Saturday, August 7, 2010

Confessions of a Tennis Fan—I May Be A Traitor

(ed. note- This article was written for; this is the direct link:—I-May-Be-A-Traitor.aspx)

August 5, 2010) Philadelphia, PA—The 90 degree plus temperatures that have plagued the Northeast have kept me off the courts for weeks. The most exercise I’m getting is twiddling my thumbs while waiting for the US Open. And, just as Dinara Safina can’t decide between tennis and chocolate in her 2009 It Must Be Love ad — seated in a chair, she expresses such ambivalence that it makes you feel sad: "Tennis, chocolate cake, tennis, chocolate cake, Tennis!" — I am engaged in a similar summer conflict.

Picture me in a chair, racket in my right hand, baseball bat in my left. I look from one to the other and think to myself:

Tennis? Baseball? Tennis? Baseball? Tennis? Baseball?

Although, as a good tennis junkie would, I am tuning into Tennis Channel to watch US Open Series tournaments. As you can tell, my loyalties are divided. On any given night, events in these two sports are televised at the same time. The Phillies home games typically begin at 7 p.m. EST, and sometimes 9 or 9:30 p.m. for away games in the Central or Pacific time zones. Tennis matches televised by either ESPN2 or Tennis Channel often coincide with those timeframes. So, I ask you:
Tennis? Baseball? Tennis? Baseball? Tennis? Baseball?

Most die-hard tennis fans like me would wonder, what kind of conflict is she talking about? It’s tennis, hands down. You just wouldn’t understand. This writer’s hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies, has been the National League champion for two years in a row—2008 and 2009, and won the World Series in 2008. In 2010 they held first place for most of May, and then slumped in June, and are now once again nipping at the heels of the NL’s first-place Atlanta Braves. I ask you: How can I abandon such a successful hometown team? Yankees fans, would you? Or fans of all those other first-place teams in their divisions—the Rays, Braves, Astros, Reds, Padres and Cubs—would you?

Let me give you some perspective about me and baseball. I had a crush on several boys who played in Little League and, since the field was just a few blocks from my house, I went to a lot of those games Then, in fourth grade, I played center field during the recess games on the school playground. Once, when attempting to catch a fly ball, it landed hard on my right cheek instead of in my glove. (Now you know why I chose tennis. Baseball, however, might have been a better choice since, eight years ago a tennis ball hit me in the neck, which several months later led to a stroke.) In the days of Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn, I watched Phillies games on TV with my mother (not my father). She even took me to Connie Mack Stadium a couple of times. I wore a white shirt, a red skirt, and carried a red and white Phillies flag. Baseball caps didn’t look good on me and still don’t. A tennis headband together with a visor and sunglasses, however, look okay.

On the other hand, when I was 7 I learned to swing a racket at summer camp. My first boyfriend taught me to play. Many years later he became the coach of a tour player. (Does anyone here remember Richey Reneberg? yellow shirt)

So by now your eyes are glazing over. All this talk of baseball is boring. Lady, you say, what’s with you? Don’t you know that this website is about tennis? Okay, let me fill you in on a dirty little secret. I know for a fact that I’m not the only fan at Tennis Now who is afflicted with a baseball-tennis conflict. Out of loyalty, I won’t out him. (He knows who he is and he’d better not delete this.) Here’s a hint: he’s a Mets fan. Eeeuuuww. 

Never mind. Always a tennis fan first and foremost, I have more than once, like my college roommate, Michelle Jordan, arranged my life around the majors. (I never did this for baseball, you should know.) And I am usually glued to the tube for Masters 1000 and WTA Premier events. Additionally, just to prove my point, for the past few weeks I have been loyal to the US Open series events, with just a few time outs for the ball games. I’ll be there in front of the TV for the weekend’s Legg Mason and San Diego semis and finals.

But I feel sooooooo guilty.

Last week I did the unforgivable. I did forego some of the Farmers Classic matches for a couple of Phillies games. What a waste of good tennis time. The Fightin’ Phils were swept by the Nationals, a third-rate team that is 14 games out of first place.

But I have figured it out. I can usually resolve the conflict with mixed media. Here’s what I mean by that: sometimes I watch live scores on my laptop while watching the ball game. Or I listen to the ball game on the radio and watch tennis on television. Who says you can’t have it all?

Ridiculous? No. It’s perfectly rational—the best of both worlds for me. There is one other option. Baseball games encore when the live game is over, and the next day, too. Tennis Channel repeats matches several times. Call me petulant. If it’s too hot for me to play tennis, I want to watch ballgames and tennis matches in the here and now. I don’t want to watch them stale, although I could if I wanted to. And I don’t. (Sports fans, this should be the worst problem I ever have.)

Summer will soon be coming to an end. But am I back where I started?

Tennis? Baseball? Tennis? Baseball? Tennis? Baseball?

 Can the crack of a bat ever compare to the sweet pop of a Roddick serve or the solid thwack of a Nadal forehand?

 No way.

Relief is on its way, all too soon. In early September, when the Open has come and gone, I will be happy to toss over my conflict to the football fans, who can wage their own internal baseball-football battle.

Me? I wouldn’t get near the Eagles.