Friday, August 29, 2014

The Outer Courts Makes Its Television Debut....Sort of



We here at The Outer Courts are very fond of Tennis Channel. In addition to giving us a platform from which to pass on our tennis knowledge, the people have been wonderful in allowing us to travel across the country and cover the best tennis tournaments from an up close and personal seat. So while we have always loved all things TC (thats what Tennis Channel's friends call her), we became even more excited this morning when we got the text from our friend Josh: "Wear something respectable guys, they want to use you on the broadcast."

You can imagine the excitement.  Here in front of all the world at our United States Open, we at the Outer Courts would be making our live tennis television debut.  We became giddy like school children, trying to think of witty repartee we could engage in with one of the myriad of talented personalities on the air.  Maybe we can talk American players' struggles with Justin Gimelstob, the rise of Cici Bellis with Lindsay Davenport or hair care tips with Ian Eagle. Back home in Kentucky, I do lots of television and give my thoughts on sports on a daily basis. But to be here, on set with all of the great tennis minds was going to be invigorating and we had to be on our "A" game and raise our standard of play.

We ran into an immediate hitch with the one requirement for our appearance, the request that Drew and I "look respectable."  We had already left the house, wearing in my case a polo shirt and in Drew's case a Hawaiian shirt featuring pictures of alligators wearing sombreros. Having watched a number of tennis matches in my day, I don't remember similar attire being a staple on television, but I told Drew not to worry. This is the sport that featured Bud Collins and his outlandish garb for decades and when we met him last year at Indian Wells, he told us that being different in the area of fashion had helped him build his career. Now we had our similar chance, with untucked Masters polos and Jimmy Buffet paraphernalia leading the way.

We arrived on set around 3 pm for our segment, eager to talk about the matches of the day. I knew that there were many potential upsets in the women's draw, including the displacement of #2 seed Simona Halep to a 32 year-old journey woman named Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. We also prepared talking points on the disappointing performance of American males and the possibility of one final Roger Federer run to glory. We were nervous, but ready and the Director on site could not have been more helpful.  "Guys we are glad to have you here. We could do this any time in the next hour, so sit tight and be ready.  However we go off at four, so if it runs long, we may have to do this at another time."  Just like the third guest on David Letterman, we knew that our status was in flux, but after Denzel Washington and one of the cast members on "Modern Family" did their time, we would be ready to shine.

At 3:15, we were told that if Lucic-Baroni could win the second set and close out Halep, "there is a good chance we will get to you."  We immediately became the biggest Lucic-Baroni fans outside of Croatia, screaming for every shot and trying to pull her to victory. As we struggled to think of words that rhymed with Baroni for rhyming chants (all we came up with were bologna and jabroni, neither of which seemed to produce anything magical), she began to take over the match. When she won the final point, a high five came from our side of the set (although to be fair it was between two drunk guys at the bar next door when one threw a wadded up paper towel into a garbage can, but we shared in the excitement), and we were ready to roll.  Then bad news hit again.  "Guys, when we come back we will be going to a merchandise segment, and then you."  That's fine we thought...everyone loves merchandise. Heck, we spend our entire Outer Courts paycheck on merchandise at every tournament we attend.  No problem.

The merchandise segment went well, thanks in large part to the great Rennae Stubbs, who handled well the moment that a passing by fan screamed while live, "BUY THE TOWEL.....THE TOWEL IS GOOD, BUY THE TOWEL!"  Like a pro, she persevered and what was left was television gold. After she tossed to break, the director came to us and said, "we are going to the Gulbis match for a few minutes, but come meet Rennae and we will do the segment in ten.  This was the real treat of the day. Rennae asked us about our background (Kentucky), what brought us to tennis (Ian Eagle) and our favorite things to do (breakdancing).  She said that when we went live, "we would just wing it", which with my radio background is my favorite way to operate.  Now we were set, me, Drew and our new friend Rennae, just three mates hanging on set talking a little tennis.  It would be Emmy worthy.

I walked over to my chair, used my selfie camera to fix my hair (my hair is not television worthy and is the biggest hinderance to my happiness in the tv world. It is partially why I have hair envy of Justin Gimelstob and also why I consider the McEnroe brothers my television idols...as their hairlines hang on for dear life, so does my belief that I can still make it in the tv tennis game) and was ready for my cue. Ten minutes later, the Director takes a call, looks at the crew and says, "thats a wrap! This set is done for the day!"  Everyone clapped, Drew and I looked at each other and he saw the expressions of sadness on our face and said, "Sorry guys, we really wanted to get this segment done."  Rennae came up and told us goodbye (we know the future is bright for our three-person unscripted sessions), and we sulked like children who had been left behind on Christmas Day by Santa.  We trudged back to our place in the back of the media room, bypassing the awful free Chia Pods, only taking solace in our shot on set with the great Miss Stubbs.

We will still be here in New York for another week and there is still time for us to make our US Open television debut. But my confidence of seeing our faces on the big screen is slowly waning. There may be less time for us in the coming week as the tennis will be getting more serious, the analysts more intense and unfortunately we have run out of our best clothing (Drew only has so many Hawaiian shirts). Today was our best chance, and it may have passed us by. But our enthusiasm will not wane. In our heart, we are bloggers and today, we watched Venus Williams up close, saw our hero Ivo Karlovic's power serve and became besties with Rennae Stubbs. A better day is hard to imagine.