Man, how great was that tennis match last night? I actually think more people would like watching tennis if they gave it a shot, and by watching tennis I mean pretty much just the last round or two of premium events. The finals can be a bit like watching the back nine on Masters Sunday. Eventually, I’d like to see one of these showdowns in person. The U.S. Open was a real hot spot for celebs this year. Diddy was there. Some NBA guys, Bradley Cooper (swoon), Olivia Munn, Ben Stiller, Bar Refaeli, etc. It’s a place to be seen. Flushing, right across from the home of the Mets, the nexus of New York.
Anyway, I’d want to go and watch in person to get a handle on how hard these guys are really ripping the ball. Television dulls everything down to a stock speed with no perspective, so you can’t really tell. The ball could be going 40 mph, or 140 mph, and you’d hardly know the difference. And, what I appreciate most about the tennis guys is that are they are just putting it all into every shot. You almost always have to hit a nearly perfect shot to win a point, so it’s like a soccer shootout where every player is going top-corner.
I think for actual tennis fans, it’s a pretty ridiculous time to be watching just in terms of level of play. You’ve still got Federer, possibly the greatest ever, and he got bumped to the side a bit by Nadal who was uncommonly fast and got to every ball and now there’s Djokovic on this historic run where he appears to cover even more court and hit the ball with more authority than Nadal. Unless you are Andy Murray, you should love tennis right now. And, the high level of play has led to several epic matches, sets, even points. Did I watch the 5th set of the Djokovic/Federer semi-final? Yeah, I did.
It’s a universal opinion that these matches are great. Instant classics, whatever you want to call them. The issue I have is the inevitability of someone trotting out the old, “It’s a shame someone had to lose.” No. That’s wrong. Losing made the entire thing possible. Stop being so soft.
You hear this all the time after great games or events. Oh, both teams deserved it. Both sides played their best. Blah, blah, blah. This is what the winners say when they are trying to sound humble. When an observer says it, they just come across as having no backbone.
Here’s my real issue. I don’t believe people when they say that. I don’t believe people who say they didn’t have a rooting interest. Even if you’ve never seen Nadal or Djokovic before, if you tuned in last night and stayed tuned in you must have been pulling for someone. Either you immediately went to Nadal because he was trailing. Or, maybe you took Djokovic because you’re a front-runner, or thought his girlfriend was hot. Maybe you liked one of their sneaker choices, but I guarantee you weren’t just watching for the sake of athletics. If that was the case, the driving range at Augusta would be as exciting as Amen Corner.
What about the notion that the fans at a big tennis event will actually flip-flop? If two guys are battling it out, regardless of who is ahead, they always want that fifth set. Isn’t that just cheering for tennis? Well no, that’s cheering for prolonged excitement. That’s akin to my horse in the race theory, where having your teams play big games is actually more gratifying than the end result of winning a championship. The fans on the most basic level want to be entertained, but the only reason the match is entertaining to that degree is because the players are in pursuit of an outcome. One of them will definitively win and the other will lose.
It’s all right to try to win. Believe me, if it wasn’t for the competition you’d never see these things achieved in sports. And, after a great match, it’s OK if you crown a winner. Because, there’s no shame in winning, but just as importantly there’s no shame in losing. That’s what we’re saying, right? Well, he played too well to be called the loser, but that was the outcome. Get over it.
Mike Singletary, Thoughts: