January 23, 1993-February 28, 2019
Chris was a character. He knew it, he loved it, and he embraced it. I enjoy characters- especially those who enjoy the fact that they are different, and that is why I loved Chris. I met Chris when he participated in CYA Travel Tennis, and he played on the Chantilly high school tennis team that I coached. He eventually joined the CIT tennis teaching staff, and was an integral part of the staff for many years.
Chris wasn’t perfect. And thank God he wasn’t. How uninteresting he would’ve been. He admitted he was a bit of a slacker. Academics came way too easy to him. And he did a lot of things “To Get By”. More on that in a minute.
Chris was brilliant. I realize that he thought in so many deeper levels then I can comprehend. And I learned that he could comprehend things from so many different perspectives. For example, he completely understood my rationale behind my tennis teaching philosophy. However, he totally rejected it in his personal tennis game. He understood the percentages were completely against him when he chose how hard or what target to choose. He chose them anyway, regardless of how many consecutive losses he would accumulate.
We never got angry with each other over his rejection of how I thought you should play the game of tennis. In fact, I do not remember a cross word ever exchanged between us.
He always agreed that I was right. He just chose to do it differently. I accepted that, and I learned to ignore him during most of our tennis practices. There were plenty of other players on the team that wanted to play the right way.
I was very blessed to be able to stay in contact with Chris during the last few months of his life. I took him to the US Open Tennis Tournament in NYC this past August. He had never been. Between the drive up and back, and all day at the tournament, we were together about 20 hours non-stop that day. We were pretty much able to catch up with each others lives. When he got sick, I insisted that he would continue to give me updates. And he did. One of his last texts, which I received about two weeks ago, said, “A doctor asked me to describe myself in 3-4 words. I wanted to say GT kid or enigma, but I don’t think she would understand.” I replied: “Maybe not, but it describes you perfectly in my opinion.”
I could tell Chris was a “GT kid” soon after I met him. As an elementary Physical Education teacher, we have a GT center at our school. I am exposed to many “GT” kids, and also many pre GT kids, who I know will be classified as GT soon. My description of a GT kid is brilliant, creative, a different out-of-box thinker. Chris was all of that. Most GT kids I know also tend to me impractical. Chris was definitely that sometimes.
Chris was definitely an enigma. Even though Chris rejected my tennis philosophy, personally, when he started teaching for me, no one ever shared my teaching philosophy to students better than him.
When he went to college at UVA, I thought this is a “GDI” , for sure. He will never fall in line with a fraternity ever. Yep, you guessed it, he pledged and joined the “Asian” fraternity, as he called it, first semester on campus.
I have suggested to several of the “characters” who have come in to my life, that they should write a book entitled, “How I got by”. When I suggested that to Chris, he completely embraced it. For the next few years after that, it would not be unusual for Chris to begin a conversation, “Hey Coach, I got another story for that book.
Chris was passionate about the Capitals, and the English Premier Soccer League. I’m not a fan of either. That would never stop him from sharing every little detail about them when he saw me. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t interested. In fact, I would try to come up with one little smidgen of a fact about either the Caps or the Premier league, just to be amused when he would get on a soapbox and ramble about them. That was Chris.
He would also become passionate about pro tennis players. Usually because they hit every ball as hard as they could, just like Chris. The lastest was Jelena Ostapenko. When we went to the US Open last August, we went to the practice court, and watched her practice for about an hour! And the last time I saw Chris about a month ago, it was Julia Georges, a cute young German tennis player, who , yes, hits every ball as hard as she can.
I believe Chris and I shared a very similar dry sense of humor. I think that is why we bonded. We always got each other. We could always pick up on each other’s sarcasm.
I will finish with a story that I believe reflects how Chris “got me” more than almost anyone else.
I lived in Chicago for a year, and listened to a lot of Chicago Cub games back then. There was a broadcaster at the time named Harry Caray. His classic , memorable line, whenever the Cubs were victorious was, “Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Cubs Win.” For some reason that stuck with me. For years and years, whenever I would play tennis games in my clinics and camps, when one team won, I would call out, “Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Cubs Win.” No one ever asked me to explain it. They just looked at me weird. However, on November 3, 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the world series for the first time since 1908. Minutes after they won the final game, I got a text from Chris saying, “This time the Cubs really did win.”
Chris got me.