TENNIS SOUNDS OFF

marcuscootsona —  February 2, 2016 — Leave a comment

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Things happened at the Australian Open this past week. Significant things. Historic things. Wondrous things. All narrated with customary tennis broadcast dryness and pomp, and occasionally the aural thrill of a Prius exhaust note. I mean, seriously, how can the narration of any major tournament that begins with BBC rumors of a gambling scandal be so blinkin dull sometimes? And yet, it was. Sometimes. To which we might all ask, what happened to the big scandal? And why did the allegations all stem from a match in Cleveland in 1427? Anyway, big things happened. Angelique Kerber beat Serena Williams in a high-quality women’s final. Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray in a one-sided men’s final that proves we should all give up gluten. And the announcers proved once again that you can take a worldwide sport with high-energy action and make it into an episode of Touch. Which at least had Kiefer.

All of which is fine, I guess. Isn’t it? I mean it has to be. It’s been a proven formula for the last five hundred years. Like the two camera angles. Except there’s more competition now than there was in the 1600’s. Now our sport is up against viewer must-see’s like the Pro Bowl, the NHL All-Star Game and of course college hoops, with its 4-minute shot clock and 31-point game totals.

So here’s an idea. Next time there’s a big scandal or even just your garden variety grand slam tournament, get funnier announcers. Like the NBA has. Like the NFL has. Like Golf on TNT has, but not on purpose. Who cares if they know anything about tennis? Who cares if they shook Budge Patty’s hand? Who cares if they had a cerveza with Osuna? I want to be entertained. I want a sport that’s mired in fringe frivolity and on-court joy to be funny. Even Olympic ice-skating, a sport so staid that it makes Tennis look like Arena Lingerie Ultimate Frisbee by comparison, hired Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. Why can’t we have funny, irrelevant announcers who dress outrageously? Bud Collins’ pants notwithstanding.

Second-serve return stats are only going to bring in so many average sports fans to tennis broadcasts anyway. Maybe four of five if we’re lucky. But humor, or the possibility of humor might bring in six or seven. Which is more. It’s been said that baseball announcers get good at their craft because not much happens in baseball and the games are long and they have to talk. But not about baseball. Tennis matches are long and the announcers talk too. About tennis. Couldn’t we please have a bunch of funny, irrelevant diversions having nothing to do with reaction time to the ball, total inches run in a seventy-five shot rally and what you, the announcer, did back in ’72 every now and then to keep us listening? Sure, right, TV is a visual medium. And isn’t that all the more reason to add some jalapenos to the mix with the commentary?

The answer is yes. Amy Schumer, for instance, could come up with something to say that had absolutely nothing to do with the match we were watching. So could Ellen. So could Tina Fey. So could Kevin Hart. So could Kiefer probably. Look, we know when dude hits a forehand. Or that the first serve that just hit the baseline wasn’t in. Or that 4 – 6 in the third set tiebreaker is a big darned deal. But what about who the players are dating? Or what they’re wearing? Or not wearing? Or who they’re suing? Tennis is too pristine. Too reverent. Too Augusta National. We need some innuendo, conjecture and unsubstantiated rumors. And jokes. And non-sequitars. Like a FOX NEWS debate.

And there’s this to consider too. Comedians being not necessarily tied to the sport wouldn’t have to shill for the players or their own tennis academies or their sponsors either. Not mentioning any names here by the way. They could just be entertaining. And get new viewers to watch. And old viewers to turn up the sound. And maybe say something wonderful and informative. Maybe. They wouldn’t know a forehand from a serve or a tiebreaker from a foot fault, but would it matter? They wouldn’t have to do every match. Just the ones people might watch.

There’s time before the French Open to get everything in place. Long live tennis. Long live Kiefer. And if they can’t get funny announcers, could we maybe get the old ones a piece of bologna for each shoe, and a scandal that lasts at least a week-and-a-half?

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In other news, Stan Wawrinka proved that orange and canary yellow are the new orange and canary yellow. A counter-punching Giles Simon almost derailed the Djokovic express. 34 year-old Roger Federer who is 152 in tennis years won four matches. Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka both still have outstanding vocal production. Lleyton Hewitt retired.

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SHTICKS AND STONES

marcuscootsona —  January 23, 2016 — 1 Comment

With the words, “Why can’t sports just be a safe place for our children?” the beleaguered sport of professional tennis took another long walk this week down the short pier of public shame, scandal and disapproval. Already rocked to the compression shorts, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is now having to contend with

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HENHOUSE FOXES, LLC

marcuscootsona —  January 18, 2016 — 1 Comment

The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) has grappled and I mean grappled over the past few years with the deep and image-crippling problems in their own sport, Tennis, of excessive injury timeouts taken by players who may not have actually been injured but just wanted to throw off the game rhythm of their more talented opponents, performance dampening substances and the lack of shirt/short coordination among some top players.

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It’s true that we like underdogs. But we love overdogs. Sure it’s perversely fun in a Hyundai Elantra wins North American Car of the Year Award way when Fognini beats Nadal or Pennetta makes Serena run up to get a lot of short, spinney balls, but the history books need tales of the invincibles, not accidentals. But fortunately we have Novak Djokovic.

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ONE WEEK ON

marcuscootsona —  July 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

BN-DO372_0706po_J_20140706144841So I gave the fortnight a seven-night to settle, because as usual with Wimbledon, the end of the thing brought up some things that needed thinking on. That, and I was still a little misty-eyed over the blanched blades on the weekend.

It was all so 2011. Djokovic and Kvitova. We know where Nole has been these last three years, but what about Petra? Hmm? If there ever was a player with a big event game, it is she. She is her. And here she is being her, all left-handed, again. How long will she stay this time? And will she keep her midriff covered? Eugenie Bouchard from Canada, certainly more fun to watch than Milos (let’s-set-tennis-back-three-decades) Raonic, was overmatched like the Miami Heat when they had Lebron. But don’t cry for Canada. Milos will certainly bring his blow dry bar do to more semis and Genie will score endorsements from all the usual sources. Let’s just hope this marks a real beginning for her and not a Kournikova and let’s hope this marks a real resurgence of Kvitova.

Djokovic is the best player in the universe and the ATP rankings now agree. Even Fed fans weren’t as sad as they might have been, or as sad as Brazil, at the extraordinarily close five-setter that could have ended in a World Cup 0 – 0 tie, but didn’t. It was an entertaining Sunday morning that seemed shorter and longer and hard to figure at the end how it ended so quickly. Sort of like the Giants nine-and-half-game lead.

So, Djokovic was married a few days ago. Congratulations and best wishes. And best wishes to Boom-Boom Boris Becker. It looks like he might stay awhile. At least until Cincinnati. I have no idea what Kvitova did after Wimbly, but I hope Serena meditated. Last year, 11 titles and 2 Slams. This year, early major exits and perplexing illness. And Rafa Nadal. Is he fit to play on grass or hardcourts? Will the Nadal knees hold up on the hard stuff? Can he reach 18 or 19 or 28 majors exclusively at Roland Garros? And RF. Back home teaching the twins and the new twins the intricacies of Schweizer-Deutsch, perhaps? Practicing short overheads? Trying to decide what color to paint his racquet? Oh, and the eternally young Stefan Edberg probably stays on too.

And last, but not whatever, what about Andy Murray? He and Kvitova are now tied in the Grand Slam tally and how will each of them advance from here? And whither Amelie Mauresmo? She and Andy are also tied in the Grand Slam count, but without the full support of Andy’s team, that may not be enough to offset recent lacks of results. So how secure is her job? How secure is Andy Murray? Tennis players are of course in principle uncoachable so what difference does a coach make?   Why not fire your coach and get a “coach”? Someone placed in the players box purely to distract and confuse the other player. Since Andy has already hired a woman coach once, if Amelie goes, why not Scarlett Johansson or maybe Jennifer Lawrence? It hasn’t been tried before, but if you’re Andy, what have you got to lose at this point? The instruction might not be as good, but the locker room visits will cause a flutter.

It’s been a week since the fortnight and the intervening 250’s haven’t taken my mind off of it yet. I miss Wimbledon already. I missed it as soon as Nole chomped turf. So, when’s Cincinnati and what’s Mila Kunis doing then?

imagesBless Wimbledon. Bless especially the first few, lush green lawn days of Wimbledon. In the beginning, hope is high, promise is untainted by results and the seeds are still in place. It’s the same for any tennis tourni. But at Wimbledon it’s true of the players and the court itself. And I’ll admit it right here, I’m pro lawn. In the first days, the greenness and newness of Wimbledon’s courts reflect a promise of a perfect progression to the podium. And there is something breath-catching and heart arrhythmiacal for a tennis fan in the sight of the courts in those first days. The crisp white outfits contrasting with the manicured carpet of green blades, all carefully, directionally caressed, waiting for play. And then it gets all fouled up. No more Platonic goodness, no more verdant carpet. The court begins the fight of its life.

I’m a Californian and I love my lawn. And in the draught, lawn is a casualty. Like the seeds at Wimbledon. Like the turf at Wimbledon. So this year there is an extra measure of poignancy to these first days. As the upsets come and the marathons arise and everyone stays back near the baseline, the lawn shows the wear and tear and interruption of the plans. And maybe it’s only because I’m a Californian and love my lawn, but I have to wonder, couldn’t something be done about it? What about replacing the decimated turf on that dark middle Sunday? What about some green spray paint? The PGA Tour could even come and advise. Or maybe some strong restorative elixir from Lawn Club For Men? Why can’t it stay green? When the positive, boundlessly optimistic start gives way to the winnowed-down, single-elimination-logic dusty ending, I guess I know we’ve come a distance. The dead grass replaced by the dirt is only right and natural and fitting. It’s probably a metaphor for the circle of life or inevitable decay or the draught and the stunning increase in Patchouli sales. But it just hurts. Like Fed going out first round. Or most any Monfils match. I just wish the lawns could stay green.

Of course, maybe there is a way to stop the decay. I’m no horticulturalist or horse to water or whatever, but I have a few ideas. Though some of the tennis viewer world may love the finals dust at Wimbly, but I want to see lawn in lawn tennis. So, anyway, here’s one idea.

Play the tournament in reverse.

Right? A simple, elegant solution. And probably a big crowd-pleaser too. And if you’re the tournament committee, no more irritating questions about why Andy Murray got the three seed. Here’s how it works. Seeds one and two meet in the final the first day of the tournament. It’s like having desert first. Or reading the last page. Who wouldn’t want that? And then for the next two weeks, they work backward through the draw to prove they deserved to be there. Benjamin Button tennis. You can have all the upsets and marathons and injuries and stalls and ball bouncing and celebrity intrigue you want, but who cares? No one. Because we’ve already seen the final. On virgin bent grass.

At first glance, this may sound nutty, but, hey, the one-serve rule or the ban on injury timeouts or one network showing all the majors so you could always find them on TV all sounded crazy at first too, right? But it’s okay, if that’s still too radical, I have other ideas for lawn tennis purity and goodness. Play barefoot. Or with those ten-and-under foam tennis balls. Or play no-add, three-game pro sets. I just want the grass to be green. And the seedings to hold. And the upsets not to happen. And innocence and joy and grace and manners and a velvet green surface for it all. Is that too much to ask? At the All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club? I’m a Californian and I love a good lawn. Enjoy the tournament and tread lightly. Please. And take a short shower. And let me know when the croquet starts. That’s gotta be easier on the turf.