Besmirching the Escutcheon
The other day (well, that’s a lie right there; it was in 2005 when I wrote this), I walked out of the East Court in the New York Racquet Club and took a seat in the anteroom to recover. I don’t know whether I had won or lost but, given the venue and the quality of play there, the odds favor the latter. It does not really matter.
Likely, the first conversation would have encompassed the skill of my opponent, the quality of the marking and appropriate observations that befit the sporting nature of the endeavor. These thoughts do not bear repeating as everyone knows them well.
But those ended in due time and my thoughts wandered to the pictures on the walls and the contrasts between the heroes there depicted and the mortals whose living selves populated the space around me. (It was a tournament so there was quite a crowd of mortals to observe.) How did these groups differ?
Well, first the heroes were more heroic. There is no surprise there as who in his right mind would go out of his way to frame and hang pictures of mere mortals when there is limited wall space?
The room on the other hand probably included some future heroes but also a far greater number or mere mortals because that is the logical ratio of the great to the average. But again, it does not really matter.
As the adrenalin waned and the inevitable stiffness set in, I noticed something. Virtually none of the heroes in the pictures had anything embroidered on his clothing while virtually all of the mortals around me were festooned with insignia of all variety. Why was this?
Do heroes not favor insignia? Not very likely because some of the superb living players had crests on shirts, shorts and racquets. This careful research led me to the conclusion that skill level had nothing to do with the wearing of logos.
In short order I came to the conclusion that the heroes of the past did not have logos on their clothing because the technology to make that possible did not exist at the time they were becoming and being heroes.
As new heroes are created there will surely be logos, crests and other escutcheons on their clothing and thus in their pictures. This assumes of course that new rooms are created to provide the wall space for pictures these new heroes.
Extrapolation off current trends often turns prognosticators into fools, but such analysis could lead to the idea that court tennis is well on its way to becoming NASCAR. Will the all-white tradition of our game be overcome by clothing resembling the bug splats on southern windshields?
One of the nice elements of court tennis is, if in doubt as to what to do, you can simply emulate the behavior of the past. This is one of the splendid things about a game of tradition.
But we are in uncharted territory here. There is no tradition to guide our behavior as to the wearing of logos.
This is so daunting that we don’t even know what to call them. Are the crossed racquets of New York a mere logo or do they ascend to the level of being a “crest”? Are the rose and crown of Hampton Court a mere crest or do they rise to the heraldic significance of an “escutcheon”? Our problem has no name.
How is a gentleman to think about these matters if he can’t even name them? Okay, we’ll put one thing to rest: “gentleman” has nothing to do with genders and everything to do with how one behaves. No article on court tennis could possibly use the word “gentleperson” because that just wouldn’t do but the questions apply equally to both genders.
What logo might a gentleman wear? Is it limited to a club of which the wearer is a member? Is it limited to a club at which he has played? Is it okay to order them off the internet and wear them willy nilly?
Clearly, anyone can wear the crest of his own club(s). Few could argue with this. Some, including writers with sufficient free time to worry about such things, take the view that a shirt with the insignia of a club at which you have played is fair game. The self same writer is wont to observe, however, that my “sometimes-opinionated” father might not fully agree with this notion. The writer defends it however on the theory that a shirt purchased at a far away court is a way of supporting the professional who made the visit possible in the first place.
How many crests are appropriate? May shirt, shorts and sweaters depict the emblems of different clubs? If so, is color coordination appropriate? The greens and yellows of Tuxedo, Aiken and Greentree might look snappier if worn together than with a random red and blue of New York thrown in. Somehow, three seems excessive and the same crest on two items of clothing – particularly shirt and shorts — seems a bit over the top. Much pondering needed here.
What about items of clothing? Do they differ? The “sometimes-opinionated” father would clearly raise an eyebrow at a person wearing the tie of a club of which he was not a member. Indeed, that individual is known to have done so, much to the detriment of the unwitting offender. But what about tee shirts? Are they like ties?
The endless gradations of blazer patches, cricket sweaters, baseball caps, racquets, shorts, sweatshirts, vests, racquet bags cause much anxiety to the player concerned about being “on form.”
Some items are clear. The Jester is only worn by Jesters because it is an honor and not a collectible. Word is though that gentle reminders have been whispered on this subject in times past. But much of the rest is up for grabs.
Finally, where are crests and logos to be worn? This is not an idle question. When ladies first began playing, our professionals were unaware of the very existence of skirts or, more subtly, of the differing cuts of shirt that might be suitable. Embarrassing misplacement of crests and logos resulted
And a new phenomenon could soon be upon us. Much effort is being made to encourage juniors, so clothing must now be ordered for this demographic. Parents of teenagers – particularly girls – will have seen shorts with school names inscribed on the derriere! Might we soon be seeing the Newport Eagle similarly placed?
Perhaps these thoughts will result in outraged letters to the editor or even the establishment of committees of the game’s governing bodies. Meanwhile, the anxieties about
decorum deter the mere mortals from keeping their railroads tight to the wall and leaving the ball that will not win the chase.