Squash Fiscal Year

Today is the end of the fiscal year for many organizations, including US Squash, and it has made me take stock of this past season.

Let’s do the metrics:
—I played in two singles tournaments and three doubles tournaments.
—I played league in both sports, a singles league in the fall and a vets doubles league (40+) in the fall and a Super B doubles league in the winter.
—I played in my club’s championships in both singles and doubles.
—I played in two long singles & doubles invitational weekends, the Lapham-Grant and the Jesters.
—I attended eight tournaments, some for a few hours and some like the U.S. Open for ten days.
—Oh, and I played a lot of pickup matches just for fun.

(I also played three court tennis and two racquets tournaments, multiple club championships in both and attended a half dozen other tennis or racquets events, and even slipped in some paddle tennis, but that is my obscure winter sports accounting.)

It doesn’t seem that much in cold hard figures, especially when spread over the course of twelve months. I know a lot of people who play more friendly matches, more tournaments, more leagues. Yet when you are in the middle of it, calendaring out the next couple of weeks with your partner, your spouse, it seems like a lot.

Finding the right balance is always a struggle. “Next to love,” said John Wooden, “balance is the most important thing.”

Hunting for Television

The 2014 World Cup is now on. I am watching it on my computer; my wife is watching it in another room on our television. It is so easy.

Ever since living in West Germany in 1974, I’ve followed the World Cup. Back in the States in the 1970s and 80s, it was always a tremendous struggle to actually catch a glimpse of a match on television. Hunting for channels, snowy reception and no-English commentary. Univision, the Spanish-language station, was the only choice; “goallllllllllllllllll” was just about all I understood.

In 1990 I was in Berkeley and grabbed a few games on TNT and Univision. In 1994 I was in Cape Town and rented a very heavy old television for a month (somehow you could do that back then) and stayed up late at night watching matches back home. In New York in 1998 without a television in my apartment, I caught games at bars and at my first outdoor screen, set up in Bryant Park near the New York Public Library. In 2002 in upstate New York and still without a TV, I caught games at a cafe at my local train station, sometimes getting the nightwatchman to let me in to watch the 4:30am games. I also got up at 2:30 in the morning at my in-laws house in Boston and caught the famous U.S. v. Mexico game on a tiny TV in their kitchen; while everyone else slept, I silently fist-pumped and hopped about after that first goal.

Then the Internet changed everything. I could catch games right on my computer. Unbelievable. You forget how hard it was.

I think about squash, how we’ve so rarely had the chance to watch tournaments, live or even replay. Today I was writing about the 2004 U.S. Open, just a decade ago and back then we had just the semis and finals filmed and even then it was shown weeks later in a ninety-minute package and only on the Tennis Channel. Nowadays, SquashTV has all but obliterated our memory of these earlier days when you didn’t have live squash from around the world at your fingertips.

And every four years, on this first great day when the tournament begins anew, I think about how good things are now.

Henri Salaun Dies

Henri Raoul Marie Salaun died on Wednesday 4 June at the age of eighty-eight. He fell down the stairs at his home in Needham and never recovered. He was one of the legends of squash and one of the last links to pre-Second World War squash in America.

Sixty years ago Salaun won the 1954 U.S. Open, beating Hashim Khan in the final.  Along with Diehl Mateer, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in February 1958, the only time a squash player has graced an SI cover; Salaun would have also been on the cover of Life after the U.S. Open in 1954, but he ended up beating Hashim in the finals and Life decided to bury the story in the back of the magazine.

With amazing retrieving skills, Salaun won four U.S. national singles titles. He lost in the finals a further five times, including the 1951 finals which ended on a fifth-game, 14-14 double championship point.  (He also won six Canadian national singles titles, the most anyone did until Jonathon Power came along.)

Salaun was one of the greatest masters players in history, winning twenty-three age-group U.S. national titles in hardball: six veterans (40+), five 50+, four 60+, four 65+ and four 70+. In 2000 Salaun was a part of the inaugural class of inductees into the U.S. Squash  Hall of Fame.

Outside of Gaultier, he might be the top French-born player ever—at age fourteen he had to flee Brittany. He landed up in Boston. When I did a profile on Salaun in 1997 for Squash News, I tracked down his first squash coach, Henry Poor, who had introduced Salaun to the game at Deerfield. Salaun asked Poor if they could play alone for a week to get started. They did and after a second week of matches, Salaun was number one on the team.

He stayed in the game the rest of his life. He played at Wesleyan. He played at the University Club of Boston, winning the club championship eighteen straight years. Last month he attended the Massachusetts SRA’s annual dinner at the U Club. He won more than 250 squash tournaments in his seventy-year career (he also was a great tennis player and even played at Wimbledon during the Second World War in an armed-services tournament). Five foot six, he succeeded through guile and hard work rather than pure strength.

He ran his own sporting goods business, working until the last days of his life.

Diehl Mateer, Squash,