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Rosecrans Baldwin's Match Preview

Think On Your Feet

Good morning to all the ladies and gentlemen of the Americas! Good afternoon to our European and African friends! A most excellent, very early morning to all those drunk and rosey-cheeked Korean, Russian, Indian and Aussie colleagues, and anyone else I’m forgetting!

Please, accept this heartfelt welcome to the first round of this year's Layer Tennis quarter-final matches!

Lord, I am very caffeinated at the moment!

Here backstage, it's a Layer Tennis tradition to drink beer while our competitors duel. But seeing how it's before lunch where I'm sitting, I'm going for Diet Coke. I figure if the players can bare their creative nerves in public, surely I can test my caffeine-tolerance. So, full disclosure: As of this moment, I'm weighing in with three large mugs of coffee and a can of Coke digested, and I've got 11 back-up cans in the refrigerator.

Ladies and gentlemen, cheers to the players! What mighty players! You only reach this tier of the game if you're among the best, and today's competitors, Chris Glass and Gregory Hubacek, are gold-plated.

Glass you know as a veteran athlete. He's a played to a draw in an epic match earlier in the season, and it was you, the Season Ticket Holders, who elected to bring him to the champions' table. Hubacek, on the other hand, played into the tournament through a gritty qualifying match that shaved everyone's chest, and he earned his spot – tooth and nail – by being one of only two designers voted in from a pool of 36. What odds!

So, I'm having a tough time predicting a winner. Sorry to the gamblers, because normally I'm pretty good at this. I looked through these guys' portfolios and previous matches; I spoke with their siblings; I broke bread with their pastors and went camping with their counselors—but no dice.

Then I devised a quiz.

Layer Tennis is a contest of speed and wit. Players have only 15 minutes per round, and the crowd won't tolerate a dull volley. Thus I gave the boys the following three questions, allowing them only two minutes per answer, to see if we could read the tea leaves ahead of time.

1. The name of what Nevada city can be made into the name of what California city by adding the letters S and F?

Hubacek: Reno becomes Fresno, although why on Earth would you want to live in either? (I've heard this one before, so it shouldn't count).

Glass: Oh this question is easy because every time I go to California, I make sure to visit Winnemfuccas. They have the best medicinal marijuana. Totally eats your face. I'm thinking it's time I re-sole my Birkenstocks. I hear they do that for free, forever. I've been wondering what kid I can put in my will so they can have my free sandals for life!

2. Define your approach to graphic design. Use the words "Jessica Simpson" and "Proust" in every sentence.

Glass: My approach to graphic design always considers the gestalt principles of perception (with heavy emphasis on the Law of Prägnanz), the final tome of Marcel Proust's semi-autobiographical novel, Le Temps Retrouvé, for its themes intermingling fiction with reality, and Jessica Simpson. Now you might be saying to yourself, how could Jessica Simpson and Proust have any such proximity with design, and I encourage you to appreciate the contrast—a fundamental concept of visual communication. Jessica Simpson endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2004, Marcel Proust was a homosexual, and I've always favored sans-serif typefaces with clean compositions.

Hubacek: Since I can only use one sentence, this is going to be a really long run-on sentence with odd instances of punctuation, Jessica Simpson, and Proust (though I don't really know what or who Proust is) thrown in solely to keep up the running gag of explaining my design approach which can actually be summed down into the most basic of formulas (think lather rinse repeat) due to its simplicity and methodical nature.

3. Write a brief story using the following first line: "Two armed men drive across a desert."

Hubacek: Two armed men drive across a desert. However they were armed only with bananas. After becoming increasingly dehydrated in the warm, dry desert wind, they ate their bananas for their potassium, which I'm told helps with cramps associated with dehydration. They are now completely unarmed and still thirsty.

Glass: Two armed men drive across a desert. They been living off fountain drinks and diagonally halved sandwiches. Chicken salad. Ham salad. Egg salad. Chicken salad with walnuts and grapes. Triangular cartons litter the backseat with discarded relish packets and empty cups with dots of dried syrup. Among the items stuffed in the visors is a poorly refolded map with a hi-lighted path to all the National Parks. Their pants are pleated. Neither are on Twitter.

Disco people, I think we've got an even match ahead of us. Glass won the coin flip, but, for the first time in Layer Tennis history, he's passed the honor of opening to his opponent. Gentleman at court, or crafty tactician? We'll see. Until then, may the best designer win.


Rosecrans Baldwin is a founding editor of The Morning News. His first novel, You Lost Me There, is due out from Riverhead in 2010.

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