Monday, October 22, 2018

Wimbledon Watchers, Don't Spill the Beans

By Jean Kirshenbaum, Sarasota, FL
This article was posted on on 7/1/18

Here we are at Wimbledon once again. It’s a time when thoughts turn to tea leaves in England and coffee beans in America and around the world.

Regardless of your preference, tennis fans everywhere too often spill the beans (coffee or otherwise) about game scores, sets won and match results.

 It’s just a maddening travesty of fan sportsmanship, don’t you agree? Few fans can tolerate such an outrage—especially me. Rather than be informed of match status, I’d prefer to drink the tea and read tea leaves to predict winners, than to know them before I have actually seen the match.

So, unlike NPR’s amusing game of “wait wait, don’t tell me,” for serious tennis fans who can’t go to England, but must watch on television—albeit with pleasure at home or in a sports bar, it’s not a radio program game. Rather a precarious reality of SHHH SHHH don’t dare tell me anything—about game score, sets won, or even who’s playing.

In other words, if you want to keep your tennis playing friends and relatives, tennis fans must adhere to THE RULE: Don’t spill the beans. Don’t divulge any information, intentional or inadvertently. I may not yet have had a chance to watch my recording or to see a replay. Keep it yourself. Not a whisper. Shut up!

Here’s a recent example of a rule violation, so agonizing and so funny, I was nearly in tears from both.

The Text Menace

Although I was really ticked off at first, I presumed my dear friend Mara had broken THE RULE, which she had never heard of and knew nothing about.

Mara (just a few years in as fan of pro tennis compared to my 30+years, but just as avid. So she is relatively new to our world.) It was the first round of the French Open when Mara texted me during Serena‘s match with Krystina Pliskova, possibly a favorite, given Williams’ rust.

“Serena isn’t looking good,” she texted.

“God no” I thought, “Is she going out in the first round?!” Oh, this can’t be.” And why is she telling me this when she knows I am out and not watching, but probably recording the match?

What else else could I assume but that she was referring to Serena’s playing and the match score, and I was really ticked off. I didn’t want to know anything until I could see it for myself on my recording or a television replay, which, as I will explain later, carries its own dangers. I arrogantly texted Mara quickly to educate her about “THE RULE” in tennis that prohibits talking about scores, games, sets and match results.

“Rule? What rule?” Mara asked. I wanted to cry. “THE RULE, I texted, is: “Before referring to any game or set scores or match results, or even who is playing, by text or other means of communication (texting is the most dangerous.) you must first ask ‘Are you watching’?” Oh, I said, it’s too damn complicated; (it’s hard to express annoyance in a text) I’ll call you to explain,” and I did just that-before she could make things worse.

I tearfully but clearly explained THE RULE (which I have myself created based on decades of painful experiences with current and former friends, and one guy in Naples, FL, Alex, who, because I have broken the rule more than once, has left me hanging on by a thread as his first cousin. Now when I ask him, “Are you watching?” he usually replies “No, recording.” I can detect his veiled threat—even in a text.

Said Mara: “But I wasn’t talking about how she was playing. I was talking about how she looked in her tennis cat suit”, I agreed and then we howled with laughter when we realized our faulty cross communication when in desperation I had called her in a flash to tell her about “THE “RULE” and tennis fan “protocol.”

Let me now tell you about the other near RULE disaster when I got a phone call from my friend Anne while I was driving to see my psychologist.

Anne and I have known each other for decades. Although I know I can trust her to follow THE RULE, she was breathless.. I gripped the wheel tightly in fear, waiting for the racket to strike. No need. As I said, Anne knows THE RULE.

“Are you watching the match?” She asked appropriately.

“No I’m on my way to see a sports psychologist,” I said with relief. “Why are you seeing a sports psychologist?”

“Well, as you know, I’ve never been a great player and now I’m getting worse and losing confidence."

“Maybe” she said with good intention, “instead of going to a sports psychologist you should see tennis pro.”

Thanks, my reliable friend, for that sage advice, “Oops, gotta go, Gary is calling,” I Iied. I couldn’t wait to hang up.

But, I couldn’t stand it; I had to know. I waited a few minutes, called her back and apologized for the short call. I gave in.

“Ok. Who’s playing? “Nadal.” “Who is he playing and what’s the score?”

As you know by now, I want to know nothing about a match if I’m not watching it, but in this case I gave myself the luxury of breaking THE RULE, only because there is no mystery when Nadal is on clay. He was likely to win.

 So how can you protect yourself against spilled beans?

• First, you should not look at any texts on your cell phone. Do not answer the phone, cell or landline. Better yet, put the cell in in a drawer or under the mattress, and set the read-out setting to off.

• You must also avoid looking at email, since invariably, if matches have been completed before you have watched your recording, an email from a tennis site will spill the beans in a subject line: “Coric Feeds on Federer at Halle” or “Serena gorges on Goerges”. In fact, I take pride in the fact that I browbeat Tennis Now to change its ways, and convinced the editor to write neutral headlines that no longer spill the beans.)

• If you go out while recording tennis and go out, switch to another station, just for insurance. Why? Because as soon as you walk in the door, as I do, you risk what you have tried so hard to avoid—spilled beans. Although what’s on may be well beyond the match you have been recording, it’s likely match results crawl on the bottom of the screen, even worse, the commentators will provide updates on previous matches. I had no one to blame but myself for this: I had recorded the Wozniacki vs. Konta match at Eastbourne. That match was long over when I turned on TV only to see a large graphic of the draw, which indicated the next round for the Woz had won and that that she would next play Barty. How could I have been so unthinking? Wishfully, I freed up some DVR space by deleting the 220 minutes I had recorded on that oddball beIN Channel, which, is now the default channel for most WTA matches

• Finally, Take it from me, Shhh and beware should be your everyday words during any tennis tournament, for . I have learned the hard way.

At this point, it is just to confess to my readers (if I have any at this point) that I myself broke THE RULE.
Take it away Mara, the reformed tennis text criminal. I paid her back, although inadvertently.

Here’s how it went down: One morning I texted Mara to see if she was watching the Federer-Kudla match. Before I texted her, I read her previous message in our thread, which said “shucks, we have to leave.”

She obviously wasn’t watching the match; she had left home. Wasn’t it safe to tell her that that Federer won. Absolutely not.

She replied “Wait, you weren’t supposed to tell me.” Clearly, Mara had proved to be an excellent student. She gently applied THE RULE.

O my god, what was I thinking? Your arrogant beans professor broke THE RULE. I had accidentally spilled the beans Sheepishly, I apologized and she forgave me. I promised her ice cream (Stay tuned because that’s a hint for my next installment, “Chocolate Vanilla or Strawberry.”)

That brings me to Michele, my college roommate, who dodges THE RULE altogether, except when she is watching tennis live. Thus, little worry about spilling the beans to Michele, who doesn’t seem to care about my silly rule.

“But Michele, I insist, tennis isn't only about scores and match results. Just think about the fantastic shot making, the fist pumps and the tears, the silly lying down on the court in victory and those small, dramatic moments that are so telling."

One of my favorite moments was the pre-match warm up of Federer and Raonic at their Stuttgart final. The high-energy Milos Raonic was swinging his racket in the air and dancing right and left across the net from Federer, who, at 36, is the Old King Cool of tennis. The 6’4” Raonic was bouncing around like a jumping bean.

For a moment, Federer interrupts his steady gaze across the net and then, and then and then? He looks down at his racket, and then? In a moment of delicious drama, he neatly adjusts a single string. Possibly a subtle put down? I would never want to miss such a poignant moment. In fact I replayed it several times, just to savor the dignity of the moment. The match couldn’t be as good. And, for me, it wasn’t.

On the other hand, my friend Aimee, wouldn’t miss a match, and has even listened to it on the radio. Hunh? Yup, you read that right. On her drive from Florida’s’ west coast to the east coast, she asked me to look up the ESPN station number on Sirius Radio, so she could listen to the match. Otherwise, said the New York native, fawgeddit, I give in. “Who’s winning?”

After all, who has hours and hours to watch tennis? I admit that I sometimes bend or ignore THE RULE. I sometimes fast forward through matches, stopping to watch if the score reaches a deuce or an ad point, and otherwise looks interesting or exciting. Then I move on to the next instance of interest.

Speaking of rules, My USTA rule book, coffee stained and dog eared, is a lengthy 114 pages. Tennis rules can be extremely complicated, counter intuitive, and just plain silly. Nevertheless, I would like to increase the book to 115 pages by adding my own brief, uncomplicated rule regarding pro tennis on TV. You got it! SHHHH.. DON’T SPILL THE BEANS

Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry or Coffee?

By Jean Kirshenbaum | Sarasota, FL 10/22/18, 2018



It wasn’t all strawberries and cream for Serena Williams and Roger Federer,but the folks at Wimbledon, especially the American commentators, as usual, made a big deal of the strawberries and cream tradition.

This dessert is generally a fan favorite, but not to sports journalist Jon Wertheim. Who in 2017 wrote in Sports Illustrated a disparaging piece under this headline:

Wimbledon is truly a treasure, but its classic strawberries and cream snack is not.

What about ice cream--the best alternative? In fact, after signing a five-year deal with the Lawn Tennis Association, the tournament’s organisers, Haagen-Dazs has been named the Official Ice Cream of The Wimbledon Championships.

“Haagen-Dazs is proud to be the Official Ice Cream of Wimbledon. As the luxury ice cream brand of choice for both Wimbledon and British Tennis, there’s no better way to indulge yourself whilst enjoying moments of sporting greatness on the court!"

I should warn you, I’m with Wertheim. Don’t give me strawberries and cream. Give me ice cream, but not the official ice cream of Wimbledon, Haagen-Dazs, which tastes of too much butter fat to me.

This brand was all the craze a few decades ago, when Americans thought it was a Danish product. But –Who knew? It’s an American brand, established by
Reuben and Rose Mattus in the Bronx, New York, in 1961.

Starting with only three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, the company opened its first retail store in Brooklyn, New York, of all places, a locale not all that far from Flushing Meadows, home of the US Open.

Strawberries and cream have been associated with Wimbledon since its inception in 1877, and soon the dish became synonymous with the tournament. So much so that each year, says Wertheim, we get a barrage of “… meaningless statistics about the volume sold…”—usually in tons.

As silly as this may seem, there are even recipes for this simple dish. “You want to keep the strawberries shape for a nice presentation .After removing the leaves, take a small paring knife and cut around the white part so that a ‘cone’ shape of the core is removed and from the side, the strawberries still look perfectly intact.” In the world-famous words of John McEnroe, “YOU CAN NOT BE SERIOUS”

What is interesting about the recipe is that most people outside of Great Britain probably don’t know that the cream is not whipped or sweetened. The thick, cold cream is simply drizzled over the sweet strawberries and eaten that way.

Wertheim, however takes great pleasure in maligning, not eating, strawberries and cream, which he describes as merely “a bowl with a few lonely berries swimming in pinkish milk …”

Poor snack, says Wertheim and a silly recipe, in my opinion. Isn’t it a matter of just cutting off the green top? There is even an idio-video to show you how.

So now, I am eager to leave the pretentious topic of strawberries and cream and turn to the ordinary, everyman topic of ice cream. Before I do that, however, I must tell you this about strawberries and cream. I recently meant an English woman who has been to Wimbledon many times. So I asked her: "Do people at Wimbledon really eat strawberries and cream?"   "Yes," said. "But you would never find it on a dessert menu." Ha- so there!

I believe that ice cream is a much better use of cream than strawberries and cream. We here in hot and humid Sarasota, FL. prefer ice cream. It’s cheap and delicious.

Ice cream is especially important to my friend Mara and me, because we bet on matches and the stakes are ice cream at Abels, our favorite ice cream parlor. Hands down. Abels has the best ice cream in town. Coffee is their best seller, which would make the Mattus family proud. (For packaged ice cream I would recommend Breyer’s Chocolate Truffle, and Turkey Hill, which began in Pennsylvania “a long long time ago’’ with, of all flavorsstrawberry! )

By the way, did you know that Tennis is one of the most bet upon sport in the world? I’m not going any deeper into this topic, because it’s controversial and my betting expertise doesn’t go beyond ice cream.

Oddly, our format is Winner buys! In fact our chivalrous husbands, Gary and Tom, usually rush to the register to pay, and we let them. Yes, there is no feminism when it comes to ice cream. And there are no losers. (As an aside, Gary won’t bet a nickel on anything. Ice cream/ tennis is his one exception.)

Mara and I have now bet on so many matches- rounds one through finals-- in so many tournaments that we don’t even know who is ahead in wins. For Wimbledon, we have tried to limit our wagers to semis and finals. But we did give in few times and wagered on earlier rounds. I lost on the Kerber-Ostapenko match and also the Williams-Goerges match. Truth be told, I didn’t expect Serena to get to the quarters, let alone the final.

And what about the finals?

Mara’s take will be a chocolate ice cream soda. For the sake of tradition, I may go with a strawberry sundae with whipped cream.

The guys, of course, will buy the ice cream, so now it’s just the glory of picking the winners. If we can’t split our bets, we will just have to start over again with the U.S. Open.

I dunno, Mara, I think we have to choose a different gambling format for the Open. Wagers only on the finals. With all that ice cream during Wimbledon, I’ve gained 4 pounds. Was it worth it? Hell, yeah.

Seated at the Tennis Table, Please Pass the Accolades

10/22/18, Sarasota FL
 By Jean Kirshenbaum
This article was posted on on 7/13/18
After my stroke 15 years ago. I was back on the tennis court in just three months. I was not playing my former aggressive game but I was back, which is what was important, Over the 15 years since, I recovered my serve after many, many hours of practice to a point where it was better than it had been.
 I have been so grateful to have  found players at my new level (from 3.0 to down about 2.5 2.75!), and somehow I  have  managed to almost hold my own  in doubles clinics .I told everyone about my stroke, not for pity, but by way of explanation and apology for my poor mobility. Some players felt sorry for me, some were annoyed to play with someone who could hardly run for balls, and many, they oohed and ahhed about how I was so courageous and an inspiration. They heaped these accolades upon me, and I was both embarrassed and encouraged.
Unfortunately, I now face a challenge that is even bigger than my stroke. Oddly, one day I was fine, and woke up the next with poor balance and little mobility, and I began fall for no reason. When I try to step forward with my left leg, it seems as though someone has tied rope around my ankle and won’t let go…as if my foot is stuck in concrete. This is called gait freeze and can sometimes be a symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, I have not played tennis for the past 7
Tom Eckhartd
My dear friend Tom Eckhardt, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago. With Parkinson’s, exercise is essential to maximize mobility. So, with great courage, in my opinion, he took up tennis!  I met him and his wife, Mara, last year and you would never even know he has this condition. He told me about it quietly while we were sitting on a bench at the tennis court waiting got out our turn rotate in. I nearly fell off the bench. You would never know unless he told you, especially because he plays tennis. Who has Parkinson’s’ disease and plays tennis?!
Mara Eckhardt
Tom is a big, quiet and gentle guy, whose long legs move him around the court pretty well-- 4-5 times a week – in matches and in clinics. When you play against him he is definitely a factor. His lovely sweet wife has become one of my closest friends. Thinking about my own condition, Mara said to me: “I knew we came into each other’s lives for a reason.” We are not at all alike, but in addition to a love of tennis, we have one other thing we have in common. We both adore love ice cream.
So many players come back from a variety of injuries and illnesses and other circumstances that have knocked them down. Who is more admirable than Venus Williams, who, despite her sjogren’s syndrome, has clawed her way back into the top 10, where she lives today. What about Juan Martin DelPotro, who is back at the top of the game after three wrist surgeries. Serena Williams, who reached the Wimbledon final after being out after 18 months of giving birth, at a risk to her own life?  (I never thought she would get past the third round)And Bethanie Mattek Sands, who many thought would never play again after one the most horrific injuries ever seen on a tennis court—a dislocated knee at least year’s Wimbledon. Five surgeries later? Back on court at the French Open.
And remember, too, doubles specialist Corina Morariu who, In May 2001, was diagnosed with an advanced form of acute myelogenous leukemia and found herself in the match of a lifetime. After a grueling regimen of chemotherapy, Corina returned to competitive tennis 16 months after her diagnosis. She was named the WTA Tour Comeback Player of the Year in 2002, but the effects of the leukemia lingered. On the court, she struggled to come to terms with the cancer and two subsequent shoulder surgeries that diminished her physical capabilities as a tennis player. Off the court, she struggled to redefine herself in the wake of her trauma. She later reappeared as an excellent television commentator
These pros, and many others, have made spectacular comebacks, as do ordinary recreational players. You probably know many of these, or you yourself are a comeback player. For example, I know a woman in her 80s who has had 2 knee surgeries and shoulder surgery,
another with 2 knee surgeries; and woman with numbing and painful neurothopy in her feet, due to chemotherapy to treat her colon cancer. We had all missed Connie,
a small-ish woman under 5’4".  But eventually she came to back to us .Tiring easily and with very painful feet, she ran nimbly around the court and soon returned to her previous level of play. A love of tennis brings us all back.
 Unlike the orthopedic injuries of pros and seniors, however, who do or do not make a comeback with time, expert treatment, and exhausting struggle, Parkinson’s disease simply happens to you, like Venus Williams Sjogren’s syndrome. Like Venus and so many other players we define as comebacks, it’s not only a matter of coming back, it’s even more important to earn your way forward.  Since Tom had never played tennis before, I would say he’s earning his way forward now, just as had Venus Williams, and I had done following my stroke. Tom astonishes me. He has become my hero, and I want to pay tribute, and pass on to him the accolades, support and love that so many players have given me...
What is next for us?  My goal is to be Tom’s doubles partner and crush ‘em!