Sports bore me. Football leaves me cold, baseball (when I’m not playing it) is just a day out with beer and hot dogs. And golf? Well, golf is like watching car bumpers rust. My heart sank when I got my copy of Alan Chin’s latest book and saw the tennis ball and racket on the cover. However, Chin’s storytelling ability saves the day and makes Match Maker a top-seeded read.
Daniel Bottega and his partner in tennis and life, Jared Stoderling, have been forced off the pro circuit for being gay. Bottega has retired to teach tennis at a country club and Stoderling is sinking into alcoholism, but they are both rescued by a prodigy named Connor Lin. With Bottega as his coach and Stoderling as his doubles partner, they return as out gay men to professional tennis with the attendant media hoopla and its inherent dangers. And some of those dangers become realities.
Chin’s talent lies in creating likeable, three-dimensional characters and then getting the hell out of the way so that they can drive theplot. His style is more invisible than intrusive. Not once did I feel as if the author was consciously writing this book—it all flowed very organically from the point of view character as if he was telling the story over dinner. In particular, I liked the characterization of straight boy Connor Lin, who is talented and explosive and Chin takes full advantage of his dramatic potential.
In addition to knowing his characters, Chin also knows his tennis. He never dumbs it down and I was able to catch the meaning of most of the technical terms from context, or at least enough to understand his running commentary on the matches
But for a sports moron (a smoron?), the on-court triumphs are less interesting than what goes on behind the scenes—the subplot that has Connor conflicted about honoring his grandfather’s wishes to go to medical school, the merchandising deals made by the somewhat shady agent, the constant career and alcoholic tension between Bottega and his partner, Connor’s sexual relationship with his female trainer and an overwhelming sense of danger, where nutjobs with guns peek around every corner of the stadium.
Even though this is a sports book, Chin brings his “A” gameto the page, making Match Maker a totally enjoyable read.
And that’s no double fault.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler