logo

John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg’s underwear selling competition has me wondering.

A decade ago, Mark was new to tennis as well as sport. He spent years avoiding the invites to participate; but his body didn’t avoid the weight-gain of sedentary mid-thirties’ life.

He was rarely on a court, course or field of any kind. “Maybe once,” he revealed, “and I was mildly annoyed – to my father’s glee. Dad did not want to be the cheerleading-coach-soccer/tennis-dad. He wanted an intelligent child who faced his battles with his mind – nothing lower than the clavicle.” His dad didn’t want messes. Mark, a boy born to please, was in his head more than his body most of his life.

On our first meeting, he arrived in black. T-shirt, backward baseball cap, basketball shoes, eyeglasses, wrist and head band, thin cotton socks and bathing suit. All black. He was focused – years of studying torts, property, restitution contract, litigation. Being tested almost daily came in handy. But that was his mental game. Within 5 minutes of hitting balls down the center of the court, he was keeling over: hot, panting and sweating.

An Ivy League graduate school sent him soaring into the high-priced lawyer world. “Yes, I have been in a court,” he spoke articulately and fast, “my father always reminding me, ‘Keep your head in your briefs.’”

A few weeks later, though he had hit significantly fewer shots than Malcolm Gladwell’s coveted 10,000, he had signed up and played a tournament. He’d only been on a tennis court about 10 times. His break-the-habit attitude: “I play well off the court when there are stakes – why should there be any difference on the court?”

A lawyer’s logic or the bliss of unawareness? Giving him a moment to breathe after a long rally, I asked, “How was your tournament?”

He lost in three hours and three sets to an opponent at his level. He spoke diplomatically, “Other than it being a long and incredible experience, it gave me a sense that I can play and I have a lot of room to grow.”

“Did you have fun?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he monotoned. Something was on his mind.

“What needs work? What was your worst shot?”

“I knew you’d ask that and I know!” he perked up. “My drop shots. They went high and deep and the guy got every one.”

“Where was he standing when you chose to hit the drop shot?”

“No idea,” he responded immediately.

“Where did you hit the shot just before the dropper?”

“It’s like I’m naked when I try them.”

“If you want a better drop shot, you’ll need more exposure. The circumstance of the shot -- before the technique.”

“OK. OK.” He sounded rushed to get somewhere else.

“Let’s hit some balls and when you have me out of position – either wide or behind the baseline – throw in the drop shot.”

With his momentary low expectations, he hit a perfect one. Then he popped up a few, missed a couple into the net, and another sweet one…. He exasperated quickly.

Mark cleared his throat. “I have a question.”

“I’m ready.”

“It’s a bit embarrassing.”

“Have you asked anyone else this question?”

He smiled, “No.”

We settled on the bench. “Now I’m really ready.”

“I hurt.” I looked at him. “I hurt after I play.”

“Could you be a little more vague?”

“Down there.” He looked into his lap. I understood.

“You pulled a groin muscle?”

He shook his head and said, “It’s not a muscle.”

“Chaffing?” I asked.

“Almost,” he offered with a smirk.

“What kind of underwear are you wearing?”

“None.”

I laughed louder, “I think a change in strategy is essential. And as your intuitive dad said, ‘Mark, keep your head in your briefs.’ Forget the drop shots; drop shorts and put on some briefs.”

Mark arrived to his next session walking taller, smoother and smiling.

“I’m in my briefs.”

“What color?”

“Multi. Red, white and blue. I think it’s a Union Jack. Bjorn Borg’s. He makes briefs now.”

Yes, underwear counts.

When asking about underwear, I hear words like: comfy, intimate, bikini, rubbing, tighty-whitey, necessary, clean please, sexy, hold me together, keep it safe, part of the ensemble, ew, are we allowed to talk about that? Iisn’t anything sacred?

Has anyone heard about the Borg/McEnroe Competition of 2011?

Two of the most high-profile tennis players of the Open Era – John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg – are riding under the radar. They initiated a current-day competition: Who can sell the most underwear? They each designed two styles of briefs for men. And who else would know better how to carry themselves than these two icons from opposite ends of the emotional cosmosphere. Four percent of the proceeds are going to charity. But since most people are concerned about score: As of this printing, John has a slight edge over Bjorn.