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Around the Bluhmin’ Town


Judy Bluhm

Serena Williams was supposed to win the Grand Slam. One of the most accomplished women’s tennis players in history, she stepped onto the court to quickly “put away” a little known Italian player named Roberta Vinci, who didn’t stand a chance against the mighty Serena. Funny how things can change so quickly. But then again, life is like that.

Lots of people have commented on the “upset” of the decade. Fans blamed Serena’s boyfriend, a rapper named Drake, while others wondered if she was ill. Her coach said her “mind worked against her” and she said she was stunned at how her game “fell apart.” Hey, sometimes we just have an off day. And sometimes a very “ordinary” person does extraordinary things.

This is not a story of the hare and the tortoise, where an over-confident Williams decided to party the night before the match-up and then snooze through to victory. This is one of the most disciplined athletes on the planet, so her usual routine of concentration, preparedness and practice were in full swing. And even though her “swing” failed her, she was ready to conquer. Many thought Williams was destined to win. The champagne was chilled and Grand Slam history was going to be made again.

No one is a champion without tasting defeat. And no underdog takes the trophy without doing more than they had ever dreamed possible. When Vinci took the court to face off Williams, Vinci was standing in front of an idol – a celebrity – a Goliath in the world of tennis. Yet, somewhere along the way, Williams began to lose her confidence and her game fell apart. Later, Vinci was asked if there was a moment during the game that she felt that she would beat Williams. “Never. But I had lots of moments when I just kept trying to be my best,” was her humble answer.

We, the ordinary, can also have those “moments” when we capture that “I will keep trying” attitude. Today a kid will ace a math test, a child will master throwing a ball, an adult will nail the job interview, and people everywhere will plan, try and achieve that wonderful, joyful, high-five “moment” when all efforts bring one incredible result.

We love the underdogs! It makes us, even if we are the weak, feeble, timid, out of shape, and not-so-talented, have high hopes of achieving greatness. It is that thrill of hearing about the 86-year-old woman who hits the hole-in-one on the golf course that makes us cheer. We love to hear about the Susan Boyles of the world, an unpolished 47-year old Scottish woman who performed on Britain’s Got Talent in front of the ruthless judge Simon Cowell, turning his smirks to a smile of disbelief. Over 64 million people have viewed that inspiring video clip! And one amazing audition made her a star.

Let’s not forget about an autistic teenage boy named Jason McElwain from Rochester High School, who was the towel boy for the basketball team. The coach put him on the roster of the last game of the season, and gave him the opportunity to play on the court for the first time. No one expected much. But McElwain scored a staggering twenty points in three minutes of play! The surprise hero sank six three-pointers and an additional shot. Although it wasn’t enough to get his team to win the game, he won the hearts of every player and fan. The crowd went wild. That day, a young boy felt victory for the first time in his life.

The underdogs come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Remember Doris “Granny D” Haddock? An 88-year- old widow who had never held political office, she decided to take on the political system by walking across the whole of the continent of the United States, going door to door to advocate for campaign finance reform. After walking for two years, she decided to run for a New Hampshire U.S. Senate Seat. And although she didn’t win, she captured the imagination and admiration of millions (see the HBO film, Run Granny Run). Yes, we love those who keep trying, achieving the nearly impossible, against all odds.

Getting back to tennis, the upset at the U.S. Open is still sending shock waves around the sports world. But most of know what really happened. It was life played out in front of us that day. Defeat, victory, unscripted outcomes, faltering giants, rising stars, a “what just happened” ending and a reminder that things don’t always go as planned. So take the racket, hit the ball, sing a song, shoot the hoop, swing the club, go the distance and never give up because “greatness” comes at us – one incredible moment at a time.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at