Tuesday, October 11, 2016

This Week with TWA: The rage edition, Vol. I, starring WTA CEO Steve Simon

I've been wondering lately if I'm actually becoming a curmudgeon. Is this what happens to people when they get old? Do they get more conservative about subjects they used to think they were flexible about? When they see change coming down the street, do they yell, "Get off my lawn!" when two years ago, they might have just jumped up and joined in? Maybe.
I'm just throwing that out there as a possibility, but I really think that if I had heard some of the talk I'm hearing from tennis officials five years ago, I'd have the same reaction. The first problem I have that needs to be addressed: What the hell, Steve Simon? What the actual hell.
This guy is the new CEO of the WTA and he doesn't appear to like tennis. That is a deduction I think I can back up, so hold on.
The WTA already irritates me with this coach-on-court thing that the men don't do. I've railed on this already, so I won't dwell again. Now the man running women's tennis is talking about no-ad scoring and other ways to shorten the match, like super tiebreakers. The average women's match is already, like, an hour. Simon's thought process is that people have short attention spans, and tennis needs to accommodate that.
This is so ridiculous and unreasonable that I just can't even. It locks up my brain when I try to even with this. When I read these comments from a person running a professional tennis organization, I have to wonder if he is just not that smart, or if he doesn't like tennis.
Because there is one small detail that this man is missing, and that is that not everyone will like tennis. I hate baseball. If you made baseball last just an hour, I would still turn on tennis. So why on earth would you try to change the bones of your sport to attract people who don't care about your sport? That would be like me going out and getting plastic surgery so I could look like Beyonce in the hopes that it would draw the eye of Jay-Z. Jay-Z couldn't give a crap about me, and I'm OK with that. Why is tennis, as a sport, so insecure?
It is also similar to having a test group with non-tennis fans about what might make them like tennis. It would go something like this with Simon at the helm:

Simon: So what would it take for you to like tennis?
Test group person: Well, the court is a nice size. But maybe if it were, I don't know, a wood surface?
Simon: OK, OK, go on.
Test group person: And what if the net in the middle became two nets -- one on each side of the court, and also on a pole.
Simon: I like it. Keep going!
Test group person: And then you could make the ball bigger, and more orange and take off the fuzz
Simon: OK. We've got a good foundation here!

At least tennis players have enough sense to think this is stupid. Rafael Nadal nailed it perfectly when he said that matches that are shorter are not as memorable. Can you imagine that Venus Williams/Karolina Pliskova match at the U.S. Open going to a super tiebreaker?! "Yes, ladies, great tennis, but come on, can you wrap it up, please? We've got Andy Murray waiting to come out." Are you kidding me?
Apparently, no. Peter Bodo over at Tennis magazine wrote another interesting story that highlights this very issue. Apparently tennis officials all over the place are freaking out about millennials. You know what? Seriously, screw millennials and screw changing a truly excellent sport to please them. I want to know why everyone is trying to figure out millennials. A good chunk of millennials are literally still living with their parents and I don't care what an entire generation of maybe 30-somethings have to say about anything yet.
Tennis should not hate itself as much as it does. Simon should realize what he's inherited with the WTA. Right now, you have who is going to turn out to be the best women's tennis player in the world and SHE'S PLAYING RIGHT NOW. You have young talent from several continents who are shaping up to form some great rivalries and there are still veterans (Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Agz Radwanska just off the top of my head) still competing at high levels. One of them is currently No. 1 in the world. Simon has a winning deck and he doesn't know how to play his cards. He's looking ahead at people who don't know he exists instead of looking at the tools he has to build the future. If he thinks the future of women's tennis is a damn super-tiebreaker, he's either not very smart or he hates tennis. He is trying to get the attention of a potential fan base at the risk of alienating what he has.

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