Friday, August 30, 2013

Open and Shut

My excursion to the US OPEN had an unusual twist this year.  I did not get to see much tennis. We three high school friends who annually reconnect at the tournament spent much of the time waiting for rain to stop.  To avoid the long lines created by heightened security--a thank you to the miserable Boston Marathon bombers and all those lobotomized who believe there was some sort of rationale for that inhumanity--we arrived early and, for the first time in our fifteen year history of going to the event, got through the gates before a single match had begun.

It was, at the outset, bright and sunny.  Lots of great energy with people attired in summer and tennis garb. Straw hats, smiling faces, and mostly athletic looks.  There are three main stadiums at the OPEN plus dozens of side courts where matches take place. We found seats in the Armstrong, the second largest of the three main facilities, and my favorite.  A woman from Poland was dismantling a competitor from Spain.  She won the first set 6-0. The second was closer and I was again taken by how good the players are. The loser was pounding the ball such that the winner sometimes seemed to get knocked over in an attempt to retrieve the shots. Nevertheless the Spaniard lost the second set as well. We moved to the Grandstand, the third largest of the facilities, where two very tall thin men were whacking the ball and trying to behead their opponent should there be an attempt to come to the net. Within two games it started to drizzle.

Rain in tennis is not like rain in football or even in baseball. In football they'll play through anything. In baseball, a little drizzle is not going to stop a game.  But in tennis, the players' footing is key and slipping can be disastrous for a career.  So, the umpire suspended the match.  We, and all the rest, left the arenas.  Fortunately, because I and my cronies have some affiliation with Chase bank, we were able to go to the Chase hospitality suite and wait out the rain drinking ice tea, lemonade and a water concoction that I had never seen before--water with cucumbers.  This must be the drink of the elite.  We thought the hospitality was a good deal until we figured out the interest rate on our credit cards and the amount of money our savings are earning in our banks.

Four hours later we went back to watch tennis and it started to rain again. We returned to the Chase hospitality center.  When it stopped raining I had consumed more ice tea than anyone needs and, more significantly, had only two hours of tennis left to see before I had to catch a plane back to Boston.

So, was it worth it?  A pretty penny to get tickets to the OPEN.  Took an AMTRAK down the prior day, spent the night in Manhattan, then flew back after the event.  Nice couple of shekels to see a few sets of tennis.

Still the trip was worth it. I got to see my buds, spent some time in Manhattan with my brother, and had breakfast with a college friend with whom I have shared many philosophical discussions since we were in our early twenties--including musings about our "forever girl", that is, the woman we had met prior to the wizened age of 22 who, alas, had gotten away.  Also, at the OPEN I was part of a large congregation of people who shared the common interest in sport.  People travel from all over the world to come to the tournament. At the Chase Center I'll bet that five continents were represented.  Despite nationalities, ethnicities, political orientation, it was a day spent with those who enjoy tennis--and probably sports in general.  And it felt good to be immersed in the atmosphere created by the gathering.

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