing a good practical joke is a racquet in and of itself.

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Blogger PaxRomano said...


Is number one, D?

Thanks for the laugh!

6:54 PM  
Blogger alberto said...

Great stuff, Joe! I had a smile on my face the whole time.

8:42 PM  
Blogger charlie porreca said...

I'm so impressed that such a talent is also a relative of mine. So cool!

6:23 PM  

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