My Favorite World #37

Eagle-eyed readers of this here bloggy pontificatory nonsense are well aware of Your Narrator’s affection for professional tennis. It’s what makes the two weeks that wrap around Labor Day my favorite sporty time of the year. Yep, it’s US Open time.

It’s not just that your guide has attended the US Open – once at the venerable Forest Hills Club, where he had the great fortune to have the great Pancho Gonzales take a leak in the urinal next to his, and where the legendary Alan King deigned to sign his player program and flick a cigar ash in his, Your Narrator’s, general direction.

“Have fun kid, don’t get drunk.”

Such a sweet man. Nah, I'm kidding. He was an arrogant asshole. But he did sign my program.
Such a sweet man. Nah, I’m kidding. He was an arrogant asshole. But he did sign my program.

Later, at the grandly named US Open Tennis Center out in Flushing Meadows, Young Narrator watched Laver and Connors and Rosewall and Stan Smith and some perky little blond named Chrissie playing her first big match against Billie Jean, &c.

The last visit in 1985 found Your Narrator yelling for/against Wilander and Edberg, Connors, McEnroe, and that guy who sounded like a disease. Gerulitis. Yeah.

And it’s not just because that stadium1Specifically, Louis Armstrong Memorial Stadium, nee the Singer Bowl. By another turn of fate, someone who looked just like me and had my acne attended his first-ever bigtime rock and roll show in LAMS, nee Singer. The bill was Jo Jo Gunne, the James Gang, and the frankensteinian Edgar Winter Group. The world, it is small. in Flushing Meadows sits across the concrete plaza from Shea Stadium2Where, as it happens, Narrator saw Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, but did not, repeat, did not see either The Beatles or Grand Funk Railroad., and in the shadow of the 1964 World’s Fair tower/needle/useless phallic appendage, the selfsame place where the pre-elementary Narrator discovered It’s a Small World in the Disney Pavillion. To his parents’ everlasting despair.

Nope, it’s none of this. It is that Your Narrator is a kneeling, evangelical mendicant at the Shrine of the One True Sport. You can have your teams of people running around like noggin-deficient chickens, your behemoths beating each other senseless between the ropes, your vroom vroom, hyper-steroidal go carts spinning round in circles, your various stick and ball fiasci. As much as one may like these games (some more, some less), it’s the well played tennis match that makes the Narrator’s heart fly like a vicious down the line forehand screamer.

One could go on here about Andre Agassi, or Roger Federer, or Ashe or Steffi or any of the others whose games have made the world a better place for years. One could talk about the epc amalgam of grace, power, speed, and brute physical endurance that makes this the sport worth watching above all others. But not tonight.

Because tonight, since Venus and Serena are about to face off in the quarterfinals – with Serena on a path to the first true Grand Slam in almost 30 years – well, let’s make do with one curious observation.

After years of debating the visual acuity of every linesman and umpire, of disputing and arguing furiously over close line calls (“You CANNOT be SERIOUS!”3All linesmen insults are the intellectual property of one J McEnroe ), we have all gone gently into that good night wherein an impossible technology automates line calls so effortlessly that the “integrity of the game” has been purified to its most error-free essence.

It’s not that the added drama and strategy around line challenges are lost on us. It’s that we’ve been robbed of the drama and spectacle of one of our favorites being literally robbed of a point, a set, a match, all because a human being blinked or had a bee fly by or simply lacks the visual acuity to make a decent call (“ARE YOU BLIND?”). And that we have simply acquiesced, in an act of faith as deep as any Road to Damascus moment, to the power of the machine to determine our destinies. Even the most Luddite of tennis fans turns to the Chase Official Review as the Diviner of Truth. It is, in its childlike way, almost touching.

It may be more fair, but is it better? Alas, the jury is not out, but rather has bellied up to the bar to watch the Sisters battle it out. And that’s where we should all be.

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