A REAL ACE

Ken Hoffman's favorite memories of his legendary tennis partner President George H.W. Bush

President Bush poses with Hoffman's young son after the tennis "incident." Photo by Ken Hoffman

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Mr. President, would you take a photo with my little boy?

“Absolutely, bring him over here,” former President George H.W. Bush said. “You need any help? You okay?”

Earlier that morning, I had played a doubles match at a charity event at Lakeside Country Club in Houston. It was Indian tennis great Vijay Amritraj and me against Chris Evert and Chuck Norris at Norris’ "Kick Drugs Out of America" fundraiser in 1999.

During the match, I heard a rumble go through the crowd. President Bush and his wife, Barbara, were being seated in the first row. They had brought Ranger the dog with them. Millie, their best-selling author dog, had passed on, and Ranger was their new pooch.

It was one of those moments when I wanted to call timeout and phone everybody I’ve ever known and tell them, "I can’t talk now, I’m playing tennis against Chuck Norris and Chris Evert. And President Bush is in the front row. Gotta go."

With the score tied, 3-3, Chris Evert was serving. She had been mocking me the whole match for staying behind the baseline and refusing to come to the net. She was wearing a microphone, and the crowd was enjoying her ridiculing me. “C’mon Miss Hoffman, get your butt to the net like a man!” After being the “Ice Maiden” her whole career, suddenly she was Shecky Evert. Amritraj, my partner, a Wimbledon doubles champion, ordered me to move forward.

I should have stuck to my guns, stuck behind the baseline. As Evert went into her service motion, Amritraj warned me to “stay alive up there.” I didn’t hear him clearly and turned my head to say, “Huh?”

Evert served as hard as she could and the ball hit me right in … how should I say this? How about my crotch area? 

Guys, you know how that feels. I crumbled to both knees. I couldn’t breathe. The crowd exploded in laughter. I was in pain, the wind knocked out of me. I was embarrassed or humiliated, whichever one is worse. I noticed Evert running toward me. I swear there were tears in her eyes. She was laughing that hard. “Are you going to write about this?” Evert said.

Presidential assist
I felt someone help me up from behind. The person said, “If you do, say ‘groin,’ it sounds nicer.”

It was former President Bush. I said, in a weak, high pitched gasp, “It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. President.”

After I was taken to the first aid tent, I limped back to the tennis court and played another match, this time with President Bush as my doubles partner. After the match, I asked President Bush to take a photo with my son, Andrew, who was 3 years old.

Andrew is a Gladney Center kid. President Bush was a Gladney grandparent.

Andrew sat next to the former leader of the free world, and I took a photo. I used a $4.99 disposable camera from Walgreen’s.  I took the film to the pharmacy to be developed that day. I’m not a photo ace. There have been times when I’ve heard, “Sorry, none of your photos came out. No charge.”

Please, not this time.

Picture-perfect
The photo could not have been more perfect. It’s President Bush, holding a camera and his tennis racket in one hand, my boy with the other. Best photo I’ve ever taken — sweetest photo anybody’s ever taken.

The next day, I called President Bush’s office on Memorial Drive. I told his secretary, “I don’t know if President Bush signs autographs, but I took a picture of him with my son yesterday. Tell him I’m the guy who got hit in the groin by Chris Evert. He’ll know who I am.” She said, “I’ll ask him. Bring the photos by.”

The next day, my phone rang. It was President Bush’s secretary. “Mr. Bush has signed your photo and he would like you to come by and get them. Can you come over now?”

What’s the speed limit on Memorial?

Ken, meet 41
I was given the once over by the Secret Service and walked into President Bush’s outer office. His secretary said, “He’s waiting for you. Just go inside.” President Bush motioned for me to sit down. He asked, “How are you feeling?” He was laughing, too. I was happy that my pain brought such joy to the president and Chris Evert.

“I’m fine, thank you for asking.”

President Bush said that he enjoyed my newspaper column. Wait, a former president of the United States reads my column? Then he said that Mrs. Bush reads my column in the morning, too. Is this a hidden camera show and the president is pranking me? 

Mr. Bush handed me the photo with my son. He wrote on it, “To Andrew Hoffman, have a wonderful life, big guy — love, George Bush.”

Wow! He wrote “love!” He called my baby “big guy! He also autographed another photo, one of him and me after our doubles match. He wrote, “Thanks for carrying a heavy load.”

The 41st president of the United States and I talked for about 45 minutes. I told him that I was at the Berlin Wall the day it came down. He was president at the time. We talked about other events during his presidency. After a while, he gave me a tour of his office. We walked into a small snack room where two young women were talking over coffee. He introduced them as his “interns.”

I asked, “Do you think it’s a good idea to say ‘interns'? You might want to use a different word.” This was only a couple of years after President Clinton’s scandal with his intern Monica Lewinsky.

From the White House to blue humor
President Bush laughed and said, “I still call them interns. We’re close … but no cigar.”

Great line! The president works blue! As the president said goodbye, he reached in his desk drawer. He said, “I wrote a note to you." (Twitter hadn't been invented yet.) I acted cool and put the note in my pocket. The moment the elevator door closed, I tore open the envelope. The note read:

Dear Ken,

Chrissie seemed pleased that she drilled you. I sent her your column. Here are the photos.

Sincerely, George Bush.

Netting a lasting relationship

Continue reading on CultureMap.

ART BY JESUS RODRIGUEZ

Born with a comic book in one hand and a remote control in the other, Cory DLG is the talent of Conroe's very own Nerd Thug Radio, Sports and Wrestling. Check out the podcast replay of the FM radio show at www.nerdthugradio.com!

Hey Nerds!

It's a brand new week and we're in the business of crushing it, so lets get this Monday going… wait, what? A lot of you are off? That's weird, alright, lets kill it anyway!

GOOD DEED OF THE DAY

Honestly this week, with so much going on in the world and so many places needing help and in light of the world raising a billion dollars in seemingly one day to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral but Puerto Rico still being ruined, the Midwest still being flooded, and there being so many places around town in need of some funds to help people. Just find a good cause this week, find something worth while, find someone to help and just give a little. Give a little of your time and of your money and of your energy to make the world a slightly better place.

AS THE WORLD TURNS

As the world turns episode two hundred featuring the DC Streaming app, now the story about the Swamp Thing show getting cut short has nothing to do with budgets or app performances or streaming numbers. Now the story coming out is that there were creative differences with the showrunners (even though all the actors and writers had no clue what was going on when the show shut down with several of them making social media posts to that fact). If this is truly the case, then the line up for the rest of the streaming service is safe, the animated Young Justice second half of the season is still coming and the animated Harley Quinn and the live action Stargirl are all still on schedule allegedly. Another weird thing about this possibly being true is that this would be the second comic book show firing its show runners in just one month and Disney just bailed on a major budget animated Mouse Guard movie Fox films was literally weeks away from starting production on so in one month several big budget comic book projects are in jeopardy all while Disney is set to launch a streaming service with several big budget star wars and comic book properties and Avengers is set to debut at record breaking numbers. Which to me actually suggests comic book movies as a genre have stabilized and become another normal like comedies and action movies with studios passing and cancelling and investing and casting and moving on for business reasons, they're no longer "event movies" they're now the new normal.

DRY LANDS IS NOT A MYTH

This story is so incredible I have to write about it, I'm about to introduce you to the concept of Seasteading. Seasteading is the idea of building self-sustaining floating mini cities that are built in international waters ideally outside the sphere of influence of any particular nation and then are supposed to be self-governed. They aren't just a sci-fi high society concept as one largish such colony is currently being negotiated and built off the French Polynesian coast and one such test structure was built allegedly 13 miles off the coast of Thailand. Why do I say allegedly? Because the couple that lived on their 6 square meter little ocean shack, were making posts to social media explaining their plan, including being in international waters and free of Thailand's interference which made Thailand so angry they sent police out to arrest them for immigration crimes which could result in life in prison or even a death sentence. The two are now fugitives but don't worry, in a move that gets filed under "never learning a lesson" the guy is still somehow posting to Facebook assuring everyone he's fine. Like I said, this news story is crazy.

A LITTLE OVERWATCH TALK

The Houston Outlaws lost both of their matches this weekend, making them 3-6 for this season and meaning that other than the first phase of Season 1, remember each season is in four phases, The Outlaws haven't posted a winning record. In their second match of this weekend they actually got swept 3-0 and in their final game of that match they at one point were in a position to force overtime and extend match play and perhaps even start a rally and fell short in a game of "escort" where one team has to fight and push a cart through the map and the other team obviously wants to prevent you from succeeding. After getting the cart through most of the map they get to what you would essentially call the redzone if you were mixing sports and made an unnecessary change to their lineup which resulted in them losing all momentum and then losing the game and the match in a sweep. They then on twitter posted a graphic depicting the 0-3 final score of a loss on their own page! I got upset at this, its one thing to make silly mistakes, but it's a whole other thing to celebrate losing, they represent Houston, they better get it figured out.

NOT THAT YOU ASKED

So stay with me, I'm going to rant a little bit here. Yesterday in Sri Lanka there was a terrorist bombing in a church and there aren't a ton of details as I write this as to who is responsible but honestly, I don't care. I'm tired. I'm just absolutely exhausted with all of this, there are different religions in the world and some people believe so strongly that it leads them to violence and before anyone takes this to mean I'm siding with any one group, I'm not. There are bad apples on all sides and no one wants to admit it, White America hates the fact that nearly all domestic terrorists are white guys and they say stuff like "well white people are the majority so it makes sense" ok but it really doesn't make sense. Because as one group accuses another group what no one is doing is just taking blame for their own issues, owning their own screw ups and walking away. Each side of all of these conflicts keep trying to step up the rhetoric and step up the energy and blame the other side but the truth is really a lot simpler than anyone wants to hear. It is all of our faults. Everyone who doesn't correct people when they speak ignorantly of other groups, every time we let someone walk away from a situation angry and blaming everyone but themselves for their own issues. When we say it's everyone else's fault for the world we're living in but we're not doing anything about it then we are the problem. I try to spread good thoughts and words, I try to stay positive and keep positive vibes in the world, I want to be a good example (maybe not a great example, but a good one) to my nephews and niece. Someone my parents will be proud of and someone my friends can count on, and I make mistakes, I have my moments and these last few years have been so rough and so complicated that sometimes you do just want to lash out. But it was a church. It was Easter and the people of Sri Lanka have finally begun to enjoy piece after so long being a war torn and dangerous place, they were women and children. Men and sons, all just looking to worship in peace and spread a little positive energy to the world and as a world and community we've all let them down. Let's try to be better, just a little bit better because the truth about all of this is one day it's going to be us in a church or a mall or a school and then we will have no one to blame again but ourselves.

I'm going to jump out and wish you guys a great Monday and remind everyone to be kind to each other and try a little harder to have a great day! I'm coming back Wednesday and we'll be bringing more good times your way. Feel free to check out my digital short story The Wilson House or buy a shirt from Side Hustle Ts where every shirt is now under $20 or listen to Nerd Thug Radio or support our Patreon Page. Thoughts, complaints, events and comments can be sent to corydlg@gmail.com.

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