Gordon Forbes and Abe Segal were considered one of South Africa’s best tennis doubles teams ever.
They represented South Africa in a golden era of the Davis Cup in the early 1960s. Forbes and Segal made it to the final of the French Open in 1963. The same year they made it to the semi-finals at Wimbledon. Forbes won the French Open mixed doubles with his partner Darlene Hard in 1955.
Gordon Forbes is probably more well known as an author. His book, A Handful of Summers, will have you giggling from beginning to end. It is a memoir of Forbes’s adventures on the tennis circuits of the world.
Forbes’s second book, Too Soon to Panic, is equally as hilarious as his first. I think the title is such a classic. Forbes tells the story of the pair playing a tennis match where it was quite clear that they would be on the losing end. At the most apt point in the match, Segal turned to Forbes and, in his acerbic and irreverent manner told him that “it was too soon to panic”.
To understand what it means for it to be “too soon to panic”, one must know that Abe Segal was a happy go lucky character who was never prone to panic. Segal uses the phrase as if panic was a solution to their problem, but not a solution that should be applied yet.
Ever since I first read the story, I have often thought about what criteria must be met for it to be okay to panic. In other words, when is it too soon, and when is it the right time?
The subject of panic seems to be relevant to South Africans at the moment. The world has hit the panic button as far as South Africa is concerned. We had the director of the Centre for Epidemic Response & Innovation (CERI) proclaim to the world that he/his team had discovered a new variant of COVID. I suspect his ego was looking for a dose of notoriety for some well-done research.
Instead, what happened? The world went into full-blown panic mode. South Africa got shut out by the rest of the world as if it was the source of nuclear fallout. Of course, the new variant had already been around the world before it landed on South Africa’s shores. But that is an inconvenient excuse not to panic right away.
Our President was pretty angry the other night at the totalitarian type of response by the rest of the world. It reminds me of how angry most South Africans were a year ago when our President applied the same kind of totalitarian behaviour and closed the beaches for the summer holidays. Funny that. Not so nice to feel powerless and be on the receiving end.
Unfortunately, Gordon Forbes sadly died from Covid in December 2020. I think his friend and tennis partner, Abe Segal, would have had the best advice for the world, and it would have been, IT IS TOO SOON TO PANIC.