And a Happy Friday to all! Still pumped up from last night’s Democratic debate, held a few miles from my apartment here in NYC, and trying to find reasons to think my New York Rangers can actually win this playoff series; so far I’m coming up empty. Also can’t believe the most selfish player in NBA history, Kobe Bryant, took FIFTY shots in his career finale Wednesday night. FIFTY shots is insane, but it seems fully appropriate for the me-first ball-hog to finish like that. I wasn’t sure what made me sicker Wednesday night, the sycophantic love the media showed Kobe, or the Rangers’ performance.
OK, on with the show. First up on Good News Friday, a story I can’t believe that I’d not heard of, nor can I believe it’s real.
But it is: A 69-year-old woman is legitimately a pro tennis player. Meet Gail Falkenberg, one year shy of being a septuagenarian, who on Monday played 19-year-old Taylor Townsend at a very minor-league women’s tournament in Alabama.
I love the lede to this Wall Street Journal story, by the excellent Tom Perrotta, about her:
Gail Falkenberg is a pro tennis player with big dreams. She also serves underhand from time to time. And hits a lot of sidespin drop shots. She can’t hit the ball very hard, or run very fast. Her knees are shaky, at best. She doesn’t have a coach, a personal trainer, a dietician or an agent. Falkenberg is 69 years old. The gap between her and, say, Serena Williams is roughly equivalent to the distance from Earth to the Andromeda Galaxy. Perhaps farther. She’s OK with that.
How is this possible, you might ask, that a 69-year-old could be a pro player? Simple. Last year at the U.S. Open national playoffs, where anyone can compete for a spot in the U.S. Open, Falkenberg, who won a match at the 1988 Aussie Open qualifying and also once played Jennifer Capriati, Falkenberg won a match that gave her 12 ranking points, enough to make her the 329th-ranked American woman on the USTA’s open ranking system. Meaning she’s eligible to play at low-level events.
She didn’t beat Townsend, considered a future star, and in fact only won 12 points off the player 50 years (50!) younger. But earlier in the week she beat a 22-year-old.
“I enjoy being around the younger generation,” she said. “And my game gives the kids more trouble than the older players, believe it or not.”
You go, Gail Falkenberg.
**Next up, suddenly the lead singer of the metal band Disturbed, David Draiman, is popping up everywhere in my life. Last week I wrote about his incredible cover version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic “The Sounds of Silence,” and this week he did something else that I’m sure thousands of performers have wanted to: He called out a fan for texting throughout his whole concert.
Language is NSFW, but check this out. Good for him, you’re at a freaking concert, put the phone away and enjoy the show. I love it when Draiman says “what could be going on in your world that’s so important at this moment?”
**And finally today, I haven’t posted a Steve Hartman “CBS Sunday Morning story in a little while, but this one is too good not to post. It’s about a married couple named Sonya Vallabh and her husband Eric; five years ago Sonya was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease they knew nothing about, and that had no cure.
So like most people would do, they decided to do some research about it. What nobody else in the world would do, they’ve literally changed their lives in search for a cure, becoming well-respected scientists in the field and speaking at medical conferences.
These two people knew nothing about this field, and now they’re experts, so determined to find a cure.
So cool to see this kind of passion, and love.