Monday, August 26, 2013

Today at the US Open in 4 Pictures

The smiling man above is Kentucky Defensive End Bud Dupree. I put his picture up here (a) because I know you are wondering about what he and his teammates will do when they open their season against Western Kentucky University on Saturday and (b) because he is an example of the type of people Drew and I deal with in our regular jobs. We cover Kentucky sports and that basically means talking to college athletes such as Bud, usually with their lives still ahead of them, eager, full of energy and smiles. There are pros and cons to the job, but after years of doing it, we have entered into a comfort zone where we are able to predict how days will go and what encounters we will have.

Tennis is an entirely different world. In tennis, every day is completely unique and you are never sure exactly what you might encounter on the grounds. We have found some of the nicest people we have ever met covering tennis and some folks that I have wanted to have deported to Antarctica (and that is just at Tennis Channel!). The same is true of players. While I have been amazed at how kind and engaging Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been, I have had to bite my tongue during interactions with Juan Martin Del Potro and Jack Sock. Every person is different and that diversity of personalities makes every day unique.

Take today. We arrived at the US Open as eager beavers, ready to brave a Grand Slam and cover it like it has never been covered, while also setting aside a bit of time to explore the official US Open gift shop (we spend our entire Outer Courts' paychecks on merchandise). However this day has been a bit of a grind as we have had to adjust to our new scenery, while also enjoying one of the biggest events I have ever been a part of as a pseudo-journalist. Thus rather than write 5,000 words on what we have encountered, I thought it better to sum it up in four easy pictures:

Many of you mistakenly believe the tennis blogging lifestyle is pure raw sexiness on a daily basis. This is not always true. Yes there are the moments when you meet a beautiful Italian tv reporter who tells you that she thinks your voice is "oh so cute" (chicks dig Southern drawls) but then there are the other, more difficult times as well. Today we arrived in Flushing, Queens to find out that we have no seat in the media room and thus no place in which to write our whimsical musings. When we asked the woman at the media desk what we could do, she said "well there's always the cafeteria." So that is where we are...posting "The Outer Courts" writings from a space in the corner of the media cafeteria. Yes, this means I smell like zucchini and Drew has eaten six meals already, but we didn't come here for the glamour. Blogging is not about your scenery, but about setting the scene for the reader and letting her live through you. We came here for the tennis and media luxuries such as televisions to watch the matches, power outlets to give your computer life or desks to sit behind are not requirements for us. We will harken back to a much more pure, simple time, when writers were writers. I have been told that AJ Leibling once covered a Joe Louis fight while sitting in a bus depot on a stack of hay. This is our mission this week and a lack of sunlight or electricity will not deter us.

Because it took us so long to get settled, we didn't get to watch a great deal of actual tennis today. You may remember from previous Outer Courts tournaments that the tennis media tends to watch almost no tennis, preferring instead to simply sit in the media room and eat granola bars, while talking loudly on their phones. Not me. I came here to see action, so I ventured to Louis Armstrong Stadium to see David Ferrer take on Nick Krygios. I will admit that I cared not at all about Ferrer (no more boring great player could there be), but wanted to see 2013 Australian Open and Wimbledon Boys Champion Krygios play. It was like watching a young deer learn to walk, slow, unsteady and full of mistakes. Yet the massive talent was obvious. Krygios played with Ferrer in his three set loss and watching the match, I got a distinct "I will remember this when he gets good one day." The mistakes he made were all of the "going for too much" variety and stardom is (in my humble opinion) almost assured. Seeing Krygios early in his career is why you watch tennis and I plan on being like that annoying guy in college who insisted he saw Dave Matthews Band "before they got big." I am now a Kyrgios mark, and seeing him early is a perfect example of what is great about this tournament.

The couple above on the other hand, is an example of the what is terrible about tennis in New York. These two spent the entire Ferrer-Kyrgios match, sitting in the third row, taking selfies of themselves and wearings sunglasses at night. To say that I dislike them is an understatement. To say that I would have liked to see them fail miserably at the Pamplona Running of the Bulls is only a slight overstatement. Watching the two of them take pictures, giggle and pose during the proceedings led me to contemplate horrible behavior and it may only be because of a late departure (she wanted ice cream) that my time in New York is able to extend past one day. When I draw up the type of person that I find difficult to tolerate, this couple would at least be in the preliminary sketch. My hope is to not see them again.

After the match, as I walked back to my media cafeteria home, I ran into the reason that for all its downfalls (the other media seem to believe this is the worst of the Grand Slams), there is a certain appeal to the US Open that can't be matched anywhere. Walking past a group of panting young women (apparently Lenny Kravitz had just walked by), I saw sitting above me, the grey dome of John McEnroe doing a live interview before Serena took the court. McEnroe was one of my childhood heroes and the reason that I love tennis. In my trips to Indian Wells and Cincinnati, I haven't run into him as he didn't attend either affair and meeting him has become my goal. Now, here he was above me, wearing the same media pass that I am (although my guess is that his includes free meals in my office, excuse me...the media cafeteria). Say whatever you want about the difficulty getting here, the lack of seating or the loud people screaming into their walkie-talkies. McEnroe is here and this is the US "Freaking" Open...and I am in attendance covering it. That is beyond cool and the reason these next 12 days are going to be something special.

And if you need me, I will be plugged into the outlet next to the pasta bar.