Submitted by Kyle Francis Aaron
The road to success has not been easy for Kevin Kowalik and Kevin Braun. With inner turmoil and personal injury threatening to derail their championship run, Kowalik and Braun had to rise above the off court distractions to win the KC Platform Open.
It wasn’t until the Summer of 2013 that Kevin Braun started playing Platform competitively. “At first I thought Paddle Tennis was something fraternities did to prospective members, but I quickly realized that it was a real sport and I had a real shot at success.”
Braun, who is known to his fan as husband, (get it! The joke is that his only fan is his wife) had a rough time juggling the rigors of platform training with an upstart career in teen literature. After holding several book signings that no one attended, Kevin Braun became frustrated with his choice to self published his novel, “Red Headed Danger.” Braun took his frustrations out on his partner Kevin Kowalik. “It was hard coming in to train every day,” Braun said. “Knowing that something you put so much time into wasn’t selling.”
With the Open less than two months away, drastic measures had to be taken to ensure Kowalik and Braun’s success. The duo hired world renowned psychologist, Thad Saperstein, in efforts to mend the fractured partnership. Dr. Saperstein specializes in bromances and is most famous for the reconciliation of Milli and Vanilli in the early 90’s. “What it comes down to,” Saperstein said, “is we have to get them fist bumping again.”
Slowly but surely the duo‘s chemistry started to become undeniable. Winning match after match, the team of Kowalik and Braun earned their stripes and were ready to make a run at the coveted KC Open wine carafe.
The KC Open began Friday night with an opening ceremony similar to the Olympics, however instead of fireworks, there was beer. A LOT OF BEER. Kowalik and Braun coasted to the semis where they met the red hot team of Metzler and Taylor.
Andy Metzler, the former partner of Kevin Kowalik, was left to find another teammate when their partnership dissolved in the spring of 2013. Shortly after in an exclusive interview, Andy Metzler described their breakup as “mutual” and “unfortunate considering what could have been.” Kowalik and Braun bested Metzler and Taylor and earned a spot in the championships. Awaiting them was a pair of All-American tennis players who intended to put an end to this Cinderella story.
Travis Helgeson and Pete Stroer made their way to the championship court using instinct and true grit. Helgeson credits their success to extra hours in the weight room, while Stroer believes it to be because of a vegan diet and a monk like discipline. Either way, this match proved to be one for the record books.
The match began with Kowalik and Braun dominating. Winning the first set 6-1 against what appeared to be a lethargic, slightly hung-over, team of Helgesson and Stroer. ‘We knew we had to be good early,” Braun said. “The stakes are just too high.”
Helgesson and Stroer answered back, winning a close second set 6-4. Helgesson described the set as, “a combination of sheer will and positive thinking,” while Stroer just kept saying, “Hook’em horns.”
The crowd, of over 4,000, watched in anticipation. (Attendance exaggerated for literary effect) No one expected a match this close. In fact, I don’t think anyone expected anything, except maybe there would be some beer left over from the previous day.
“When you’re playing for a crowd that size,” Kowalik said, “everything is magnified. Nothing compares to looking out into that crowd and knowing that I’m inspiring the next generation of paddlers. Like the late, great, Whitney Houston once said, the children are our future.”
The third set proved to be a nail bitter, taking the fans on an emotional rollercoaster. Both teams, refusing to be broken, made a final stand in hopes of drinking from the KC Open Carafe. Back and forth they paddled, each shot more important than the next. It wasn’t until late in the third set that Kowalik and Braun had an opportunity to break. “It was ours and we took it,” Braun said.
In the end, Kowalik and Braun won the third set 6-4. Penciling their names into the record books and taking a giant leap towards immortally. No man, women, or child will forget what they saw that day. Except maybe the ones who had too much to drink. After all there was… A LOT OF BEER.