“That’s kinda like racquetball, right?” is the most common question asked when I tell people that I play squash. The second most common is “what is squash?”My answer is always the same “you should come see for yourself.” A surprising number of people are unaware that UR has a varsity squash team, and some don’t even know that we have squash courts in the Goergen athletic center, and racquets available free of charge for any student or faculty member. The lack of knowledge of this great sport is disturbing, so let me attempt to answer a simple question.”What is squash?” you ask…A certain coach, who will remain anonymous, said to me this past weekend at the national tournament at Yale, “squash is so great. I mean you just have two people on a court, and you just – it’s just, you know, great.” OK, maybe not.It’s like what a teammate of mine said to me the other day, “What I always say is squash is perfect… in that the court is the perfect size… I can’t explain it much….” he said.Umm… yeah.OK, so it’s hard to put into words, but everyone who has played the game can understand the feeling. I’ve been involved in a lot of sports over the years, and not one inspires the same level of fanaticism as squash. Not even close. Like the famous squash writer Henry Zug said, “If squash is literature, it is poetry. Its lines are short but heavy with meaning. It condenses and concentrates, distills and refines. It exposes your character like an X-ray exposes your bones. It is madness in an unpadded cell.” Even if you can’t identify with Zug’s metaphors, you can identify the passionate prose of an absolute squash-addicted loony.I still remember the first time I picked up a squash racquet. It was in our own Goergen athletic center. I held the little black ball, looked at it curiously, then dropped it and took a swing that would have awed Casey of Mudville. I completely missed the ball. See, a squash ball has to be warmed up before it reaches it’s optimal playability. A warm squash ball will bounce about two or three times higher than a cold one. The players infuse life into the otherwise inert piece of rubber. A ball on its own is nothing, but a ball in play is the center of attention, inspiring superhuman bursts of speed and flexibility, strength and endurance, and at the same time, patience. I asked another teammate how he would explain squash to someone who had never seen it played. “Just say ‘it is great,'” was his response. After some prompting, he added “You hit a ball against a wall. And the other person hits it back.” And that’s really all of it. The many intricacies of the game all stem from this simple reality. There is something inherently satisfying, almost therapeutic, about smacking a small rubber ball against a hard wall. Maybe it’s a way to get out aggression and stress, or maybe it’s a fulfillment of some inherent need to mercilessly hit something as hard as we can, repeatedly, until we fall on the floor in a puddle of complete exhaustion. Maybe it’s because we’ve been studying too much, or maybe it’s because we have a thousand worries a day and there is always another task to be completed. “You hit a ball against a wall… and the other person hits it back.” What could possibly be more satisfying than that?Does it sound like I’m overdoing it?If it seems that I’ve been riding the crazy express to Hyperboleville, it’s because I, too, am infected. I am a certifiable squash junkie with no hope of a cure and no desire to find one.I started out trying to explain a little bit about squash, but what this really amounts to is a warning – play at your own risk. What starts out as a simple hobby can quickly elevate to a full-blown obsession. You may find yourself dreaming in a little white room, the sound of the ball hitting the racquet punctuating your concsciousness throughout your waking hours. Your friends will start to wonder, and your significant other will become jealous of your hitting partner.If I haven’t answered your question, I’m sorry. Want to really know what squash is? Why don’t you come see for yourself?Avitable can be reached at pavitable@campustimes.org.

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