I’M SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT STARTING A NEW CATEGORY…(Sports Moment #10)

…Dedicated solely to the great and lasting works of the Dead Brain Cell Count Brigade.

I’ll probably get over it in a week or two, but I tend to flirt with this idea during the weeks when my love of tennis forces me to listen for hours on end to the people who cover it for a living.

Normally, the idiotic things said about Serena Williams alone would keep the blog humming along for days as far as content (though it would definitely dampen the run I plan to make for the Mr. Sunshine title some day when the world is young again).

But this week’s winner is so definitive I couldn’t pass on giving it at least some sort of acknowledgment.

So….

As Tennis Channel closed it’s Wimbledon coverage for the day on Friday evening, Mary Carillo (not a DBCCB member), Jon Wertheim (who occasionally flirts with membership) and Jim Courier (former champion player who is a DBCCB lifer) were discussing the controversy of the day, which was the tournament’s decision to close the Center Court roof between the third and fourth sets on account of impending darkness.

There were some legitimate points of debate–namely the fact that Wimbledon apparently does not have a clearly defined public policy on whether and when to close the roof during matches (the closing was significant because the perception was that turning it into an indoor match and interrupting the flow of play would seriously advantage one player over another, though in this case the player who was expected to benefit lost the next set and the match rather handily when play resumed–of course he did).

Anyway, Courier, DBCCB lifer that he is, took the position that there was no difference between delaying a match at any given point (rather than a set time like, say, the end of a set) because there is no meaningful difference between darkness and rain, which stops play whenever it makes the court unplayable and is the main reason the roof exists in the first place.

When Wertheim stumbled around a bit with his response, Courier actually played the “yeah but you’ve never been there” card that former players love to cow geeky sports reporters with.

Having not managed to make any clear argument on his own point’s behalf–or indeed any argument at all–Wertheim was stuck and a few seconds of mindless babbling ensued before Carillo mercifully stepped in and changed the subject.

Which kind of left Courier’s question unanswered.

I mean…

Rain…

Darkness…

What’s the difference? Can you tell me that?

How about this Jim…

You know when darkness is coming. In fact you know precisely when it is coming. Like, to the minute!

Unless things are far more different in England than I’ve been led to believe, the same cannot be said of rain.

Ever.

When science tells us, for instance, that “rain is in the area,” and the area included tennis players playing tennis, what that means is, the court might be unplayable in three minutes…or it might be unplayable…never!

When science tell us that darkness is coming in, say, forty-three minutes? Well, what that means is–absent a moon-sized meteor striking the planet in the interrum–darkness is coming.

In forty-three minutes.

So, yeah, there’s that.

Now I’m gonna give Wertheim a small break here. I do not believe he grew up in Florida (or even in the south) so he does not have the life experience required to spot this particular unique blend of arrogance and ignorance–i.e., the ability to hammer the opposition in an argument by pretending that even the simplest measures of logic and common sense are really the natural province of morons.

Had he possessed this vital experience, he would have been able to parry well known University of Florida fan and supporter Courier’s erudition by simply keeping his head and pointing out the rather obvious difference I mentioned above. And then he would have been able to simply shake his head in mock wonder and, with just the right amount of world-weary resignation, say, simply:

“Gator.”

Jim Courier would have had no clue what he was talking about.

But, on the late night broadcast of the Tennis Channel’s coverage of Wimbledon, I bet even a solid majority of that part of the audience who have never so much as heard of the University of Florida would have at least gotten the general idea.

(And by the way, Jon, if you practice this mindset often enough, you may get around to having real retorts on the tip of your tongue for that “yeah, but you never played” nonsense. Like maybe: “Well, that’s true enough, but I did go to science class where we learned that the earth is round and revolves around the sun which is why even the All England club knows what freaking time it’s going to be dark every single night! But that’s a ways in the future. Years perhaps. You’ll need to start with baby steps.)

 

SEGUE OF THE DAY (7/4/13–ESPN covers tennis. First the women. Then the men. Sports Moment #9)

Chris Fowler Once/Chris Fowler Twice…

Wow. Didn’t realize it had been so long since two elements informed and enlightened each other on the same day in just the right way! And, since it happened during Wimbledon, it pretty much had to be related to tennis.

Anyhow:

I usually think I’m jaded enough to not be surprised by much, especially when it comes to sports “journalism” and most especially when it comes to commentary on tennis, the one major sport where men and women compete for public attention on a more or less equal basis and, therefore, the one major sport where even the sport’s nominal sponsors (who might have something to gain by promoting it unabashedly), are dedicated to the relentless protection of male privilege.

How relentless?

Heck, they’ll stick with it even if it costs money–which, in this case, it does and which they know it does.

I know how this works. We all know how this works–right down to the routine denials by all parties involved of there ever having been even a thought of doing any such thing!

And–sad but true–I’m no longer young.

So I’m used to letting it roll off my back. Life’s too short.

If, say, Tony Kornhiser, co-host of a show called Pardon the Interruption (and life-long card carrying member of the Dead Brain Cell Count Brigade, Sports Division), spends a week mocking his partner Michael Wilbon’s tickets to the Ladies’ Semifinal at Wimbledon as being “worthless” because Serena Williams was knocked out of the draw on Monday, I hardly bat an eye. That Wilbon, if indeed he decided to use those tickets, would end up seeing the match of the tournament to that point (contested–on a knife edge throughout–between Sabine Lisicki, the enormously gifted young woman who beat Serena by outplaying her at her own game and very well might be a breakout star, and Agnieska Radwanska, the tennis player’s tennis player) was as predictable as sticking your hand in a bucket of water and having it come out wet.

As I say, I’m used to all that.

But there was a kind of twist on the theme during the 4th of July Wimbledon coverage.

The Lisicki/Radwandska match was covered by Chris Fowler doing play-by-play. (Chris Evert provided color commentary but really isn’t germane to this.)

I noticed throughout that Fowler–high-level DBCCB material himself–was remarkably subdued, almost as if he had started working for the BBC or something. (With them, understatement is a style. It’s a style no one has ever heard of at ESPN.)

Not only was the match filled with the highest tension imaginable (three-set matches generate such from the get-go, whereas even the closest high-stakes five-setters contested by the men usually don’t start raising anxiety levels unless and until there’s a fourth set between the small handful of actual contenders), it featured a bundle of the very sort of indelible, athletic shot-making under pressure that normally tends to make Fowler’s voice rise two octaves.

For Thursday’s match, he sounded like he was in church, wondering if he should nudge the deacon sleeping next to him in the pew, or just let him go ahead and sleep through the sermon.

“Gee, what happened to Fowler?” I wondered as the match came to an end (Lisicki winning 9-7 in the final set–that’s several extra innings of a World Series game, with everything on the line and no teammates to help you, for those of you who don’t follow tennis.)

I mean, I thought maybe MI6 had got to him. Possibly even turned him against us? Maybe promised him British citizenship if he proved he could keep his heart rate level throughout?

Something?

I started thinking, yeah that must be it.

We’re finally gonna get rid of Chris Fowler! This time next year, he’ll be doing soccer matches for Man U! Tennis and College Football will be free at last!

Then, just as I was breaking out the wine and cheese and preparing to celebrate, ESPN started running a partial replay of the men’s match from the day before between Brit Andy Murray (one of the men’s “Big Four” who have been dividing up the tennis slams between them for about three hundred Klingon years**) and persistent underachiever Fernando Verdasco.

And there was my man Fowler, in all his glory, calling Murray’s comeback from two sets down–an event that was surprising in the way that Russian Roulette ending badly when it is played without an empty chamber is surprising–and the comforting signs of hero-worship, heart-throbbery and man-crushery and all those other, more or less unmentionable, things that keep America strong were fully present and accounted for. The hyperbole! The two-octave rise! The persistent encomiums to how magnificent and “amazing” it all was!

So I had to put the wine and cheese back in the cupboard and accept that, alas, he is still one of us and that his palpable lack of enthusiasm for the genuinely exciting match that happened to be played by women a day later was just the same tired old double-your-standard-double-your-fun narrative being served up in a new bottle.

Almost got me there Chris. Well done!

And please do hold your breath waiting for it to happen again…

NOTE: Below is the best highlight package I could find on the net from the Lisicki/Radwanska match. Not ideal, perhaps (it leaves out many of the best points) but gives at least some feel for the match. The announcer who appears in audio snippets throughout seems to know a bit about building drama and calling a tennis match. In any case he has a great voice. There’s an ESPN logo in the corner, but, rest assured, this is not Chris Fowler.

Sabine Lisicki, Aga Radwanska (Wimbledon Semi-final Highlights, 2013)

And since, in one of those unlucky coincidences, those highlights begin directly after the point of the match, well, here’s the point of the match:

Sabine Lisicki, Aga Radwanska (Point of the Match, 2013 Wimbledon Semi-Final)

(**If there is no such thing as “Klingon years” please refrain from enlightening me. My present state of uncertainty is all the bliss I either deserve or require.)