Monday, September 10, 2007

Camera M.I.A., But The Show Must Go On

So I still can't find my camera, but I'm charging ahead and giving you the U.S. Open rundown. Take note of the following:

1. What the heck, AmEx? I was all excited about all the perks they were giving at the Open, including commemorative pins featuring Venus Williams and James Blake for spending at least $75 on my American Express card, which was not a problem (see #6, below). But the day I get home from the Open, I see a huge article on the front of the SportsBusiness Journal saying that AmEx was giving out these little babies to cardholders:

You can look up all the stats and scores, and watch different matches. All for carrying an American Express. I saw somebody holding one near me but I thought it was just some high-tech fan trying to show off. . . and I could have been that high-tech show-off! Boo, American Express, for not letting me know that when I was there.

2. Nike is getting lazy. Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed. Had I been able to find my camera, I could have shown you the 5 matches being played simultaneously in which all 5 male players were wearing the exact same Nike outfit. This blogger did a good job of showing you at least three of the players. The only guys who get their own outfit are Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal. I know there are some perks to being #1 and #2 in the world, but dagnabit, if I make the Top 10 in the world, give me my own shirt!! They should just call it the "Also Ran" standard issues. I know we're dealing with guys, and so you all don't care about wearing the same outfit like we do. But it's bad enough that Federer and Nadal have won every major tournament for the past three years, why add insult to injury by making me wear the same outfit as my opponent? Nike makes too much money to give everyone the same distinctive shirt. It looks ridiculous. And it's ugly.

3. That kid pictured above is Donald Young, a talented young American who lost to this guy, Feliciano Lopez:

Also wearing the shirt. If not for that headband, I don't know how I would tell them apart. Although I watched Lopez take out young Donald, I really think this kid's going to be pretty good. He's only 18 so he has time . . . to let Federer retire before he decides to make tennis his main thing. But in all seriousness, keep an eye on Donald Young.

4. Speaking of tennis as his main thing, I watched two players in the men's draw who might be in the wrong profession. The first is the man pictured above, Feliciano Lopez. I thought he looked a little pretty, like a model, when he was on the court.

I guess I was right. If he's taking pictures like this, I'm guessing he knows he could model if tennis didn't work out for him. But why be a model when you can be the best looking in a field where everyone else is relatively less attractive than you? Because if you can't beat them on the court, beating them in the looks department has to count for something - and may make you even more rich famous than you would be if you actually won a tournament. (See this other obscure tennis player.) If I were his opponent, I'd make 50 copies of this pic and post them in the locker room at every tournament. I might even put this pic on my towel, just so I could have extra motivation to kick his butt during our match. If I lost, I'd remember that he took this picture, and I would feel better.

The second player who might want to consider a career change? John Isner. When I heard Federer was playing a guy who was 6'9", my first thought was the same thought every other person had: Is this guy wearing "the shirt"? Answer: Yes, he was.

My next question: What the heck is he doing on a tennis court? I don't care who you are, if you're 6'9" and above and don't play basketball - or at least do something athletic - people are going to look at you like you've failed in your life's purpose. They might even tell you as much. If you're 6'9" or above and you're reading this, don't worry about those people. They're just jealous. . . but come on! What a waste of height! Seriously.

As a way of background, Isner is an All-American from the University of Georgia who made it to the NCAA tennis finals at #1 singles this past year. He received a wild card entry into the Open and has apparently decided to forego his final year of NCAA eligibility to go pro. And while he lost eventually, Isner did take a set off Federer, which not too many people can say. (On a side note, the guy who won the NCAA tournament didn't even get an invite to the U.S. Open. And he has to go back to school. Ick.) According to my tennis insider, Isner had a late growth spurt, so he gets a pass for passing on basketball. His one weapon, as one might imagine, is his serve. But at 6'9", you may cover the whole court in a single step, but you aren't going to be able to move like the little guys.

If his arms look a lot longer than normal, it's because they are. I didn't stretch this picture. I know he's probably fully invested in this tennis thing, but he would make way more money playing basketball, and being in the NBA is a lot less work than traveling every week to different continents and groupies are much more accessible. I'd start working on that jumper if I were you, Johnny boy.

5. Tennis is unlike most sports because the fans are supposed to keep quiet and avoid distracting the players. As most people do keep quiet and obey the "rules," it's the perfect forum for the solo exhibitionist who wants to say something ("Roddick, I want to have your baby!!") that can be heard by everyone in attendance. Seriously, you can't even walk around at tennis matches. I watched two matches involving top players in which play was halted while a mother returned to her seat with her baby, and in both instances the umpire spoke directly to the mothers to ask them to find a seat. And we got to see these mothers on their big screen, TV close-ups. Talk about embarrassing.

But the U.S. Open is also a little different. It's undoubtedly the loudest of the four major tennis tournaments, partly because it's in New York, partly because they play matches at night and serve beer in head-size portions. Either way, it can get a little rowdy. Witness James Blake's "J-Block" who regularly attend his matches to harass his opponents and support their favorite player:

. . . But even after all this, I was still not prepared to hear the "summer anthem" "Ay Bay Bay" by Hurricane Chris playing during Serena Williams' match. Amazing that this song even made it to the radio, and now it's playing at the U.S. Open. Next thing you know, they'll be talking about Kanye West's album coming out tomorrow during Monday Night Football. Wait, that just happened. No, I'm not kidding.

6. And last but not least, as much as I enjoyed the U.S. Open, I need to gripe about one thing: the prices. Here is a run down of the ridiculous:

  • The food. For $3.50, you could get two hands full of water. Just about enough to swallow an aspirin with. A small bottle of Gatorade? $4.50. Caesar salad on flat bread (really, three pieces of lettuce on stale bread)? $14. I saw a small seafood dish that cost $25. At a food stand. Without a waiter. Or napkins. Or even tartar sauce. The only way I'm paying $25 for one item from a stand is if I get to keep eating it forever, or at least a week. I refused to buy the water or the Gatorade, just on principle. I also refused because Evian tastes like toilet water. Not that I've tasted toilet water, but if I did, that's what I imagine it would taste like. And of course you can't bring in your own food and drink. But I heard that if you stuff drinks in sweatshirt sleeves in your bag, you can sneak them past the bottle mafia at the gate. I'm not saying I did that, I just heard that it works . . . if you try it next year and get caught, I will not be held liable for your attempt to cheat the system.
  • The clothing. The same zip up cotton jacket you might see for $5 in a shop in NYC sold for $125 at the Open, all because of the gigantic Polo Ralph Lauren logo on the back. I never cease to be amazed that a company expects that I'm going to pay them to advertise for them. Since the logo's on the back, I can't even see it and enjoy the fruits of my hard-earned dollars. Now if they want to give me $125 to wear the jacket, then we can talk. So what if I'm not famous. Yet.
  • The tickets. As it turns out, the U.S. Open is near to the top of the most profitable sporting events in the world, outpacing even the NCAA basketball tournament. . . and I see why. I can't really complain because I didn't technically pay for this year's tickets, but they are crazy expensive nonetheless. Even the "cheap" seats are $60, and it costs $50 just to be on the grounds. Besides the fact that sitting in the cheap seats increases the likelihood that you will experience nose bleeds, headaches, nausea and/or vomiting, you can barely see what's going on from way up there. Nike clearly was not taking the "cheap" seats into account when they gave every player the same shirt and shorts. The best you can hope for is that Federer is playing so you can tell who won!

Overall, if you haven't been to the U.S. Open, I would certainly recommend that you check it out. Even if you're not a huge tennis fan, there's always something worth seeing,

for all of us.


Robert Daniel said...

Check out this article written on Donald Young by one of my best friends. It was in the NYT Magazine a few weeks back:

Robert Daniel said...

Apparently that url was way to long for the comment section. Alternatively just do a google search for "new york times magazine donald young"

Erwin said...

Great post!

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