The Boys of Summer

Mr. Caputo, Mike’s dad, called us “The Boys of Summer,” borrowing from the Roger Kahn book about the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, but it wasn’t baseball Mike and I spent our summer days on. It was tennis. We began playing in our early 20s and continued for more than 45 years.
In the summer we played practically every day.
Mike and I were huge Bjorn Borg fans but watching him play on TV was almost more than we could bear. Our nerves couldn’t take it. Especially if he was losing.
That was the case 40 years ago in the 1980 Wimbledon final against John McEnroe.
Mike and his dad were watching at his house and I and my dad at mine. When McEnroe took the first set 6-1, my phone rang. “I can’t handle this,” Mike said. “Let’s go play.”
So we left our dads to their televisions and headed off to the courts. We played about two hours and then returned to our respective homes to face the music. Upon arriving, however, we heard almost the very same words from each of our dads: Your boy’s still on.
While we were off trying to forget what we feared might be a Borg shellacking, the two of them were crafting what many believe the greatest tennis match of all time. It wound up lasting a shade short of four hours, so Mike and I caught the final two sets, including the fourth which drove each of us to the brink.
Borg had come back from the opening set disaster to win the next two sets 7-5 and 6-3 and appeared on his way to a victory. But the fourth set went into a tie-breaker and when the dust settled, McEnroe had pulled it out 18 to 16. Everyone, including the announcers and especially Mike and I, could not see how Borg could possibly pull it together after that heartbreaker.
But he did.
He won the fifth set 8-6.
I’m not 100% sure, but I think Mike and I went right out and played again.
I do know we got to meet Borg about 15 years later at a tennis tournament in Rye, New York, and handled ourselves like two little boys. Borg seemed to understand.

Ed Ackerman