Rumsfeld was my squash partner

DAVID HILLER is publisher of The Times.
THERE WAS A PERIOD in the late 1990s when Don Rumsfeld and I played squash almost every month in Chicago, and before I say anything else, I should acknowledge this: He beat me almost all the time, even though, as he regularly pointed out, he was “almost old enough” to be my father.

We both lived in Chicago at the time. Don was in his late 60s, and I was in my 40s. I attribute my regular trouncing to several things (apart from my own poor play). Don was a strong technical player with a keen sense of court geometry and shot placement. He followed diagrams that his friend Arthur C. Nielsen, founder of the TV ratings business and one of the best amateur racquet-sport players in the U.S. in his day, had drawn for him by hand. I’m still looking for the copy Don gave me.

Don had a deadly, hard overhand service that came off the front wall like a bullet, came straight to the back wall and dropped in the corner, safe from my racquet. I’m sure that serve is what tore Don’s rotator cuff.

Don also held the strategic ground in the center of the court better than anybody. We once collided as we both moved there, and I couldn’t play for a week. Don moved well, certainly for a guy in his 60s. As he said, “I’m quick, not fast.”


I think what struck me most was that Don never gave up on a point. His view was that every shot could be made, every game could be won, and he never surrendered until the last volley was played out. With me he was usually right.

Were these the qualities he brought to his job as secretary of Defense? I’m not sure, but I suspect that the rules he lived by were the same ones he played by, and I thought of them again as I watched the president announce Don’s resignation.