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Archive for July, 2012

One of the many problems of aging athletes is the simple inability to move as quickly as they did in their physical prime. Many tennis players respond to the ravages of time by trying to play more doubles. But the challenge of switching to doubles is the difficulty of organizing four players of remotely equal abilities at just the time when a court is available.

Diogenes believes that the ultimate solution to this problem is a new format that is easier for old bodies to play. Called One-on-One Doubles®, also known as Ghost Doubles, the game’s rules were developed and trademarked by former Harvard Women’s Coach Ed Krass, who is also a USTA High Performance Coach, and the Director of College Tennis Exposure Camps.

1-0n-1 Doubles Tennis is the first alternative, competitive format to singles and doubles since the inception of the game in the 1870s. 1-0n-1 Doubles Tennis is a half-court, serve-and-volley singles competition played on a doubles court. 1-on-1 Doubles Tennis can be played in both tournament and league format.

The half-court, serve-and-volley singles game played on the doubles court is strictly a cross court competition with new game dimensions. There is a divisible line drawn through the middle of the court from the center service line to the middle of the baseline. On clay, one can use a regular court liner to make this divisible line through the middle (informally players can just scrape a line with the edge of their shoe). On hard courts, one can use chalk or white athletic/trainers’ tape to mark off the middle line (or informally, just pretend the line is there). All points are played cross court with the alley included. All players must serve and volley on both first and second serves. Half-volleys are permitted. The returner can stay back or come into the net.

In singles a player must defend a space 27 feet wide by 39 feet deep; a total area of 1053 square feet. In one on one doubles, a player defends a space of 18 feet by 39 feet; a total area of 702 SF, 1/3 less than in singles. This means that 3 steps gets to any ball instead of the four it often takes in singles.

Speed and power advantages of younger players are blunted, allowing older players to compete more evenly with youngsters. The angles are better too. It is harder to hit winners through the court so placement is more critical than pace.

The 1-0n-1 format forces players to hit to a specific target, and to focus on how to “not miss”. One is always required to hit a cross court shot over the lower part of the net, which is what most players should do on about 90% of ground strokes but probably only do 60% of the time. Hitting up the line, or straight through the court requires crossing your ball over the higher part of the net and bringing it down in a shorter distance than hitting cross court. As a result, even on the ATP tour, where all the competitors have exquisite skills, about 80% of ground stroke errors occur when a player chooses to change direction and NOT hit cross court.

The 1-0n-1 game provides a competitive format of play combining both singles and doubles skills all within one game. It places a premium on hand and racquet skills that can be improved at any age. Because winners are very hard to hit, the rallies tend to be longer, yielding play that is higher intensity with lower impact on older bodies. Many players who want to play on consecutive days (weekends) are more easily able to do so without pain. Did I mention that One-0n-One Doubles is also great fun? The points are quick and more varied than in singles, with both players often ending at the net with smiles on their faces.

Last week America celebrated her birthday. 236 years later, the United States remains one of the great bastions of freedom. Our citizens generally abide by the rule of law, property and civil rights as we go about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Of course we have criminal activity by some individuals and corporate interests, which we (mostly) expect our police and regulatory system will deal with. We also believe that illegal behavior from our public officials, once exposed, will not be tolerated.

Beyond their salaries and benefits, most elected officials receive the esteem of their fellow citizens not only for their public service but out of respect for their offices. Many who are elected do so not for money, ideology, or a lust for power. They are motivated by the desire to serve and “make a difference”, and the belief that they are qualified to do so.

The implicit bargain citizens make with their officials is that in return for the prestige and power of their offices, our politicians will serve us faithfully to the best of their abilities free of the corruption that plagues many foreign governments. There are a bevy of regulations in place to prevent conflicts of interest, taking bribes, trading on inside information or otherwise allow politicians to unduly profit from their positions. Furthermore, we expect our officials not to commit “acts of moral turpitude” (see Anthony Weiner), not lie to us, and basically not break the laws of the land.

On June 26th, the third longest serving member of Congress, Charles B. Rangel, won the Democratic primary for the 13th House District in New York, all but guaranteeing his reelection in November. Each congressional district represents about 700,000 Americans, of which about 540,000 are of voting age. In the primary, only 39,000 votes were cast, about 7% of eligible voters, and Mr. Rangel received a plurality of less than 50% amongst the 4 candidates on the ballot, with an advantage of about 1000 votes over second place candidate State Senator Adriano Espaillat.

Such a low level turnout allows those narrow interests who have directly benefited from an official’s support to legally hijack the will of the larger community. (Curiously, the 13th District, which includes Harlem, Washington Heights and a portion of Bronx, has historically been majority black, but with demographic changes and redistricting it is now majority hispanic. Mr. Espaillat would have been the first Dominican-American in Congress and presumably was counting on widespread hispanic support in the race, but historically blacks vote at roughly twice the rate of hispanics, nullifying their numerical advantage in this contest.)

Mr. Rangel was first elected in 1970, defeating Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in the Democratic primary. In 1967, the long serving Mr. Powell had been excluded from his seat by Democratic Representatives-elect of the 90th Congress following ethics violations and allegations of corruption, but Powell was re-elected in 1968 and regained his seat in a 1969 Supreme Court ruling. In 1970, Mr Rangel won the primary by only about 250 votes out of 25,000 cast.

Irrespective of whether one agrees with Mr. Rangel politically, he was once in-arguably  an effective leader of Afro Americans and Democrats in the House of Representatives, and a champion for the development of his Harlem district. He is a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and a former Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax writing committee of the House.

In an eerie echo of his predecessor, in November 2010, Mr. Rangel was found guilty on 11 charges by the House Ethics Committee, and subsequently received a sanction of censure from the entire House. He was only the 23rd congressman in history ever to receive this penalty, and the first in over 30 years. The bipartisan committee stated “public office is a public trust [and Rangel] violated that trust.” Among the violations were:

  • improper solicitation of millions of dollars from corporate officials and lobbyists (who had business before the House Ways & Means Committee) for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at The City College of New York
  • failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and assets on financial disclosure forms and IRS returns
  • maintaining a rent-stabilized unit in a Harlem luxury apartment building for his campaign committee
  • maintaining multiple rent-stabilized apartments for his personal use, saving over $30,000/year in rent
  • failure to pay income taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic

Mr. Rangel served his constituents for over 40 years. The violations of House Ethics regulations occurred over at least the last 10 years. He is now 82 years old, and has said that he will retire in 2014. Does such a politician with such long service deserve a final term so as to finish his career with dignity?

Despite renown for compassion, as Diogenes I am astonished that Charlie Rangel remains in Congress. One could hardly present a better case for term limits. Rangel started as a leader of his community, and over time came to believe he was “entitled” to more than the public ever envisioned. As a long time member and later chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, there is no one who should have been more exacting in their effort to comply with the rules. These infractions were wide ranging and long lived, not even close to being acceptable. If he knowingly committed these violations he is corrupt. If he didn’t know he was an idiot. Either way, Rangel is unworthy of elected office.

We should expect and demand that our publicly elected officials adhere to a higher than average code of personal moral and financial conduct. Shame alone will not deter the corrupt from trying to hold on to power. As citizens we need to exercise our right to vote to prevent those malefactors from keeping their offices. If not, as H.L. Mencken said “people deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard!”