In 1976 a couple of leading amateur squash racquets players, Gerry Jabara and Kevan Pickens, gave up comfortable jobs to put out a magazine devoted to their favorite sport. But after a few issues, realizing there was neither the audience nor the profits to sustain the venture, they broadened the magazine's coverage. The result was Racquet, an authoritative journal on racquet sports.
"We wanted to put out a sophisticated magazine," Pickens says. "People who play racquet sports are a special breed, and they demanded a more literate approach than they were getting. They were tired of how-to pieces, result stories and gossipy personality profiles." Racquet has articles on the psychological and medical aspects of sport, as well as the usual personality profiles. It also offers lists of coming events, results and new equipment. The type of story Racquet does best is illustrated by a recent piece on the "10 commandments," or common denominators of strategy, in racquet sports. It was written by a racqueteer for all seasons and former Davis Cupper now starring on the platform tennis circuit, Herb FitzGibbon.
Racquet's layout is attractive and its photography is glossy. Unfortunately, the writing is often inaccurate and smart-alecky ("The two sports hustlers panned for the grove of papparazzi"), perhaps because Racquet magazine relies heavily on athletes as writers. "They're the ones with ideas, that's why we've used them," says Pickens. "We're trying to get away from the practice." There is also a tendency to cater to the well-to-do (travel and fashion have received more coverage than paddle ball and paddle tennis) and to the sports that advertise in the magazine (tennis, squash, racquetball and table tennis).
Certainly there is no dearth of available subjects. If you know racquet sports, you ought to be able to name 10 of them other than tennis—badminton, court tennis, hard racquets, paddle ball, paddle tennis, platform tennis, racquetball, squash racquets, squash tennis and table tennis—without even mentioning the arcane offshoots—tenniwall, tetherball, pickleball, smashball—that seem to be invented almost daily.
Racquet comes out six times a year and costs $1.50 an issue, or $8 for a year's subscription (342 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017). Operating out of a three-room office, the editors have been hard pressed to turn a profit. That's a shame. We need even a flawed Racquet, just as surely as we need racquet sports.