Monthly Archives: April 22, 2021

Serena and James

I’ve arrived at the beautiful campus of UCLA for the ATP Farmer’s Classic event. Novak Djokovic was supposed to join me here but he dropped out for personal reasons. That’s what you say when you change your mind about a lower level event. No medical condition required.

Luckily Andy Murray was looking to play and my home town event now has a bone fide top five player. This is Andy’s first trip to Los Angeles and he’s getting off easy. The highest projected temperature through Saturday is 81F/27C. I’m wearing thick black socks today and last night I considered throwing my thermal bean bag into the microwave to keep my toes toastie warm as I dropped off to sleep.

This is a 28 player event so Andy has a bye for the first round and won’t play until tomorrow. I have a few suggestions for the tourist. There’s the The Bunny Museum in Pasadena which has the largest (inanimate) bunny collection in the world and is open 365 day of the year as long as you call ahead since the museum is in a private home.

If that’s too tame Andy could always go to the Playboy Mansion and consort with live bunnies. Speaking of which, burlesque is making a comeback in a big way. The hottest burlesque star at the moment is Dita von Teese. You can see a classy G-rated tease for Perrier here According to my friend Deb, who is a rabid Dita fan, Dita lives in Los Angeles. I’m sure something could be arranged.

As for the tennis, I was hoping to see Mardy Fish this week because he’s reached the final in three of his last four events and won the last two, but he tweaked an ankle last week and dropped out. Fish apparently decided to clean up his act and stop eating pizza, fries, and cheeseburgers and generally pay close attention to when and what he eats. People don’t usually make such drastic changes for no reason and for Fish it was knee surgery last September.

Anyone my age can tell you extra weight is tough on knees, but the process catches up much faster to pro athletes. The pain we might experience in our fifties catches up to pro athletes towards the end of their careers which is the late twenties for most tennis players – Fish is 28. One piece of connective tissue stops sliding against another piece and stiffness and pain settle in. If you’d like it spelled out in cadaver-like detail, check out The Fuzz Speech by Gil Hedley courtesy of Lenny Parracino, tissue manipulator extraordinaire.

There’s another knee story this week. James Blake is playing Leonardo Mayer this afternoon and James had been slowly sliding off the ATP tour with knee pain. He’s currently ranked 117 after being in the top ten as recently as early last year.

While Fish seems to be grabbing onto tennis, James appeared to be letting go as recently as a month ago. After losing in the first round at Wimbledon this year, he mentioned retirement if his ailing knee didn’t improve. His advisors and doctors were telling him to take an anti-inflammatory but he’s always refused in the past because he thought it was bad for his health.

Maybe the specter of career mortality changed James’ mind because he finally agreed to dig into modern medicine and now his knee is healthy. He looked fast and mobile as he tore through Mayer 6-1, 6-4. The only exciting part was having Serena Williams in the house and, oh yes, that first set break when the speakers started blaring the Lou Reed song Walk on the Wild Side. Something about “he was a she” and “in the backroom she was everybody’s darlin’ but she never lost her head even when she was giving head…”

Do you think maybe the organizers forgot to tell the DJ that it’s Kids Day here at UCLA?

I remember James saying he doesn’t even take vitamins because he’s concerned about running afoul of the drug testing policy, so I asked him if he refused to take an anti-inflammatory for the same reason. No, it’s just the health nut thing. He’s also leery of taking painkillers because he wants to be able to feel his shoulder and his arm and his knee when he wrenches them.

That sound pretty intelligent to me but, hey, if the Veteran’s Administration now let’s its patients use medical marijuana, James should be able to dabble in drugs, right?

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LONDON,  ENGLAND - JULY 04: Serena Williams of USA and Rafael Nadal of Spain with their winners trophies at the Wimbledon Championships 2010 Winners Ball at the InterContinental Park Lane Hotel on July 4,  2010 in London,  England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

I’ve been looking at the subject of trending topics and journalism lately. The conversation goes like this: Traditional media outlets such as newspapers and magazines are drowning in the world of the online mediasphere. Blogs and websites dedicated to such subjects as sports and celebrities with little or no subscription costs short of a video ad or text ads running down the side of the page are taking over the news world.

In order to catch up and make a profit instead of continuing to lose money, media outlets are replacing editors with search engines. Instead of a group of gray suited editors meeting in the newsroom each morning and handing out writing assignments – and essentially dictating the subject of discussion for its readers which used to be much of the population – new media sites are looking at hot search topics on Twitter, Google, and Yahoo and assigning articles based on those results.

No matter what you might think of this turn of events, and I certainly find it distressing that TMZ.com was valued at $100 millions dollars earlier this year while the LA Times is slowly fading away, let’s see what this might look like in the world of tennis media.

I went to monitter.com and entered the search term “tennis” and found the following trending topics on twitter: Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and the ATP grass court event in Newport. Serena is trending because she’s on the front of Sports Illustrated this week, Rafa because he’s taking over Roger Federer’s place as the best player in the game, and Newport because Nicolas Mahut is playing and that, my friends, comes from the biggest tennis topic of the year so far – as decided by google’s trend tracker – that never ending match between Mahut and John Isner in the first round of Wimbledon.

Next I went over to Google’s Hot Searches and looked at their list of most searched items. As you could probably guess, no tennis item was high on the list. So I decided to pair one of the trending tennis topics with one of Google’s Hot Searches to push my blog post closer to the top of Google’s search page – that’s the goal right?

I started with Hot Search topic Caster Semenya. After winning the African Junior Championships in both the 800 meter and 1500 meter races last year, Semenya was barred from competing while her gender was verified. Competitors claimed that she is built like a man and so competing against her is unfair. She’s a trending topic today because the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced that Semenya has been cleared to return to competition as a woman.

Which brings me back to Serena. Did anyone ever complain that it’s unfair to compete against Serena because she’s just too strong? She definitely got a bosom and a big butt, but if her game was jello wrestling rather than tennis – which requires at least a bit of finesse, would she be facing a gender test before being allowed to compete in the next event? Or, as @dollfacebarbie put it, “Why do Serena Williams look so Hard?”

And then there’s LeBron James and his pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. These athletes are the most valuable free agents in the NBA this summer and they are dictating the lives of many other NBA players at the moment. Salivating teams are dumping and trading players left and right to free up enough money to sign one, two, or maybe all three of these bigtime free agents.

What’s interesting about this process is the circus surrounding it. Particularly the cameras following Wade and Bosh who are being filmed as part of a documentary. Teams ask the players to turn the cameras off during their sales pitches to Wade and Bosh but you have to think that some of them feel more like fodder for a new Borat movie than a serious contender for either player’s services.

Which leads me to wonder, what about tennis documentaries or reality shows? We had a Serena and Venus reality show and that was nice, but what about a reality show that follows a player on tour, or a reality show that works the coaching merry go-round on the ATP and WTA tour by choosing a player’s next coach?

Marcos Baghdatis fired both his coach and his trainer this past week. Baggy’s a great subject for a reality show because he’s good looking and he’s an emotional and charismatic player. He also has a history of playing well on big stages and the American audience knows him from a captivating five set thriller with Andre Agassi during Agassi’s last U.S. Open.

John McEnroe could be Donald Trump and fire prospective coaches until there’s only one left. Tennis magazines could follow the burgeoning relationship between Baggy and his newly chosen coach. For sure the topic should trend high when they break up – honest, the top two stories on Yahoo today involve the breakup of Jake and Vienna, the resulting couple of ABC’s reality show The Bachelor.

Look, reality shows make their own news. That’s the point. The point is to generate a looping news cycle by creating a product that involves the audience and thus creates a trending topic. Media sites then assign stories on the trending topic and celebrity magazines join in and you’re golden.

Whaddya think? Short of bringing back Anna Kournikova, how can we make tennis trend?

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