This article is re-printed in advance from the upcoming Hollow Rock Racquet and Swim Club Newsletter from its soon-to-be cancelled occasional Member Spotlight series.
THIS MONTH'S "MEMBER SPOTLIGHT' shines its unforgiving glow on the large figure of one Tom Bordeaux. This is a subject that begs to be written about -- literally.
During an ecologically correct car-pooled ride back from a USTA 7.5 combo league tennis match, following the thorough beat-down we had administered, yet again, to the fine senior gentlemen of the Governor's Club, somehow the conversation moved to my newspaper column. Our driver and teammate, Tom Bordeaux, asked, "What do you write about?" My answer was my standard response, "Whatever I want to, mostly stupid stuff."
Then I added, "I could write about you, Tom." His response was something along the lines of: "Good, go ahead and do that."
Here is it is: Mr. J. Tom Bordeaux, Jr. in the Member Spotlight.
When I think "State graduate," I think Tom Bordeaux. He's a walking NC State stereotype. He has State logo on his hardhat.
He's a kind of novelty at Hollow Rock Racquet and Swim Club where UNC and Duke grads abound. He may be the result of our club's diversity policy; I don't know. During even a brief introductory conversation, you will quickly recognize that Tom is neither a Duke nor Carolina alum -- he does something useful for a living.
State grads, you see, can't think abstractly like we liberally and elitely educated folk can. If you don't include various types and sub-types of surgeons (which comprise approximately 57% of all adult Hollow Rock members), I'm not sure anybody with a Duke or UNC degree can operate even a bottle opener -- with the clear exception, of course, of elaborate de-corking devices used on Beaujolais nouveau. Tom, on the other hand, builds big buildings and stuff like that.
Tom also plays tennis. He has played on teams I played on and on teams I played against. I'd rather have him on my side of the net than on the other. (But, please note, both can be quite dangerous.) Every ball Tom hits is a rocket. Subtlety is not his specialty.
You know that TV commercial where tennis star Andy Roddick supposedly hits a serve so hard it burrows into the clay court? That, of course, was faked; Roddick never did that. They used a video of one of Tom's overheads.
Tom has a lovely wife Karen who also plays tennis. Once I played with Tom against Karen and another male. This was not fair -- Karen is clearly better than I am. Inspired by my partner Tom's slugging style at one point I clobbered, inadvertently, I'm sure, an overhead right into Karen's stomach. As you may know if you play mixed doubles, for some reason, women don't like this. Their husbands, generally, like it even less.
I was ready for Tom to kill me with his bare hands, or perhaps his racquet, whichever came first. In an immediate attempt to pre-empt a bloody demise, I began to apologize to Karen. Tom said, "Stop!" Then, with a glare in his eye, he said, "If you get chance to do it again, do it! She would." Before the match was over I realized the wisdom and perspicuity of his words.
Following evening matches at Hollow Rock, the men usually sit around and drink dollar beers. Not too many, of course. We talk about matters of substance and import. Once, after making an observation of depth and acuity on some concern of essential value to the fate of the world, Tom had this observation. "Gaddy, you're full of . . ." finishing the sentence with a noun common in popular usage referencing an agricultural by-product that they study apparently at great length and in great depth at the North Carolina State University.
A simple response from me would have been, "Yes." Instead, I said, "How do you mean that?" This, unfortunately, ended the conversation.
Tom's degree at State College is in civil engineering so I'm hoping that he will still be civil after he reads this.
AUTHOR'S DISCLAIMER (under the advice of the author's spouse and legal counsel): Nothing in the above should be construed to be a general diminishment of the North Carolina State University (hereafter and heretofore referred to as "State College"), or taken to unnecessarily derogate its current or former students, faculty, staff, alumni or its teams' fans.
Gary D. Gaddy, who before his untimely demise held a graduate degree from UNC, really did play on a Hollow Rock team with Mr. Bordeaux, who is, according to a spokesman with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, currently a "person of interest."
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday November 1, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy