Day One is in the books here at Indian Wells and it has been filled with a variety of new experiences/observations that I have found interesting. The play on the court was somewhat lackluster (the only match of the day that truly captivated my attention was the first one with 16 year old Taylor Townsend getting an upset victory, but more on that tomorrow), but the observations off were anything but. A few notes:
--- I attended my first tennis press conference of my life today, and it was a doozy. Rafael Nadal was brought before the world's scribes and asked approximately 700 questions about the state of his recovering knee. The tennis media (a group that seems to consist of primarily two types of people, those that are complaining loudly about something and those that are eating) understandably wanted to probe Nadal about the state of his knee post-rehab and the possible effect of its first encounter with hard courts. However Nadal, whose facial expression throughout seemed to be that of a man perpetually smelling a fart, understandably had little to say on the subject except that he was glad to be back, hoped that his knee would hold up and wanted to play well. But such straightforward statements don't lead to interesting tennis writing, so the media members began asking the question in different ways, all of which were designed to get a winning quote. It culminated in a woman from the back row raising her hand and telling Nadal that she is doing a story on tennis players and the food they ate as a child in comparison to the food they are eating now (what I am sure will be a riveting read that could completely revolutionize the world of child tennis nutrition journalism). While Nadal didn't give the answer that I would have (my blogging training became much better after I gave up Fruit Roll-ups as an adult), he did essentially acknowledge that he didn't have a great chance to win here at Indian Wells, as he wasn't in a place yet to beat the world's best. I liked the honesty. People always try to tell you that so long as you put your mind to it and give something your best shot, you can win. But those people are wrong. Most people honestly have no shot of winning anything, and embarrass themselves by even trying. Today the man with the best hair in pro sports acknowledged that very important fact.
--- Speaking of hair, there isn't a group of people in America with better hair than those roaming around the ATP tour. Granted, as someone who has perpetually dealt with a cow lick that simply will not sit down on the back of his head without extra strength adhesive, I have always had hair envy for those whose hair style can go beyond my "cut and hope" philosophy. But the men walking around these tennis matches do take it to another level. I can understand Nadal and the other top European players, who have long flowing locks that somehow magically don't move an inch after two hours of running full steam in the desert heat. They are superstars and have only two things to do each day, hit a tennis ball precisely and keep their hair well manicured. But at these matches, the coaches, entourage members and even some media folks all have exquisite hair as well. Our boss for Tennis Channel's website spends his whole day working on digital issues, and as anyone who has ever worked in a building with an IT department knows, there is no profession in the world with worse hair than those in computers. And yet even he walks around looking like he is auditioning for a French shampoo commercial. I expected to come to Indian Wells and be out of place for many reasons, but it didn't occur to me that my lack of perfectly coiffed hair would be one of them.
--- The Taco Bell here in Indian Wells serves breakfast. To be honest, the idea of Taco Bell breakfast makes me feel the physical equivalent of this media member's shirt I saw today:
Quite frankly, I focused on this guy's shirt all day. It may have been the worst one I have ever seen.
However Drew on the other hand has never seemed happier. He has literally mentioned this to me three times since he first discovered it a couple of hours ago. Our entire weekend schedule is now being adjusted so that he can have Taco Bell breakfast before the day's matches. I can't imagine it is anything but repulsive, but I will report back after our trip.
--- Finally, it is clear the biggest culture shock that Drew and I must work through over the next few days is that of communication style. We live in Kentucky, a place where people have never met a stranger. It is common custom in the Bluegrass state that if you are passing someone in close quarters, you always say hello, give a smile or a nod and potentially even start up a conversation about whatever is on your mind (it is usually basketball, bourbon or whatever crazy chick happens to be on that season of "The Bachelor"). I have found this is not the case at Indian Wells. Speaking to those that you do not know seems to be specifically discouraged at all professional tournaments. Multiple times today, I would look at someone I had never met and give a jovial greeting such as "hello", "how are you today" or "my you are quite tan for someone your age." Inevitably, all such salutations were received with a look of concern and often a shifting of whatever belongings the person had to the side of their body opposite of me. I am a talkative person and like nothing more than meeting new people and hearing their stories. This is especially true at a place such as Indian Wells, where there are literally people from all over the world together in one spot. I dreamed of the possibility of meeting someone from say, Latvia, and me telling them about the Kentucky Derby and Ashley Judd, while they tell me about all the wonderful things in Latvia (the official Latvian website says the country is proud of being famous for "lampreys, sweet and sour bread, caraway cheese and beer"...maybe we could talk about that, although I would hope we could move on to something else quickly). Instead, what I usually get is a person wearing some form of tennis apparel staring at me awkwardly and looking to be one step from calling security. It seems such a waste to have so many people from all over and yet no cultural exchange. Drew and I are going to try and fix this asap.
Thats all for tonight. Friday, we are going to go to actual matches, meet tennis rock stars the Bryan Brothers and try to get someone to talk to us. It should be fun. See you then.