Monday, August 29, 2016

The Open

The US Open begins today.  Annually I attend the event with some high school friends.  I recall when I first went, some twenty years ago, my dad asked me afterwards if I had seen Sampras play.  I told him that every single one of the players looked like Sampras.

This year the Ashe stadium will have a roof.  This will be interesting. The way the Open works (or has worked) for spectators is that one buys a ticket and can attend any event on any of the seventeen or so courts in the complex.  At some courts you are within a few feet of the contestants. In the larger arenas, except for Ashe, you might be a bit away but still within a few yards.  Your ticket comes with a specific assigned seat for the Ashe.  And, unless you are loaded, that seat is a very long way from the action. For this reason while we typically go into the Ashe stadium for a short time, we don't stay there. This year will be different particularly if it rains.  There used to be a policy that if there was a rainout one could get a refund. Now, given the roof, my guess is that even if all the other courts are rained on, you can park yourself in the Ashe all day and watch the day matches.

One year one of my friend's clients invited us to a VIP section of the stadium. This was quite nice. We were within a few feet of Billy Jean King and some other notables whose names, at this writing, I cannot recall. (Only remember that at the time I knew that some of those were ex-players).

The experience for the fan has changed a bit over the years.  At some point the Open decided to sell many more tickets than they had previously. We get ours in April or May, but you can see people lining up for grounds passes on lines that stretch about fifty yards. The result is that the venue is crowded. In the early days it was easy to hop from one match to another. Now to do so means relinquishing a seat at one site when you don't know how long it will take you to get to another.

Not always, but nearly always, I bump into someone in New York who had been a tennis friend of mine at my club in Boston.  The chatter among tennis players can be distilled as oohing and aahing about the professionals we've watched.  Almost all of the spectators look like they pick up a racquet now and again, wearing duds that are after tennis garb.

Bring a sandwich if you go unless you want to take out a loan to grab a bite.  A bottle of water can run between 5 and 10 dollars, a soda about the same.  Sandwiches that are not particularly hefty can set you back close to 20.  The price of a ticket has gone up dramatically in the last two decades.

Still it is an experience live that is far different than the experience on tv.  I'm involved with some colleagues now examining sounds of sport and how that affects the viewing experience.   Now that I have this project in mind, I think I will have even greater appreciation of the value of attending a sporting event live--as opposed to watching the games at home.

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