Every year some organization selects the Teacher of the Year in America, and the winner troops to the White House to pose with the President. It always makes an AP wirephoto. If the winner is a woman, she is pinned with an orchid corsage. If the winner is a man, his wife gets the orchid.
On the other hand, the Coach of the Year is the man with the free car from Midtown Olds who went 9-1 and knows how to recruit blue-chippers. When we think of coaches, we think of martinets or of chisel-jawed men with clipboards or of tanned blond pros in pastels, who will, for $20 or so, agree to be separated from the knowledge that you must keep your head down and follow through. Coaches are not necessarily more athletic than teachers. In fact, coaches are just teachers with enormous egos and funny clothes.
It does not matter what sport. In the case of Vic Braden, it is tennis, but it could just as well have been basketball, which is still his favorite game, or it could have been any other, for coaching is a vocation if you want to teach and are not just after a bid to the Peach Bowl. Braden thrives, as real teachers do, not on blue-chippers, but on wet puppy dogs. When a well-coordinated student smacks a classic shot, he nods acknowledgment, due respect. Dealer hits on 16, sticks on 17. When a dish rag of an athlete manages for the first time somehow to get the racket on the ball sufficiently to direct it—a dying quail—over the net, Braden glows. There is real joy to the man. He laughs and cheers and exhibits the warm sense of accomplishment that men with attaché cases never find searching clients' eyes over the tops of menus at expense-account lunches.
Many people endorse Braden as the best tennis coach in the country. When he gave private lessons, he was booked up to 2½ years in advance. The Association of Tennis Professionals held its first annual honors banquet last fall, and the Children's Tennis Award, for contribution to youth, went to Braden. His Saturday mornings were—and still are—set aside for teaching kids free. For a time, at his own expense, Braden worked with blind children, teaching them to hit tennis balls by calling out code numbers as a clue to where the ball was headed. It was a fanciful exercise. A blind person could never play tennis seriously as, say, he might bowl. "Yes," says Braden, "but can you imagine the thrill, the sense of achievement, a blind child would get from hitting a moving target?" It was very selfish of him, really. He would get goose bumps every time a sightless kid succeeded. It really conveys the wrong impression to say that Braden is the best tennis coach. But it would be fitting one year to pin a corsage on Mrs. Braden and have her husband meet the President.
May 9, 1976
One can best understand Vic Braden by recognizing where he stands. He is one step ahead of his expectations, but one step behind his goals—a happy dreamer, of which there are too few left in America. A chubby imp, ingenuous and utterly devoted, his altruism would bore many people and put them off—for 20 years now disbelievers have regularly exclaimed, "You must be phony"—were it not that he is so humorous. Braden is very nearly a stand-up comedian, suggesting some kind of bizarre combination of Norman Vincent Peale and Rodney Dangerfield.
He is utterly determined to revolutionize the game of tennis. And, given the resources—he has been broke all his life—he thinks this could be easily accomplished. He says tennis is in the Stone Age. "If we had the proper bio-mechanical teaching devices right now," he says, "and I don't mean anything extraordinary—all they would really require would be some study and some money—then you could give me eight good athletes, age 13, I don't mean great athletes, just the equivalent to what's around now in tennis, and five years from now, when those kids are 18, I will have all eight in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon."
Wait a minute now. Just your eight? Five years from now, guys like Connors and Borg will still be kids; Vilas and Amritraj, Tanner, guys like that would be at the height of their powers. Not one of those would get into the quarterfinals against your eight teen-agers? "No contest," Braden replies, and he is not being a braggart, merely visionary.
The instrument with which Braden is going to overhaul tennis is something known as The National Foundation For Tennis Research. Its mailing address is: The Vic Braden Tennis College, Coto de Caza, in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., which is a gorgeous $400,000 campus. The National Foundation For Tennis Research is, on the other hand, pretty much a figment of the imagination. It has always been Braden's No. 1 dream, but it exists mostly on paper, and that only because a businessman once got his lawyer to draw up the incorporation papers as a favor for Braden. They had been involved in a tennis deal that fell through. "You're not a tennis pro, you're a missionary," the businessman said in exasperation. "What do you really want?"
"I want The National Foundation For Tennis Research," Braden said.
"What the hell kind of a deal is that?" the man asked.
Braden started to tell him, beginning with the part about it being nonprofit.
"Never mind," the businessman said, "I'll have my lawyer draw up the papers." Weeks later the lawyer called up Braden and said he needed to know who the organization's officers were if he was going to file the papers. Well, of course, there weren't any officers, no one else in the world being conversant with The National Foundation For Tennis Research, or the NFFTR as it would be called, if anybody knew what it was. So, Braden named himself president and his three brothers the other officers. Somewhere in Sacramento, the NFFTR is on file with the four Braden brothers listed as officers. Braden worries that one day the IRS is going to run across it and figure it for some phony tax dodge.
This would be a mistake. The trouble with The National Foundation For Tennis Research is that Braden can never find anybody but himself to put money into it, and, as has been revealed earlier, he never has any money. "I've always had to save up to get weighed," he says. This does not stop him from searching doggedly for angels, the way most of us hunt for parking spaces. He is undaunted and operates pretty much on the theory that even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then. If you fancy yourself an acorn, drop Vic a note and he'll get right back to you.
But this is not fair to the NFFTR, for Braden genuinely believes that it can play a crucial role in the development and improvement of virtually every aspect of the sport. For one, he believes that the highest level of play can be advanced up to 1,000%—that is, that Arthur Ashe and Chris Evert are barely one-tenth as proficient as champions of the near future could be. "I think someday soon that almost anybody will be able to learn perfect strokes in 30 days," he says casually.
Supplementary to the matter of execution on the court are his interests in the medical and psychological aspects of tennis and in the position that the game has in our culture. At his college, he has held seminars for doctors and municipal planners. These diverse interests—medicine and sociology—come naturally from Braden's diverse experience. He is a graduate psychologist on the one hand, but on the other he is the product of an indigent Depression family who came to tennis only through the wildest of happenstance; the social implications of the game interest him as much as its sudden mass appeal. "We are interesting people in a game which there will be no place to play—not enough courts," he says. "It scares me to death that they're trying to outprice the game, going back just to the rich, the way it was before the boom."
Braden is attracted to tennis research because he will not accept no or yes for an answer unless it can be proved. "We know nothing about tennis," he says. "Nothing. For example: everybody says the overhead is the hardest stroke to hit. We accept that. I'd like to know. It is amazing how little we know about this game of tennis."
Or, actually, what he said was: "It is a...MA...zinnng how little we know about this game of ten...NIS." As Braden does not think like most people, neither does he talk like them. When he warms to a subject, which he usually does, and especially when he goes into his classroom style, his delivery is every bit as distinctive as that of any Borscht-circuit star with the first name of Joey. Final consonants go on sometimes at length, and many words of two syllables or more are divided into separate entities, one of which is arbitrarily emphasized. It's a little bit what it must have been like in an adult education class in New York 75 years ago. It's a...MA...zinnng. Also CAT...chinnng, and not only the otherrr coaches but pretty soon also the din...KERS at The Vic Braden Tennis College are all talking this strange dialect to...GETH...therrr.
Even without a viable NFFTR, The Vic Braden Tennis College is a pretty a...MA...zinnng place. Tucked away in the hills, inland from Laguna Beach, about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, it is generally considered to be the best teaching facility in creation. There is the usual array of ball machines and TV cameras for video replay, but the Braden touch is evident in special teaching courts, individual instruction lanes (simulated courts, really) and sophisticated classroom equipment. Each day begins with a Braden lec...TURE, which is pretty much worth the admission price of $200 for five days of instruction (excluding room and board) all by itself. Fifty-four students can be enrolled at a time, and the college is often filled for months at a stretch.
The boom in tennis camps continues. World Tennis magazine lists 74 full-scale adult operations in its 1976 guide, and there are countless children's camps specializing in tennis. Some, like John Gardiner's ranches, which were among the forerunners in the field, are plush resorts; others are spare school dormitories turned into National Guard-style bivouacs; some feature personalities—at the Laver-Emerson camps much is made of the fact that not only will Rocket or Emmo be there to teach, but also to hoist a few beers with you. However, while tennis camps are not all work and no play, they all have an air of purpose—even aggression—to them. When golfers go away for a week, they resemble conventioneers off on a toot. Tennis players are more like pilgrims on retreat. At the social level, the primary difference between golfers and tennis players has always been that golf is a betting game, whereas tennis is so competitively intense that the winning score is sufficient unto itself. This is why there are many tennis camps, but very few golf camps. "The ten...NIS places that folded," Braden says, "are the ones that put a lot of mon...EY into extra bars and a dance floor."
At his college, the pupils are pretty much left to their own devices once instruction is over for the day. Braden, for all his flap-jaw and pizzazz, is a very private little fellow, and he doesn't believe in herding his charges about, arranging forced get-togethers and making everybody get along with everybody else. Nobody at The Vic Braden Tennis College wears a name tag.
Braden sets the tone for the camp every morning with his classroom discourse, which is replete with imitations of various types of players and irreverent observations on the game. Sample: "At one time I studdd...IED alll the top pla...YERS. Their IQs ranged from 88 to 140. Sorrr...EE, I know you'd like to think you're too smarttt for the game. Ten...NIS is largely a matter of muscle memory, of hitting a targett under stressss. Ten...NIS is a hu...MIL...i...a...tinng game. Nearly everything in ten...NIS that's natural is wrong, so we're see...KING for u...NIQUE fee...LINGS that are not comfortable. You'd be a...MAZED, for example, how many pee...PULL are really telling a pro: 'Here's 20 bucks, but don't horse around with my strokesss.' "
And moving right along, but without the inflections...."You see, everybody in tennis just wants to beat one other person, somebody who beats you 6-3, 6-3 every Saturday. Well, when you leave here, if you do what we say, you will go back home and get beat 6-1, 6-1 because you will be very uncomfortable. Most of you will then go back to what you were doing before so that you will only get beat 6-3, 6-3 every week for the rest of your lives.
"We're just interested in stroke production. People will ask: metal or wood? Who cares? They both go far beyond your ability to play the game. The real trouble is the toad at the end of the grip.
"My definition of tennis, borrowed from Jack Kramer, is that it is a game where you give other people a chance to lose to you. We all hate the dinker, but he understands this best, and at every level of tennis right up to Harold Solomon near the top, the dinker will win. Like it or not, this is because he: 1) utilizes a higher intellectual principle than you, 2) has a higher frustration-tolerance threshold, and 3) has a longer concentration span.
"Unless you want to be a dinker yourself, you must come to the net, and sometimes you will get a fuzz sandwich up there. When do I come to the net, you ask? You want to come in on the next short ball. Which ball will be short? The next one. How do I know? Because the reason you're playing this guy is because he hits short balls. If he didn't he could play somebody good." And so on.
Interspersed among these routines is a great deal of original technical material about the sport. For example, Braden has stop-action films showing that a tennis ball, which most people assume pops off the racket strings, actually stays on the strings for up to six inches and possibly more of the swing. "Compared to most sports, tennis has percentages on nothing," he says. "We don't know what we're doing out there. Top spin has been the greatest new emphasis in tennis, but the players themselves don't know how to hit top spin. Talk to them, they'll tell you they hit over the ball. All the TV experts say the same thing. But we're just dealing with physical laws, and if you hit over the ball you are not only going to hit the ball into the net or onto your foot, but you are also going to get tennis elbow."
The Public Broadcasting Service network has given Braden a showcase on some of its tennis telecasts (especially since so far he has paid to make his own films), but the commercial networks "think I'm a joke," Braden says, and one tennis professional actually wrote to the California state attorney's office demanding that Braden be prosecuted for perpetrating a fraud upon the public.
"It's all just a matter of deductive reasoning," he says. "We haven't yet begun to study the physical properties of tennis, the laws. Once we do, once I get the money for the Tennis Research Foundation, then it is a simple matter of making the right biomechanical devices and teaching perfect strokes. You're going to see immaculate serves—serves that go in every time. You're going to see perfect strokes. I can see a day fairly soon when the guy at the net can hope to return a passing shot only by guessing. I mean that the player hitting the ground stroke can hit it perfectly every time, exactly where he wants to, so the player at the net must move somewhere, must guess, or he has no chance at all.
"The maximum cross-court passing shot is 65'9". Hit it 65'10": out. You play a guy hits it 61, 61 regularly, that is a lethal player, but soon we will have lots of players who can hit it close to 65'9" every time. It's a little scary how undeveloped we are now at this game. In just a few years, maybe as little as three or four, coaching is going to bear no resemblance to what it is now."
Braden may sound like some crazed science-fiction doctor ready to turn out a mutant master race, but even granting him some hyperbole, he has a lot of existing evidence on his side. To begin with, until now, few of the best athletes in the U.S. have taken up tennis, and, as often as not, the tennis coach has been the shop teacher moonlighting. It is also instructive to look at how the proficiency in other sports has markedly improved; basketball may provide the best case. Like tennis, it had a boom; until the end of World War II, basketball was confined mostly to barns and dance halls, and there was no organized pro game to attract the best prospects. At that time and even well into the 1950s, a good shooter was a player who could make one out of three shots. In a generation or less, that figure has been cut to one out of two, and the shots today are notably more difficult and taken against a defense that is granted more liberties.
In tennis it is generally accepted that only one of 10 points is won—the other 90% are lost. Tennis is a game where you give other people a chance to lose to you. Basketball was a center-jump game with a lot of dribbling; the best football teams punted on third down; until Babe Ruth, baseball players scratched out hits and eked out victories—there was no swinging from the heels. All that changed in those sports as they became prominent and attracted and inspired better athletes. So it certainly isn't illogical to anticipate the same of tennis. Go see Chris Evert with the foreknowledge that she is the end of an era. Given the improvement in basketball, it seems conservative to assume that, before long, 25% or even 35% of the points in tennis will be won.
To Braden, the major culprit in the development of perfect tennis strokes is the wrist. In selecting the wrist as villain, Braden, of course, is downright heretical, because the American sporting press has extolled the wrist only slightly less than the Hollywood press has venerated the bosom. Biceps were once our thing for men, but no longer. The wrist! The supple wrist made the jump shot that revolutionized basketball. The wristy snap pass—"Unitas sets, cocks once...."—is one of the primary images of modern football. And in baseball the slim wrist-hitter is the ideal, as exemplified by the lithe Hank Aaron, who flicks balls out of the park—a far cry from the potbellied Babe and his poleax swing. Wrists are the touchstone of athletic success, and every boy wants to have a good pair.
So Braden tells us to lock our wrists and never use them, except on the serve and overhead. He is at war with the wrist. In some of his own instructional photographs, he finds himself reverting to wristy strokes and complains, "The impulse is just so strong once it has been put in you." It is the wrist that stands at the pass, ready to stop Vic Braden and the NFFTR from teaching millions of toads how to hit perfect 65'9" shots.
A classic figure of modern American myth is the beautiful girl who suddenly discovers that she is beautiful. Usually this occurs when somebody takes off her eyeglasses or her hair tumbles down or some such thing. This happened to Braden—with regard to his brain. One day, as if the Wizard of Oz had handed him a diploma, he found out that he had a brain, and that revelation still thrills and warms him. Also, this happened, indirectly, because of tennis, and as a consequence he not only thinks about thinking all the time, but he feels a certain gratitude toward tennis. Unabashed, he says, "You meet more pee...PULL in ten...NIS more meaningfullll to your life."
Braden grew up in the factory town of Monroe, Mich., in a family poor but happy, seven kids, with a saintly mother and a selfless father who walked out of the Appalachian hills in order to obtain the privilege of laboring nights in a paper mill for 40 years so that his brood would have a marginal existence. Breakfast was bread and sugar, and the only real goal was a down payment on a car, which you might obtain if you were farsighted enough to quit school after the ninth grade so that you could squirrel away some money working on the railroad for the rest of your born days.
Vic, the eldest son, was a good athlete despite his short stature. Basketball was his favorite sport, but he played Legion baseball and quarterbacked the high school football team as well. Mornings after the games he would get up at five and go over to the stadium and search beneath the bleachers for coins that might have dropped out of spectators' pockets. Sometimes he could get four or six bits this way.
It is maddening to think that we are so utterly at the mercy of fate, but Braden believes that he and all his brothers would yet be enduring a life of manual labor in Monroe or someplace like it if he had not been caught hooking tennis balls that occasionally flew out of the municipal courts as he walked over to the football field. The kindly soul who pinched him said he wouldn't turn him in to the cops if he would try the game.
He did. Soon little Vic, age 12, concealing his sissy tennis playing from his football buddies, earned a trip to a country-club tournament in River Forest, Ill. where the mere presence of the servants so intimidated him that he was afraid to eat. He did well enough in the tournament, however, to be sent to another in Milwaukee, where he was put up in a hotel. He had no money and did not understand that he could sign for meals, so he survived by rising early and swiping produce off fruit wagons.
It is all very quaint, but what is important is that, for the first time, he met other young men who were talking casually about attending college. Almost from that moment Braden raised his aspirations, but so set was he in his belief that he and his family were ignorant lower class, that it was not until years later when he was at Kalamazoo College that he finally comprehended that intelligence was not necessarily a reflection of economic status. He can remember when this became clear to him, because he recalls vividly that a few days later he was standing in the middle of the street in Monroe, screaming at his younger brother Paul, who had dropped out of high school. What Braden was screaming was, "We're not dumb, Paul! I've learned. We're not dumb! We're not dumb!" In this bizarre confrontation they almost came to blows, but Paul went back to school, graduated cum laude from Michigan State, now has a Ph. D. and is with the Department of Commerce. Two younger brothers, also college graduates, are, like Vic, tennis pros.
A great many athletes say, "I owe it all to tennis" or to football or hockey or whatever, and no doubt they mean it sincerely; as they point out, it moved them up in the life-style standings. But Braden speaks of tennis in a dearer way, for its effect upon him was more profound than if it just obtained things for him. That he has never accumulated any resources—even today, he cannot get a mortgage to build a house at Coto de Caza, a place he is putting on the map—has never bothered him. He has remained so enchanted by the fact that he possesses a mind and did not have to spend his life working on a railroad. His lack of concern for material things helped grease the skids under his first marriage. No matter how bad off, he would go into his own pocket to finance something that intrigued him, like teaching blind kids. He makes a hefty salary now—indeed, he is probably the highest-paid tennis coach in the world, earning more than all but a handful of the playing pros—but as soon as he gets a little something together he buys a new camera lens for his second wife, Melody, an accomplished professional photographer.
To earn his degree at Kalamazoo, Braden literally lived in a supply closet at the stadium house for two years, undressing on a balcony after the lights went out. He graduated in debt, with 37¢ in his pocket, and became the assistant basketball coach at the University of Toledo. In his spare time he played in pro tennis tournaments as what is called an "opponent" in boxing. On the tour (or what passed as such), purses were slim, and the promoters only could afford a handful of name players. There were always half a dozen regular opponents—the fathers of Chris and Jeanne Evert and Nancy and Cliff Richey among them—who would be brought in "for a hundred bucks and a cheese sandwich," to play and, invariably, lose in the first round.
Braden was not a bad player, relatively. In 1953 he was even selected to be Big Bill Tilden's partner in the U.S. Pro Championships at Cleveland, but the old man died while packing to come to the event. What Braden specialized in was getting the ball back, so that the other guy would have every opportunity to make a winner 10% of the time. Bobby Riggs raised this dreary style to a high Warholian silk-screen art, and he was not pleased when he first encountered the unknown Braden and got a taste of his own medicine. Riggs finally prevailed, but not before Braden played him to a standstill for an hour or so, at last provoking Riggs to whine to no one in particular, "Who is this creep?"
Even now, age 46 and 25 pounds overweight, Braden can get it back. He can hit the hell out of the ball. His backhand is especially powerful. "I always wanted answers," he says. "When I was a kid, I hitchhiked into Detroit to see Don Budge play Riggs on tour. I wanted to learn how Budge hit his backhand. I took those little three-by-five cards and punched holes in them, so I could isolate different parts of the body. This was when I realized that Budge drew the power for that great backhand from his thighs. I'd never seen that stated anywhere else. Don probably didn't even know it himself.
"When I finally got to meet all the best players, I was amazed. They were the least knowledgeable of all. Everybody seemed to have different answers to the same questions. In my opinion, Kramer couldn't coach, but at least he could analyze the game better than anyone I ever saw. But even Jake could not tell you how to hit a shot. He did not know how he did it himself. It was just in the last year or so that I showed him that the palm turns in when you hit a serve. He wouldn't believe it until I showed him movies that Melody took which proved it."
From Toledo, Braden moved to California, taught sixth grade (applying, essentially, the same principles that he does to tennis instruction), obtained a graduate degree in psychology from L.A. State and UCLA and became a district school psychologist. He then joined Kramer's pro tour as the road front man. At one point it was Braden's job to follow Pancho Gonzales around and apologize to people he insulted. He also began to study the game more closely. Using a stopwatch, he found that, in two sets of play, only 6.4 minutes were spent in action. Kramer took this news under advisement. "Look, kid," he said, "I'll give you a little money to go bury that gem."
In the '60s Braden came back to the L.A. area to become the teaching pro at Kramer's club in Palos Verdes. Soon he was giving half-hour lessons from seven in the morning until 10 at night. People would fly in from as far away as Dallas for a weekly half hour. "No matter who he is with," says Kramer, "he is comfortable, and it is obvious he is interested in the student. Not just as a player, but as a person. People sense this, and they feel an obligation to pay him back by playing better."
Braden met Melody when he overheard her complaining how her racket was responsible for her errors. Now she doesn't say anything and locks a certain blank expression on her face when they are on the court together. "He would really bother me at first because every game had to be a lesson," she says. "Then one day I understood that Vic gets his enjoyment teaching people how to hit a tennis ball better."
It was this idiosyncrasy that frustrated him years before when he was giving private lessons. Just as he would start to get his point across, the half hour would be up, and another pupil, who had flown in from San Francisco, would be there, champing at the bit, ready for his 30-minute half hour. Braden had cadged all his own tennis knowledge from eavesdropping on lessons and studying pros in action, so he urged students to attend other lessons as spectators. Soon Braden's lessons were the best show in town. People would phone the club and find out what kind of a lesson he was putting on at 2:30. Then they would call up their friends: "Vic's teaching Joe Smith the half volley at 2:30." Sometimes there would be 30 or 40 toads sitting around watching Braden teach another toad.
Working with an audience, he began to hone his comic routines, but he still thought the situation ridiculous. How were you going to teach toads perfect strokes in 30 days if you couldn't even get on the same court with them? Disillusioned, he quit the club and went back to running a tour. A bunch of deals fell through. His wife left him.
Finally, Braden perfected his tennis-college concept, and the deal with Coto de Caza was agreed upon not long after he married Melody. She is the official photographer of The National Foundation For Tennis Research and his right-hand person. Braden has nine young pros who assist him on the courts and in the lanes, and he has a big tower for himself, ostensibly for overseeing. But he is not much of an overseeing guy. Already, people are telling him he should franchise Vic Braden Tennis Colleges all over the hemisphere, spot 'em around like so many Taco Bells. "No," Braden says, "I wouldn't put my name on a place where I couldn't be. Besides, I figure—how many steaks can you eat? Expand? We get a binomial expansion every time we're nice to one student.
"Four times a year we have a tennis academy here, teaching new pros. When they leave, I tell these guys, 'O.K., you've got a diploma, but that doesn't guarantee you can teach tennis.' All we're doing is reducing the possibilities that the guy teaching you is a jerk. Let me tell you, there's a lot of narcissism running around the courts: This is the way to hit because I say so, that's why. Everybody who begins tennis lessons should first have a paid interview with the coach. It would be worth the 20 bucks—especially for parents with kids. Parents are sending their kids off to worship somebody they don't even know.
"The isolated one-on-one teaching is often more meaningful to the coach, because he can lord it over his pupil. I tell my coaches that every student is liable to be smarter than you, since if they are here they are paying big money, and wealth in this country is related to intellectual function.
"The coach must enter the student's world. As a psychologist, people in the profession were always mad at me because I wanted to get out from behind my desk, out into the patient's world. I want to reward kids for mistakes. I want the Tennis College to be a place where people can make mistakes comfortably. I want this to be a mistake center. Problem solving can be beautiful.
"I want to push people. Society can only learn so much, but I'm a Gestalt psychologist. I think we can learn more if we know where we're going. We show the whole big picture here, then break it down into the isolated parts. Some camps, they say, 'Now we're going to work on the ready position,' and then they'll spend hours on that, because everybody can master the ready position. I want to say, 'Let's go—put the racket back, step and hit.'
"I tell my pros, 'Touch the pee...PULL you're working with.' That is important. Do you know that studies show that in situations like this pee...PULL will not touch fat pee...PULL? That's been shown. You touch pee...PULL, that is very symbolic. It shows them you care. Teaching—the best teaching—is saying, 'We're going to work this out to...GETH...ther. You and me."
In the lowering dusk, as the cool, red sun dipped behind the hills into the Pacific, he hit ball after ball with a grateful toad, cheering and goading until they had learned something from each other. It works both ways.