serena_williams_79128632_ge-1I used to be a fairweather fan. Back (waaaay back) when the Jays won the World Series back-to-back, I think every non-sports person jumped on the bandwagon. But I fell of the sports wagon and never really got back on – team sports don’t interest me, individual sports are a bit too specialist, and all in all it’s been years since I dove into the pro sporting world.

But then my friend managed to score free tickets to the Rogers Cup here in Toronto, and she invited me along. Since I don’t watch or follow tennis, I had very few preconceptions, and a lot to learn. Some random observations from my afternoon at the Rexall Centre:

  • Maybe it was just the two matches that I saw, but the women don’t grunt nearly as much as I thought.
  • I don’t know what I was expecting, but a semi-carnival was not it. I’ve only been to baseball and hockey games, where one game has a scheduled start time. But tennis is a tournament – duh. So there were several matches throughout the day, some held simultaneously, as well as scheduled practices available for viewing, and a heap of sponsor tents with contests and free stuff. Lindt! Baileys Irish Cream! Yoplait! And, geez, flyers for 30% off Cirque du Soleil tickets. Your backyard flea circus this is not – although, mind you, I did manage to score an exercise headband that had Microsoft Office 2010 ironed on in cheapo ghetto fashion. Go me.
  • Why oh why oh why do the women wear those skirts when they play? They’re wearing shorts underneath anyways, so what’s the point?
  • Then again, maybe it’s so they can tuck extra balls up their skirts. (Okay, that sounds wrong.) But how do they stay there? All the laws of physics argue that what with double-handed backhands and jump serves, those balls should fall out. I guess there’s enough friction to keep them up. (Okay, that sounded even worse. Moving on.)
  • We weren’t allowed to bring pop cans or glass bottles inside. But we could bring food, and we could leave our Nestea and Canada Dry outside, and collect them when we left. Huh?
  • Having grown up with baseball and hockey, I was stunned by the formality of tennis. Baseball and hockey games are sometimes vulgar, usually exuberant, occasionally chaotic, and never quiet; tennis is practically silent, except for the grunting, random expletives, and the referee asking for quiet. Team sports have rules, but it often looks more like a battlefield than a recognizable sport. Whereas tennis was all regimented order, from the ball collectors (terminology?) who always returned to their neatly folded towels on each side of the net, kneeling on the same knee; to the rotation of the ball collecting people (terminology??) between sets, as well choreographed as High School Musical; to the red-shirted volunteers and assistants who all stood at attention during the match with their feet spaced exactly one shoulder-width apart, hands behind their back. And this is only the Rogers Cup; I can’t imagine what Wimbledon is like.
  • It was hot. Hot hot hot. For the first time in my life, I used my umbrella in the sun.

But I think the biggest thing that struck me is how visibly elite the athletes are treated. I was a bit taken aback that the players have people running around at their beck and call, more or less. Water! Towel! They get it, and when they’re finished they sort of just throw it in the general direction of the humanoid who’s behind them, their attention already on their opponent. And then, bounce bounce bounce. Pause. Bounce bounce. Pause, and whammo! There go 60 grams of yellow fuzz, flying around at 150 km/h.

All in all, a very interesting day.

Do you watch tennis? Or any other pro sports?

– Jean AAR