Desert duo form 38-year friendship over weekly tennis match

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It’s the story of a remarkable 39-year relationship between two Palm Springs men, but it’s not a romantic story.

There’s a little bit of love involved, I guess, like love-15, love-30, and love-40, because you see it’s the story of tennis buddies Norm King and Vic Adams.

Remarkably, the two old friends – Norm is 75 and Vic is 68 – have played tennis twice a week, every week since 1980.

Well … almost every week.

“I remember Vic fell off a ladder once and we couldn’t play that week, it was a bummer,” Norm said with a laugh.

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They estimate they have played 3,909 games, 23,000 sets and around 220,000 games. Each has served the other a million times and they have used about 12,000 bullets, which comes to about $ 8,000.

“Still a lot cheaper than golf”, as Norm likes to say.

The first key to making their play routine a reality is having very accommodating wives. (Shouts at Norm Terry’s wife and Vic’s wife Cindy.) The second is to stay injury free. And the third is not to hate yourself.

Remarkably, Norm and Vic managed to do all three.

Of course, there have been times in the past 39 years that they haven’t played their game twice a week because of vacation, out of town business, etc. But when that happens, they like to make up for it by playing twice as much the following week. The goal is to make sure they get their 100 games in one year.

“Our women, I have to say they have been very accommodating,” Norm said. “I mean, it’s not like we would, I don’t know, cancel a cruise trip because of our weekly tennis match, but… it’s pretty close to that.”

For example, Vic said that if Norm comes to see him and says he and his wife are going on a two week vacation, he will organize an early vacation for him and his wife to a different location but within the same two weeks. That way, they wouldn’t miss two different tennis weeks if Vic went on vacation. People think they are a little crazy sometimes.

Damn it, after 20 years people kept saying, ‘My God, you’re planning all around tennis and Norm. “And that was 18 years ago, and I still do.”

The two have also avoided the type of conflict that can end long friendships. They are both easy going guys and they stay away from issues like politics off the pitch, and even avoid the controversial things that can happen on the pitch.

“One of the reasons we’ve been able to play together for so long is that we never question each other’s line calls and I like to say that it definitely benefited me because I have bad eyes, ”Norm said.

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Vic said that it also helped that they’ve always had a very even level of skill over the years.

“At the end of the day, we just love to play. And the games are always so competitive,” he said. “Even if someone wins more sets, the other person can win more games and sometimes I’ll win three or four in a row and of course he’ll win three or four in a row. And if you look back the 3,909 games or whatever we’ve played. It’s very close. If it was one-sided, it wouldn’t be as fun. “

And when we say they play twice a week, we’re not talking about hitting the ball for a little while and then having some iced tea. They play five sets each time, even if someone wins the first three. They played seven sets each time, but they’ve come down to five in recent years.

These days, you can find them playing their routine game on the small two-court lot at Canyon Estates in Palm Springs, where Norm lives. After all these games it begs the question, how good are these guys at tennis?

Well the game is at a pretty high level, but not as high as it used to be, both concede that. Norm, still dressed in his signature safari-style hat with athletic ribbon covering the front to block out the sun, is the more nimble of the two, and he loves his lapel. Vic is strong with his backhand and forehand, and knows how to play angles well, preferring to stay at the baseline.

“Speed ​​and quickness are my hallmark,” Vic said with a warm laugh. “No, Norm goes through everything and maybe I have a better shot selection. If he sends him back to me, I’ll get him. If I have to run far he’s got this point. But after watching a million from his shots I can say ‘Oh, he’s a winner, I don’t need to chase after.’ “

So let’s go back to the origin of friendship and weekly play.

Vic, who attended Indio High School, was already living in the wilderness when Norm moved here in 1980 to be the city’s general manager. Norm was the manager of Palm Springs City from 1980 to 1991, when his term ended when city council voted to go in a different direction.

“It didn’t end with my own choice, but it does happen sometimes,” Norm said.

Vic and Norm met at a basketball game in 1980 and became friends. They both liked tennis so they started playing. They haven’t stopped.

Vic was in construction, then became a teacher before retiring in 2008. After being inaugurated in Palm Springs, Norm became city manager of Moreno Valley, then executive director of the San Bernardino County Transportation Commission before moving to retire in 2012. But Norm always maintained a residence in Palm Springs, so the two could continue their game, usually every Saturday and Sunday morning, even if Norm wasn’t working in the wilderness.

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“I was worried that when I stopped working in Palm Springs it would be the end of the game, but I guess we thought it was too important, so we kept going,” Norm said. “I’m glad we did.”

Another remarkable part of their story is spending almost 40 years without serious injury. Norm said he had eye surgery that kept him out for about two months in 1987, but that was it.

“We’ve been through so many injuries and never really had to call off a game all this time,” said Vic. “I was playing with a cast, tennis elbow or whatever. Just wrap it up and keep playing.”

The weather was not a deterrent either. Being in the wilderness helps in this title, but Norm remembers a time when his ingenious idea made a bad situation worse and nearly cost them one of their games.

“I remember a very rare time I forget where we were playing but there was kind of frost and ice on the pitch so I had this great idea that if I had some hot water and splashing it on the ground, that would help, ”Norm said. “But the hot water froze almost instantly and I turned it into a big ice rink. But you know us, we still played, sliding all over the place. It was horrible.”

Vic intervened.

“Yeah, if it’s raining or whatever, we’ll still play and people will walk by us and say, ‘These guys are idiots,’ but we don’t care. And people also think us. we’re crazy to play summer here, but if you get up early enough it’s almost always doable. “

Another benefit of the long relationship is that they have shared many special moments in each other’s lives. They were both at each other’s weddings, at the children’s graduation – both have two grown children and Norm has four grandchildren – milestone birthdays, etc.

This little fuzzy yellow ball gave them a lot of lasting memories.

“We’re having so much fun together and we clearly love our usual game of tennis, but at the same time, we don’t take it too seriously,” Norm said. “I think that’s the secret.”

“I really like Norm’s laid back attitude. He’s a fun guy to be around, and if you have to cancel or change plans at the last second, he doesn’t care. He’s just great to be there. “said Vic. “It’s been 39 great years, and I don’t know 39 more maybe? Probably not.”

I wouldn’t let them pass.

Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Contact him at [email protected] or (760) 778-4627.


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