Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why Tennis Is Better Than Football


Much Ado About Nothing

70,000 Baltimorons packed the M & T Stadium this past Sunday night to watch the hapless, predictable, Ravens plod their way to an ugly 24-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The only thing remarkable at all about this night at M & T was the tailgate cookout parties taking place hours before kickoff. That at least was something to shout about, at least according to my sister, who suffered through the borefest on the field and finally got home at 1 a.m. lamenting that Kyle Boller should have been injured earlier to have given the Ravens a better chance.

Nothing Ado About Something

Meanwhile a mere 25,000 "elitist" tennis fans in Flushing Meadows, New York watched the poetry in motion that was this year's U.S. Open final between 35-year-old aging legend Andre Agassi and 24-year-old ruling wunderkid Roger Federer. It was history in the making for both men, one at the end of his road, and one well on his way ascending a road to his place as perhaps the best ever. Of course the broadcast was delayed until 4:30 (usually coverage kicks off at 4 p.m. on U.S Open Final Sunday) so that NBC could hog the airwaves with meaningless post-game recaps and updated scores for the hype machine that is the NFL (AKA the National Felons League). BTW, I usually hate the National Anthem part of sporting events, but I gotta say, I've seldom seen a better rendition than that of another Generation gap duo...namely, Ben and James Taylor. It was poignant and moving, and JT even asked for a moment of silence in honor of the anniversary date of 9/11.

Quest for Fire

At M & T Stadium, there was history standing still. The Ravens offense was (as usual) predictable, clumsy, plodding, unimaginative, sputtering, error-prone. Cavemen fiddling with sticks, in search of the first spark, but continually walking in darkness.

NFL player checking The Game Plan

The majority of players were big, fat, clumsy, Super Size Me hunks of man flesh, pampered with oxygen and Gatorade on the sidelines lest they have to run plays for more than several minutes without rest. On the sidelines, there was a a phalanx of walkie talkies and headsets manned by countless coaches who were coaxing and advising, barking out plays to the gigantic automatons on the gridiron, like a dozen Johnny Sokko's controlling a team of Giant Robots.

During the game, there was a constant barrage of back-and-forth tauting, trash-talking, fouling, late-hitting, showboating, and unsportsmanlike behavior.

At the end of the game, the usual gaggle of platitudes, the winners thanking the usual suspects (God, teammates, coach, etc., etc.) while the losers offered the lame excuses of clueless jocks shocked that reality rained on their overblown hype parade (I loved the one Raven who angrily vented his disappointment by lamenting that "I was expecting us to go undefeated, and now we lost and can't do that." Yeah, when I think of teams going with a bagel in the loss column, the Ravens aren't exactly on my short list - they're not quite in the same league at the Pats or the Steelers. Hell, we lost to the Bengals alone TWICE last year!).


At Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, there was history moving forward on the racquet of Roger Federer, whom Andre Agassi - the only marquee player in his sport that non-tennis afficionados can identify, if only for his TV commercials and famous wives - called the best he's ever faced, while there was also history passing - a realization that at 35, this may be Agassi's last hurrah in a career that spans three decades.

The players were well-toned, incredibly fit athletes, able to run around for hours on end, without coaching, man to man, head to head, toe to toe, reacting, acting, playing out the mental and physical chess match that is a tennis game.

All Tennis Players Have Sixpack Abs

During the game: passion, competitiveness, and sportsmanship. Rarely is there showboating or taunting, post-McEnroe/Connors BratPack Era,  in this sport (OK, the Coria-Massu match came close, and Elena Dementiva was a bit catty about Mary Pierce's "injury" time outs, but usually it's quite cricket.) in which even tossing one's racquet in a pique of anger is potentially penalized as "racquet abuse."

After the game, the players spoke elegantly, almost poetically. We take it for granted that international stars in tennis, soccer or whathaveyou understand and can convesre in English, but it is not a given. How man times have you seen an American athlete speak in French at the Tour de France, or French Open or whatever? Yet, in tennis we get Federer, who speaks three languages, or a Justine Hardin-Hennin or Kim Clisjters, or Marat Safin, or Rafel Nadal, or countless others step to the plate and take mighty swings at the English vernacular. It's not a given - it's another mark of sophistication.

Mitigating Factor: Cheerleaders vs. Tennis Girlfriends

Admittedly, there is no equivalent to the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders in tennis, although the press love to go on about how purdy Sharapova is and Anna "Never Won Anything Except Endorsements" Kournikova was - though for my money, no one comes close to another Rooskie, Elena Dementiva, for classic model looks and the best legs in the game. This cheerleader factor might sway me, but the TV cameras never dwell long enough on the gals, opting instead to dwell on the homo-eroticism of Ray Lewis' pre-game bump-and-grind dance moves. NFL cameramen obviously watch too many gladiator films! And then there's Marat Safin's girlfriend (see below):

Advantage, Tennis: Marat Safin's Girlfriend Lets It All Hang Out

Yup, tennis players have the hottest girlfriends. And, unlike NFL players, they tend not to beat them up.

And meanwhile, back at Jurassic Park - I mean M & T field - some pumped up Raven player is whining about "We didn't play together as a team" or some such other flair-for-the-obvious nonsense and is almost in tears about not getting the undefeated season and the meaningless stats it represents. Suck it up - both your pot-bellied guts and your lame excuses -and just do it. (And stop eating and drinking so much, you fat fucks!)

Or, as Pete Sampras says in those new bank ads that aired during the U.S. Open, "Make it Happen."

The Boy's a Bit Special

Hail to the King, baby!

Here are some articles backing up what I say about the grandeur of the moment the 2005 U.S. Open match represented.

Federer Reigns Supreme Despite Agassi's Valient Try (International Herald Times)

Federer the Fantastic (San Francisco Chronicle)

And here's a nice comparison of Federer vs. Sampras at the respective stages/ages of their careers:

Federer Vs. Sampras


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