Friday, March 23, 2007

How to make tennis 'cool'

From the supergeniuses who brought you round-robin ATP events:

"Inside a stark white building in downtown Miami, models strut outfits that glow under the black lights, a DJ spins club classics and tennis players blast backhand shots across the darkened court.
In an effort to attract a younger crowd to a sport known for its formality, Sony Ericsson -- which sponsors the WTA tour and this week's tournament on Key Biscayne -- has created a series of events simply called Night Tennis, combining fashion, club culture and the ball-and-racquet sport. Organizers said more than 10,000 people requested tickets. The event in Miami is being held in a space typically used for photo shoots and music videos. Fluorescent black lights illuminate players' white shirts and neon tape along the rackets' edges. Spectators see flashes of neon orange and green when rackets are swung and the ball sails. It's so dark, a player's face is only detectable when he smiles. Players knock underhand serves from a backcourt marked in neon orange lines. To keep serving, a server must win the next point. Matches consist of three, three-minute games that are broken up with fashion shows and followed by a party into the early hours of the morning."

So, were those free tickets, by any chance?
No, seriously, club tennis is cool. I mean, Cool! Instead of the Bryan brothers bumping each other when they win, they can jump into the crowd, mosh pit-style. Not only can Venus Williams introduce her new line of tennis year in her next match, she can play in three-inch heels. And what will make this really cool (COOL!) are those strobe lights, which will make it really easy to track a ball comin' right at ya.
It's true: Tennis is waning in popularity, and has been for some time. What makes this latest attempt of popularizing tennis so sad is that tennis officials seem to think that showing people less tennis is the answer. The fact is that the sport of tennis doesn't need to be changed, but the way it's organized does. Only tennis wouldn't take full advantage of larger-than-life stars like Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, the Williamses, and Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer is potentially the best player ever, and playing right now, and there are sports fans who don't know who he is. Hell, even womens' soccer got some mileage from Brandi Chastain taking off her shirt.
Officials seemed to think at first that flooding the schedule with tournaments was a good call. When they realized that players were getting injured, or imposing their own vacations, they decided on stupid changes like on-court coaching, round-robin tournaments that they can't even understand, and now, club tennis. The worst part about these changes is that officials are taking the unique things about tennis and eliminating them, in order to make tennis like other sports.
To the powers that be: If you're not interested in drawing attention to tennis, the sport, here's an idea. Changeover bumps! That's right. Just allow two players to bump during a changeover, and if a brawl breaks out, that's all right, too. Hell, that's even better!
Club tennis. Good lord.


Anonymous said...

Right on! Nothing like a little McEnroe temper tantrum to get people’s interest.

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