Dom Joly: Why my McEnroe moment called for new balls

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The Independent Online

Looking back, I'm pretty sure that John McEnroe wasn't entirely comfortable with my conversation. I'd always wanted to meet him – he's one of my childhood heroes. He was the anti-establishment, left-handed, tennis genius that I couldn't take my eyes off whenever he played. My dad would huff and puff about this fiery New Yorker's bad behaviour, but I couldn't get enough of it. Whenever I've been asked that hackneyed old question, "Name your dream guests at a dinner party", McEnroe has always been on my list. He's a man who says what he thinks and always appears to have a great sense of humour. So, here I was, in the opulent surroundings of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, sitting chatting to him.

I'm on a "jolly" over here taking part in a sort of celebrity mini Winter Olympics, and the hotel is positively heaving with famous faces. There goes Chevy Chase. Oh look, the Baldwin brothers! I'm sharing a lift with Peter Fonda. Is that Buzz Aldrin? It's all reasonably exciting but nothing compares to meeting Mac the Mouth. I've got so much to say I go dry and end up talking about... my dog's recent castration.

The day before I set out, I got home to see a nervous Huxley pacing about and whimpering to me, as though indicating that Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was stuck down some well and I needed to go get help. He led me into the kitchen, where a forlorn-looking Oscar was lying gingerly on a big cushion. Our eyes met and I just knew.... I'd seen those same sad, hollow eyes two years ago when Huxley himself got the snip. Once again Stacey had acted fast and decisively while my back was turned, and now Jackson and I were the only men left in the house.

"Not for long..." whispered Huxley. "I heard her call the doctor about you two days ago," said Oscar in a slightly high-pitched voice. "She's planning to get them to do you when you go in for your annual medical. They're going to put you out and then... snip."

Try as I might I just couldn't get this scene out of my mind, and so inevitably ended up talking to John McEnroe about it. At first he laughed a little as I told him about how guilty I felt letting this happen. Then I moved on to sharing my thoughts about Stacey's future plans for my genitals and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

Finally, I really put him off his Alaskan salmon when I started getting annoyed at the fact that Stacey hadn't accepted the vet's offer of Oscar's balls in a jar. Somehow it just felt wrong that they'd been disposed of like leftovers. I could have had them put in a display case or simply kept them somewhere. At least there would have been a semblance of dignity in that.

John McEnroe didn't think so. He'd put down his knife and fork and was staring at me with that glare I'd seen used on a hundred line judges. For one glorious moment I thought that he was going to use the "You cannot be serious" line on me. I tensed expectantly but it never came. "Will you shut the fuck up about your dog's testicles?"

The greatest tennis player that ever lived had cracked. I apologised and got up to go to the "washroom", where I thought long and hard about how I'd screwed up my potential friendship with Mac. I looked to my left – there was Bruce Jenner the US Olympic gold medallist decathlete and another great hero of my youth. I stared at him, perhaps for slightly too long. He looked at me quizzically before zipping up and moving away shaking his head. It takes balls, meeting your heroes.