The Arc of Tennis, The Arc of Life

Posted on October 14th, 2019 by

Image taken from the Neal & Leandra Facebook Page

There is an arc to every career.  And to every tennis player.  To every society.  And to every life.

At some point, as a singer/songwriter, whether or not Leandra and I decided to “retire” (which we did seven years ago) from performing publicly as a duo, our audience would have faded away.  It is never a matter of “if” in the music business, it is a matter of “when”.  The rooms we once could fill would not be full.  They would not even be close, depending upon how long we strung it out (we saw Rich Little – once the most recognized impressionist in the world – in Las Vegas last month, when I was out for the USPTA World Conference.  There were 23 people sitting in a room that holds 306).

In tennis, at some point I cannot beat others I used to be able to beat, or beat people of a younger age.  (Some point, by the way, is now).  And no matter how many more Grand Slams Federer and Nadal and Williams and Djokovic win, their tennis careers will come to an end.  Whether they want them to or not.

Societies that would last forever?  See the Greek Empire.  The Roman Empire.  The Ming Dynasty.  The Japanese Empire.  Babylon.  The British Empire.  And, yes, sooner than we hope, the American Empire.

And death? Undefeated so far.  Death drops the mic on us all.

So what does that leave us with?

Well, probably general depression, if you’re still reading, lol.

But it leaves me with great hope.

When everything is stripped away, what is left?

The essentials.

Image taken from the Neal & Leandra Facebook Page

We retired as a duo, but I discovered I enjoy writing more than I did when it was my career, because I discovered it went deeper than the numbers we could put up or people we could put in the seats.  It is what I love to do, whether anyone hears the songs or not.

I can’t beat people I wish I could in tennis, but every day on the court, I have more fun trash talking and enjoying the game than I ever did when I was younger and faster.

I live in a world that seems to be disintegrating before my eyes with rancor and self-indulgence and narcissistic belief that we humans are the center of the universe, but I can see kindness around me every day.  And courage of people in small ways.

I am not going to live forever, but I am much more keenly aware than when I was younger that I can live “now”.

My hair at 60 is fading away, my beard is gray, and I love it.  Because I am celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary today with my best friend whose hair is also grayer than when I met her, whose gait is slower (but not much, because she never liked to move anyway), but whose love is keener.

Image taken from the Leandra’s Facebook Page

In the end, all arcs fade into oblivion.  Except one.  If…we… so… choose.  And the score at the end is what it was in the beginning.

Love -Love.

That is the only arc I am pinning my hopes on.

I do not feel old.  At all.  But I am in the second half of my life.  Sitting beside my spouse of 30 years.  And the arc keeps bending.  Towards the one thing that makes all the difference.

How Can I Contribute?



  1. Cindy Walz says:

    Happy Anniversary Neal and Leandra! You profoundly impact our hearts with your music, writing, work and personal interactions. We are grateful for you and the many ways you positively make a difference in the world! Have a wonderful celebration of 30 years.

  2. Julie Carlson says:

    Beautiful post, Neal. And congrats to you and Leandra on 30 years – that is amazing!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      thanks, Julie. Lots and lots of hard work. And lots and lots of patience on Leandra’s part :).

  3. Mark Schmidt says:

    Beautiful thoughts and words. I still have fond memories of you two singing at the Saturday night socials. It sounds like you’ve still got it. Congratulations on your “30-love” game.

  4. Elly and Rial says:

    Oh my Neal!

    It is Thanksgiving day in Canada and who just surreptitiously enters our email feed! Coincidence! I THINK NOT! I am truly thrilled for you and your gorgeous wife Leandra. You have SPARKS IGNITING between the two of you! How lucky are we… my Rial is the best thing thing that has ever happened to me! 32 years of tortured bliss😘❤️

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      And guess where we were for Canada’s Thanksgiving? CANADA!!!! We love it here! Are in Quebec for our 30th. People are so nice here. Much nicer than I am. 🙂

  5. Brad Olson says:

    Happy Anniversary Neal and Leandra! I always knew you two had an “Old Love”!
    Prayers for many more years to come for you two. I hope to see you soon!

  6. Bev Lesiuk says:

    Another inspiring work! Congratulations on your 30th anniversary and wishing you many more to come.
    Mike and I also will celebrate 30 years next week. Time sure flies when you’re having fun!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Bev! Guess where we are for our anniversary? Canada! (Quebec City). We never want to leave. You people are too nice!

  7. Gregg says:

    Dude, how did a farm boy tennis player from Minnesota become a genius at heartfelt true emotions & the most important personal connections in this world? Oh man, congratulations, you’ve touched this goofy confused and crazy world…..thank you Neal!!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Gregg. I think it was from too many hits to the head in college football, lol. But thank you. I can’t stop my mind from thinking and the only way I can process it is by writing. I’m glad it comes out clearly sometimes.

  8. John Whitmer says:

    Another fine blog. Too bad you two gave up singing. Steve and Barb gave me your “A Dreamer’s Holiday” years ago. Perry Como was one of my favorites back in the 1950s, so I enjoy your renditions of his classics and still play them. Alas, probably some of your tennis campers don’t even know who Perry Como was.

    And as I’ve told you before, the themes and tone of your blogs remind me so much of Steve.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, John, I take that as the highest compliment, both about the music and about Steve. I’m a fortunate person.

  9. Gregg says:

    Wow Neal!! Wow Leandra!!!
    This will be the most replied to entry you ever made on the blog.

    Did anyone else see that every photo shows Neal giddyand excited beyond belief and Leandra very happy?
    We men are so simple.

    What a pleasure to make it to TLC before Steve had to leave us
    What an honor to see, to hear from him of his deep lifelong love, and to know Barb.
    And of all the amazing people that you’ve influenced…by your life and living approach in all areas, in tennis and in life.
    What a joy to see the last year or two of Neal & Leandra perform.
    Thank you Karen Gibbs.
    Thank you Kevin Ylinen.
    Thank you Steve!

    Simply, thank you!! I am blessed to step into the TLC world….. every year!…forever!!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      No one ever does it alone, do they? You mentioned many giants who taught so many people, me being one who was taught by them (or by their story). And I have been taught much by you, your humility, generosity, and kindness. Thanks, Gregg.

  10. Lynn says:

    Happy Anniversary,What a wonderful couple.

  11. Diane Marsh says:

    How beautiful that you have each other. You are both so very fortunate. Your writings are always inspiring. Thank you so much.

  12. Carrie says:

    Happy Anniversary, Neal! 30 years – wow! Congratulations and God Bless – keep on being amazing and inspiring. Paul and I celebrated 18 years yesterday.

  13. Gaylon Rust says:

    Have a wonderful anniversary congratulations to you both!

  14. Boy and Betty says:

    What a beautiful LOVE story!! You have expressed a proper perspective on life. The only thing we can count on is change. Our mental and physical well-being do change during our lifetime, but our abiding love for each other will never change. Leandra and you are the living proof. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary!!

  15. Diane Spinucci says:


    You have always been and inspiration to me, and the love you share with Leandra is something that not everyone has the opportunity in life to enjoy, and like one I hope to enjoy some day!

    The words of wisdom that you have shared at TLC, the songs of love and life that you and Leandra have written and performed together, is a true blessing to all of those that have had the pleasure to have crossed your paths in our lifetime.

    God Bless you both and may the next 30 years be just as wonderful!

    Loving thoughts to you both and Congratulations!!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Diane, it’s good to hear from you! We need you back at TLC! Go, Pack!(my second favorite team…))

  16. Steph says:

    That was beautiful, Neal. Thank you!!!!!

  17. Michael J Senescall says:

    Well said. Thank you!

  18. Marcia Gilmer says:

    My evident mortality has been persistently irritating of late…your message today refreshes my perspective, enthusiasm, and focus. Thank you!