Monday, December 19, 2011

'Twas the Backspin Before Christmas: The Search for Caroline's 'Roo

It all started with a knock at the door, followed by the winter's eve sight of a beautiful world traveler... and a Neanderthal.

As a result, you are cordially invited to take part in this year's Backspin pre-holiday offering. Although, in something of an "Editor's Note/Suggestion," in order to remain in the correct "holiday rhyming tune" for this year's Christmas story, it might be best to take on our singers' carols after completely reading through the tale:

'Twas the Backspin before Christmas, and the town through and through, was filled with creatures searching for Caroline's missing 'roo. The "Have You Seen Me, Mate?" posters were hung on the lamp posts with care, in hopes that the Dane would no longer despair.

The townfolk had all decided together that they, would reunite their dear Caro with her Aussie-born friend this holiday. While the Dane had indeed briefly mentioned to someone that she'd "lost track" of a hoppy non-hare, on the other side of town, frankly, some of us were too sleepy to care.

The Czechs were nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of more slam crowns dancing in their sweet Maiden heads. This Backspinner was tired, so I'd pulled on my wool cap, and just settled down for a long winter's nap. When out on the HQ lawn there arose such a clatter, I arose with much dread to see what was the matter. Then, as the knocking downstairs proved my fears most worthy, nonetheless away down the stairs I slogged to see what'd made me so surly. I flung open the door, wiped away the fog on the glass, then peered with a suddenly-turned stomach at the sight of a "welcoming" lass.

The moon on the crust of the newly-formed ice gave the lustre of midday to my visitor so... "nice." So what to my sleepy, overworked eyes should appear, but Citizen Anna and my mortal Neanderthal enemy Carl, chomping on the bloody leg of what appeared be a tiny reindeer. With a too-bright smile on her face, and song sheets in her grasp, I knew in a moment the truth that instantly made me gasp. More rapid than a Williams ace, Anna's "brilliant" idea had came, and she'd whistled and shouted and called out her would-be helpers by name.

"Now Carl! Now your new cavewoman girlfriend Carla, making her official debut! Now, Sneaky Patty and Queen Chaos... and La Petit Taureau, too!" Anna had decided it was her calling to help the 'roo search parties on the 'round, by gathering a group to sing carols to fill up the background. While Patty didn't sound an answering peep, Anna had still managed to jostle one of Sneaky's friends from her sleep... and, clutching the only existing advance copy of "The White Mile" in her hands, Diane was more than willing to join in from her customary seat in the stands. Anna assured me that I was her final recruit as she patiently waited for me to say that I'd go. But, in truth, I wanted to say "oh, hell no." It was something that I'm sure she suspected, and I guess that's why she brought along Carl, who'd personally make sure any dissenter got dissected. So to the end of the lane! And on down the street! I was forced to embark with this odd band. Really, it was useless to bleat.

As the cold air arrives before the new-fallen snow, Anna led us in a holiday-themed marching chant as something of a show before the show...

"Jingle bells, grunt-o-meters smell. Zvonareva laid an egg.
The sister of Marat broke her back. The Dane's slam got away.
Bells on Vika ring, making spirits bright,
then she pulls a hamstring, and she's on the trainer's table all night.

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it is to cheer for a Radwanska who's name starts with 'A.'

Jingle bells, Li Na didn't handle the pressure all that swell. Cibulkova finally had her day.
Jelena and Damir -- oh my dear! More Francesca slam drama's on the way.
Bells on Bojana chime fresh, making spirits blush,
but if no one got her a GPS, she'll probably miss her bus.

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to watch with glee
Mademoiselle Marion Bartoli.

Jingle bells, Petra came out of her shell. Don't ask Kim to dance on any wedding day.
Sammy Stosur, is so sure, last year's Open won't be her last performance worthy of Broadway.
Bells on Lisicki knell, making spirits high,
but she twisted her knee when she fell, causing everyone to sigh.

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
If we righly could, we'd sing 'Reka-Luca Jani!' all day.

Jingle bells, the Romanians look swell, might the Americans once again have their day?
Bethanie's there, in a dress made of... Kardashian hair?
And Andrea's still Petkodancing the night away."

So along the long row of houses we traveled as a flock, past Kim C's picket-fenced dwelling, at which LPT had to be physically restrained from hurling an ice rock. With Carl's stomach still not yet full, I was called upon by Anna to look for a house before which to end the group's lull.

So on the ex-'Nova's epic lawn our singers did stand, and I stepped to the fore and tried my best cranky holiday punch to land...

"Maria got run over by a Czech,
Tryin' to secure a ca-reer legacy.
You can say there's no such thing as Petra.
But as for me and Martina, we believe.

Maybe she shoulda been drinkin' a little more Red Bull
Or a least a half bottle of 5-Hour Energy.
Meanwhile, Petra's tank was more than two halves-full.
So the final scoreline hinted at Russian lethargy.
Oh, her serve went into mourning,
After she stumbled out of the locker room and onto the grass.
When they found her Gentlemen's final mornin',
Even after many hours had passed,
There were still Czech footprints on her forehead
And incriminatin' forehand winner marks on her back.

Maria got run over by a Czech,
Tryin' to secure her ca-reer legacy.
You can say there's no such thing as Petra.
But as for me and Martina, we believe.

Now we're all so proud of the Russian.
She still laces her comments with humor and niceties.
We see her out there smashing forehands.
Posing for photos and taking meetings for new business opportunities,
It wouldn't be the tour without Maria
To ever lose her would be miles from great.
But we just can't help but wonder
If we saw the last of the 'real' her in 2008.

Maria got run over by a Czech,
Tryin' to secure her ca-reer legacy.
You can say there's no such thing as Petra.
But as for me and Martina, we believe."

And then, as I nearly did twinkle, I heard an odd noise from our band. It was Carl. HE was snickering. CARL! Of all "people." We'd hated each other for years, but in that one little instant, we were simpatico, in agreement, as the bitter cold brought us to tears. "Why are we here?," we both verbally wondered. For Caroline's 'ROO we weren't so happy for Anna to "force" us to ply. Really, we just needed our pre-Christmas shut-eye.

But Anna budged not a bit, knowing that I was the only person that an angry Carl would ever hit. As we made our way up the Dane' lane, Carl could take it no longer. "Carla," he said to his far-more-winning-than-he lady, "do good song for Carl, or he do something shady." Taking pity on my cold and far-from-unbreakable bones, Carla, after conferring with her fellow female carolers, joined with them to let loose with some surprisingly dulcet, grammatically correct, and un-Carl-like tones...

"A twentysomething looking for an opening,
Grand Slam dreams nipping at her nose.
Practice being looked upon by a new coaching 'king,'
And too many people lining up with 'I-told-you-so's.'

Everybody knows a Rory and some mistletoe,
Help to make the season a little more bright.
Scores of Danes with their eyes all aglow,
Will find it hard to sleep for at least eight weeks of nights.

They know that a new season's on its way;
Loaded up with big titles on hard court, grass and clay.
And every mother's child is going to spy,
To see if a Dane really knows how to fly.

And so we're offering this simple plea,
To players ranked from two to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
Please end this blessed story and 'let' her beat you."

As we reached the Dane's house, Anna stood before its porch and did shout. "Come out, Caroline!," she said with her usual Citizen A. assurance, "You should thank all these people for their kindness and, well, endurance." With the lights on inside, we could see Caro bound. Down the stairs, across the room, pulling her winter coat 'round. She flung open the door, and she stood there dressed all in fur from her head to her toe, while, behind her we glimpsed, waiting impatiently, her new friend, Coach Ricardo. Acting quickly and trying to avert quite a wild scene, Diane distracted a curious QC's gaze until a closed door made our view a bit more serene.

Setting down the bundle of rackets she'd flung on her back, Caroline looked like a peddler unloading her pack. Her eyes -- how they twinkled! Her dimples, how merry! Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry! Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a vice, and the sweat on her chin was as shiny as ice. As Carl finished off the stump he'd held all night tight in his grasp, Caroline seemed to be making it easy to pick which question to ask. But with his broad face and big round belly, Carl simply laughed and shook like a bowl full of jelly. "You cute and all that, a right picture of health, but Carl roll eyes when he see you, in spite of yourself."

"Is Carl to believe you practice tonight of all nights? As you sick with worry about your 'roo flight?" "Well, yes, Carl," Caro said, trying to speak with polite tact, "It's something I must do. Plus, Ricardo ordered it included in his contract." "Hey, wait," QC uttered, just under her scarf her mouth tucked, "Ricardo? Ricardo WHO? Hey wait! What the fu-!" But with great haste, Diane saved the day once again, quickly jumping into the song with which we all sung along...

"You know Evonne, and Steffi, and
Lindsay and Seles.
Henin, and Chrissie,
the Martinas and Venus.

But do you recall
the most scrutinized #1 of them all?

Caro, the slam-less Dane,
whose game usually showed very little offense,
and when some people saw it
they would sometimes say it offends.

All of the other #1's
use to smirk and call her names.
They never let poor Caro
in on their grand-slam winning ways.

But one future Grand Slam final eve
what if all the Tennis Gods come to her and say:
'Caro with your hopes so high,
you'll soon be lifting a slam championship trophy into the sky?'

Then all the #1's would love her
as they'd shout out with dubious glee.
'Caro the slam-winning Dane,
we always knew you'd go down in history!'"

At the end of our carol, Caroline stepped away from the door. With a somewhat uneasy look, she asked for the singers and searchers alike to please give her the floor. "First off, I want to thank you all for this precious night call. It's a might cold, and being out in this weather probably isn't good for you all." As Carl offered me a piece of his dinner's bloody stump, we both noticed LPT glancing off into the distance, past the hill's snowy hump. "I don't have time to speak to you for long," the Dane said, "but, again, I want to thank Anna and her friends for such a lovely -- and inspiring -- song."

As Carl and I waited impatiently for Caro to stop talking and allow us to get away from this joint, we both noticed that it was a whispering Diane and QC who were now starting to point. "No more nonsense," said the Dane, "so let me explain. You see, about my 'roo. The fact is that I was just kidding with all of you. There never actually was a 'roo, but please don't be mad. I mean, it's not like I meant to do anything bad. As for my "mystery coach," well, that's another story probably better left untold, and perhaps one day I will tell it, before I get old. But, for now, I''ll be focused on what's right and true, and that's bringing home a slam trophy to celebrate and share with all of you."

Caroline smiled brightly, and we might normally have been charmed. But, just then, toward the hillside, we all looked with anything but alarm. There, soaring high, and with a shout of a few "ho-hooty-hoos!," was Serena Claus riding a sleigh manned by a whole team of REAL 'roos. With a wink of her eye and a twist of her head, all the searchers and carolers gathered outside the Dane's home knew we had nothing to dread. As we all ignored Caroline, and had nothing more to ask, Serena was also silent as she went on with her task. Emptying a bag-full of fliers from her perch high above, she then cackled with glee while she clapped her hands, clad in white gloves.

The Dane was the first to catch one of Serena Claus' falling notes, and as she read it I could see on her face the gravity of the unspoken "warning" its words did connote. A suddenly-dizzy Caroline nearly stumbled over her porch's wicker chair, but caught herself and worriedly ran her fingers through her flowing blond hair. She paused, just for a moment, and I thought I recognized a new look of determination on her face. But, truthfully, it was hard to tell, as I was distracted by everyone oohing-and-ahhing as Serena flew away into the distance with her usual brisk pace.

With a gleam in her eye not unlike in her heyday, Serena Claus sat up straight in the seat of her flashy gold sleigh. Waving a finger to everyone this, that and those, she subtly gave a nod to her team, and into the heavens she and her flying 'roos rose. But I heard her exclaim, 'ere she drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas, ho-ho-ho! Off to Melbourne, and Paris, and London, and New York we go!"

Caroline quietly went back inside, as her usually-chipper mood resembled one she'd take to a wake. I suppose tomorrow a few of the time-wasting searchers will knock on her door, offering her solace and a tasty fruitcake. And so, as it was, everyone walked back to where they'd first started, both a little poorer AND richer for the experience of having fallen for Anna's guilt trip that to not help would be, well, "cold-hearted." Carla, LPT and Diane were the first to disband from our bunch, having come up with a plan to assure a Christmas Day free of QC throwing a punch. Offering to treat their Serbian friend to some spiked nog, they hoped that by morning she no longer want to throttle Ricardo, or as she called him, "that cheating dog."

We said our goodbyes and jokingly lamented our woes, exchanged a few hugs, and talked about how cold were our toes. Finally, all that were left were Anna, Carl and me. As she should have, she apologized for having played dirty to overturn this Backspinner's initial instinct to flee. Though I never really wanted to play, I shrugged it off, and said "it's okay, it turned out to be a nice ending to a very cold day." Try as I might, though, I'm sure I'll never say "no," when Citizen Anna comes calling again, asking to go with her to or fro'. As I reached my front door, I could still feel the heavy bad breath of Carl on my neck, back and knee. I shuddered. After being friendly all night, was this where he'd take his chance to finally squish me?

But he didn't.

For the first time that I can ever recall, Carl smiled at me, seemingly without a wicked thought in his heart about how he desired to rip me part from part. "Carl not hate you," he said, "at least for tonight. But once Christmas over, Carl no longer care. Cross my path, you be sorry... Carl have no reason to not pummel with flair." With that he was off, lumbering away like a Yeti in the snow. Somehow, I doubted he'd ever admit to not hating me -- even for second -- though.

But I didn't care, I just wanted to sleep. I'd made it home in one piece, able to once again pray to the Tennis Gods my soul to keep. Picking Caroline's brain about how she'll handle Serena Claus' "gentle reminder?" Our conversation could wait for another day... that is, much like her imaginary "roo," if I can find her. The one thing that I knew for sure on this eve was that, 'roo or no 'roo, around Caroline an interesting story would continue to weave.

But, at this moment, I just wanted to shut it all out. I didn't really care much about whether anything the Dane had said could be a sham. It was cold. I was sleepy. And, with that, my door I did slam.

Happy Holidays from everyone at Backspin (even Carl)

Backspins of Note:
'Twas the Backspin Before Christmas (2010)
Backspin What If?: The Search for "Citizen Anna" (2010)
Carl's most recent "Bare Bones Backspin" appearance (2011)

* - Grand Slam Master List

Starting Next Week:
* - The Intriguing 100 (region-by-region, with '12 first-timer predictions)
* - Prediction Blowout (with Top 10 picks, early slam forecasts, & ATP predictions)
* - 2012 Week 1 Picks & AO Power Rankings


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a tale. A merry X-mas and a happy New Year to you all at Backspin from your Nordic outpost. No sign of snow for X-mas - well it's ok.

Mon Dec 19, 06:05:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

You're killing me...I had to keep wiping tears from eyes, I was laughing so hard. Impossible to pick a favorite, but "Maria Got Run Over By a Czech" might have to go to the top of the list. The part about Jovanovski is wickedly funny, too. Oh, all of it is!

I can't believe it's come to this--that I'm hanging with Carl. And Justine :)

But now for my one question: Who gave Citizen Anna my phone number?.......

This made my day--probably my week. Thanks!

Mon Dec 19, 06:43:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...


Happy holidays (and maybe Caro will get you a present by the end of next year... maybe, if everything falls just right).

Thus, the metaphorical search for "Caroline's 'roo" will continue in 2012 (in other words, don't think this will be the last time that little make-believe critter is mentioned in these parts). ;)


Thanks! I know I "believe in Petra." I'm thinking you do, too. :D

Sneaky's loss was your (and our) gain. Patty doesn't know what she missed. :)

Come now, you know that Citizen Anna knows all (or has access to it). Hmmm, maybe she knew about the 'roo all along, too, and just wanted to show Carl and me that we could get along... if only for one night. Although I'm not sure the risk (to my bones) was worth the potential reward.

Tue Dec 20, 12:21:00 PM EST  

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