Way back in 1980, the movie The Empire Strikes Back was released. In this movie, Luke Skywalker, at the behest of the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi, travels to the planet Dagobah to learn the ways of The Force from the ancient Jedi, Yoda.

After my friends and I saw this movie, we constructed our own Jedi Training Regimen. First thing we did was spend our allowance money on some brooms. See, back then, all brooms had wooden handles. We sawed off the handles and they became our lightsabers. We would have sword fights with them and constantly had bruises all over our bodies from where we had been hit. But as time went on, we learned how each other fought and the bruises lessened (but still happened).

We would also have Deflection Training. This entailed one of us standing there with his lightsaber while the others (up to 5) stood 15-20 feet away and whizzed tennis balls at him. The object for the lone Jedi was to not get hit, either by dodging the balls or deflecting them with the lightsaber/broomstick. That person was “out” when he let himself get hit by 10 tennis balls.

I ended up being particularly good at this. Of all of us, I was the one who could consistently last the longest amount of time dodging, ducking, dipping, diving and deflecting. It’s weird to say, but I was so focused on where those balls were that they seemed to be moving in slow motion. I also began to recognize patterns of how people attacked. Bill would typically throw 2 low balls and then a high, John would alternate high low, etc. Because of all those things, I was able to make educated guesses as to where the balls were headed and whether or not I should deflect or avoid.

There were other trainings that we did, but they don’t have any impact on what the late Paul Harvey would call…“the rest of the story.”

A few years ago, I was heavily involved in the racquetball league at the YMCA. We were 15 matches into the 17-match “season” and I hadn’t won a single game. By the way, 1 match = 3 games. Yeah, I was losing a lot. They’d been pretty decisive losses, too, with scores like 15-2, 15-0, 15-4, blah blah blah. I just wasn’t able to “read” where the ball was going and whenever I COULD get to the ball, it was all I can do to just keep it in play…nevermind being able to control where I might want it to go. I kept a decent attitude about the whole thing, opting for the “At least I’m getting a lot of exercise” take on the whole issue. And it was true. I’d would be exhausted from running all over the place trying to get to the ball.

It just so happened that one weekend during this time, Cinemax aired (can you call it “aired” if it’s cable?) all six Star Wars movies back to back to back to back to back to back…for the ENTIRE weekend. It began at midnight Friday night/Saturday morning and ended Monday morning at 7:40am. Because my wife and daughters were on a Girl Scout campout that weekend, my son and I were able to watch all of the movies. Despite being a huge Star Wars geek, there was no way I was going to be able to watch all six straight through, so we watched Episodes 1, 2, and 3 on one day and Episodes 4, 5 and 6 the next day. The whole weekend we lived and breathed Star Wars…the movies, video games, legos, comic books….it was all Star Wars.

So, Monday night at racquetball, Star Wars was still fresh in my mind. As I stood there waiting for my opponent to serve, I decided to treat this as a Jedi training session…just to have fun a relive a little bit of my childhood.

Wow, what a difference!

I wasn’t out of position, I wasn’t rushing to get to the ball, I had more time to decide how and where I was going to hit the ball instead of smacking at it out of desperation and at the end I was less tired. I still lost all three games, but the scores were 15-12, 15-13, 15-13.

Since then, I’ve played many more games. As it goes with games, I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. But my losses have never been as epic as before.