Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Davis who?

As everyone must know, the United States defeated Chile to advance to the Davis Cup semifinals to face Russia. As usual, the crowds clamoring at the pubs, bypassing the Masters golf tournament, to see if Roddick and Co. can bring the cup back home.
Yeah, right. The reality is that the Davis Cup comes and goes every year, and every year, people give less and less of a crap about it. Stop and consider this: Every four years, the Olympics grab huge ratings and interest with events like curling. If you don't know this, curling involves a broom, a giant puck, and people yelling at said puck. Anyway, people watch this on television because it's the Olympics, and it involves teams playing (?) for their country.
The Davis Cup involves people playing for their country, and it's tennis, which means that they're actually playing a sport. So why doesn't anyone care? Glad you asked.
First, Davis Cup is played every year, and sporadically at that. The U.S. clinched the semis on April 9. They won't play again until September 22. Besides this, they play only three days at a time. Does anyone else get the feeling that this event is set up to squeeze it in the tennis calendar? If there's supposed to be so much pride involved in representing your country, why wedge it in whenever other, individual, events allow?
The solution is simple: Make Davis Cup at least biannual. Take a two-week bloc, set it up in a tennis-mad country (which should bring to an end Andy Roddick's uncanny knack of breaking the serve record at home matches) and build some interest.
Give it the publicity of a fifth major, and the players will want to do it.
The other thing Davis Cup needs is a playoff system. I know, I know: Play-affs!? Play-affs!? (No Jim Mora fans? Pity.) Yes, playoffs. Could Michelle Kwan get into the Olympics without competing for a spot? OK, bad example. Why does Andy Roddick get an automatic spot on the team? Because Coach McEnroe gets to decide. That's boring. Each country should have a round-robin tournament to decide who gets to play. The players with the best records get in. Once again, fans are involved because they'll get to come out and root for their favorites. It'll generate interest in Davis Cup, and for tennis overall. If you have playoffs one year, and the tournament the next, it'll keep fan interest going, too.

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