Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reason #1 / Top 10 Reasons Why the US Open Is The Worst Annual Major Sporting Event in the World

1. Exhaustion. Even if it were managed magnificently, there is no other tennis event as exhausting as the US Open. If you fire all the numbskulls making this behemoth wobble down the road like a fat-assed $20 whore, and put a superbly competent tournament manager (such as Mike Davies of ATP - Los Angeles) in charge, we'd all still stagger out of here after four weeks of this torture with glassy eyes, aching backs, and scrambled brains.

For example......qualifying. This US Open site is such a pile of shit that there are only 13 courts available for qualifying. That's not enough. At all the other Grand Slams, at least 20 courts (sometimes 30) are used to bang out qualifying in some reasonable, humane fashion. Here, the site doesn't contain enough courts, so the USTA compensates by installing excellent lights on every court and running qualifying almost around the clock. With perfect weather, the planned schedule of play is merely awful, starting at 11AM and running to about midnight. A couple hours of rain sends qualifying into a cascading multi-day catastrophic tailspin which leaves everybody - players, referees, ballboys, infrastructure - exhausted before the tournament has even begun. On Wednesday, for example, matches began at 10AM (an hour earlier due to rain), and when I left around midnight, there were still 8 matches going on. Play would have ended well past 1AM, but it rained (again) and the last matches were suspended just after I left. So Thursday there were matches scheduled SEVEN DEEP on many courts, again starting at 10AM. Infrastructure people have to show up about 90-120 minutes before play begins to power up scoreboards, set up laptops, etc. So on Wednesday we had crew (like myself) who were onsite by around 8, worked until midnight, then had to be back here around 8AM. Two consecutive 16-hour days.

Imagine how much this sucks for the players, too. A lot of these qualifiers work all year with a goal of playing qualies for the US Open. When their chance finally comes, they walk oncourt at 11:30PM on a cold, drizzly night in front of zero spectators and play until 1AM.

From the moment you get off the #7 subway and walk across the passarelle toward the site, people are screaming at you with bullhorns, herding the crowd like cattle. Smartass that I am, I usually walk right next to the bullhorn dumbasses and let out a “mooooooooooooooo”. At least twice, before I get to my office inside the stadium, a tattooed, dullard street urchin in a yellow shirt scans my credential and rummages through my computer bag. Invariably, some incompetent Barney Fife erroneously tells me I'm walking through the wrong gate or transgressing some rule which (a) I'm not violating anyway and (b) he does not understand because he is a fucking dipshit moron who never graduated high school. This morning, for example, some big fat dumbass in a red SUPERVISOR shirt stopped me and stared at my credential for a full 10 seconds before he allowed me to continue along ON THE SIDEWALK OUTSIDE THE STADIUM.

Much of this bounces back to the mistake USTA made in the late 1990s by not moving the US Open out of NY, and in keeping it here, failing to negotiate a decent lease with the Borough of Queens. When Arthur Ashe Stadium was being planned, a lot of cities around the US were offering to build the USTA whatever stadiums and sites they wanted if the USTA would move the tournament. Atlanta, for example, was offering to donate the 1996 Olympic site for free, and throw in whatever new stadiums and improvements USTA desired. But the USTA is run by volunteers, and their incompetence and inexperience resulted in the US Open staying in the NY slums at a terrible site. There's simply not enough room for more courts, and this mis-management cascades down the line to everyone and everything involved. Thus, you have a major reason why the US Open blows.

The US Open, according to Arlen Kantarian (former manager of The Rockettes, who somehow bizarrely managed to wind up as Tournament Director of the US Open), the US Open brings $1 BILLION into the NYC economy. I don't doubt that figure is close to the reality. Even the NBA Finals and the World Series don't fill stadiums twice a day for two weeks, they aren't televised in 190 countries, and people don't fly in from Uzbekistan, Siberia, and Tonga to watch the Super Bowl in person as is done for the US Open (people from Uzbekistan, Siberia, and Tonga have never even HEARD of American football). So why is the tournament run on this crappy little site? If the volunteer executives at the USTA had half a brain, they would have proposed the following deal:

Either hold the US Open in Central Park (in temporary stadiums), or move it out of New York City.

I personally would like to see the US Open do the same thing as the US Golf Open, which is rotate amongst 6 or 7 sites around the US, spreading golf like Johnny Appleseed across the country. I would guess, knowing the world of professional sports as intimately as I do, there are at least 20 or 25 cities which would bid on the US Open immediately. The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, for example would be an excellent candidate for a site, but the reality of the matter is that you could hold the US Open on the runway at DFW or in the parking lot at Caesar's Palace if you wanted to, such is the state of the art of temporary grandstands, temporary cabling, mobile TV trucks, and so forth. Just look at Augusta National; 51 weeks a year it's the world's most beautiful golf club. Hell, an enormously successful World Swimming Championships was staged in a parking lot in Long Beach, California, using temporary pools. This year, the swimming Worlds was held in Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open site in Melbourne! Investing $270 million in a poorly-designed stadium was a typical USTA fuckup. Not only are no other events other than the US Open played here, The Open would be a better tournament if the US Open wasn't played here, either.

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