Tuesday, August 30, 2011

US Open And The Looming Fifth Major

No matter what is going on in my life, I always approach opening day at the US Open with childlike awe. Yesterday was no exception.

Family members and friends know this routine: we must be ready on time and leave home promptly; we worry about where we will park despite many years of experience finding just the right spot; we must park very near the exit directly on to the Whitestone Expressway; we must not dawdle while walking from Shea (now Citi, but old habits don't even fade away) over Roosevelt Avenue to the Open entrance; we must get on a short line; finally, there will be a period lasting about an hour, during which I will want to see a piece of every match in progress on the Field Courts; I will not go near Ashe or Louis for hours, if at all.

And, while we're at it, we may as well share the following with you, Dear Readers, since we tell it each year to anyone close by: 1) I attended the first game ever at Shea in 1964, 2) my high school tennis team practiced at Sterling Tennis's red clay courts, now gone, which were a few hundred yards east BJK-TC off Roosevelt; 3) I have been coming here to play or watch tennis and whatever you call what the Mets do forever.

Now, let's take a look at the numbers:

  • There are 256 men and women in both draws: only 29 of them, 11%, are from the US.
  • There are 64 total seeds in the mens' and women's draws: 4 of them, 6%,  are from the US; only one, that is to say, a singleton seed in the Mens' Singles!
  • 11 of the 29 Americans in the open, 38%,  are Wild Cards, who were granted entry despite current rankings or playing records. A total of 3 WC's come from other countries.
  • There are 15 US women in the US Open; Russia has 16 women in the US Open. Russia.
  • There are 14 US Men in the US Open; France has 14 men and Spain has 13. France.
  • During the years 1985-2010*, 3 American men have been US Champion a total of 8 times.
  • In the same period, 3 American women have been US Champion a total of 6 times, only one of them not named Williams.
  • Total base Prize Money for the US Open is $23,718,000. This is not a typo.

Numbers don't lie. American tennis has been fading for years and is now on life support.

Despite this fact, you will see a fabulous international pageant in Flushing, and we urge you to go. Many affordable tickets are available this week through the Open Ticket Exchange. Okay, so you won't find many American players. Young Americans have apparently abandoned tennis in favor of many other sports, while others, notably from Eastern Europe, especially women, have embraced the sport.

You will see some long baseline rallies, but you will not see many volleys. We watched two German women, Kristina Barrois and Julia Goerges (you know her; she's seeded 19th!) play on Court 11. They both treated net-play as if it was like crossing an autobahn blindfolded. They seemed terrified to try it.

In fairness to the women, we also watched Alex Dolgopolov (you know him; he's seeded 22nd!) play Frederico Gil. Alex D floated soft spinning backhand after soft spinning backhand and Gil would not venture to the net to put them away. Consequently he was put away, quickly and early.

We watched one of the Frenchman, Gasquet (13), play the first-ever match on the new, beautifully designed Court 17. The next match there featured the German, Tommy Haas, a US crowd favorite vs.......yes, another Frenchman. All of them seemed truly frightened by the net, and so stayed far away.

Still, we love the international flavor of the place, the good company of friends, the bright sun and the ability to stroll through the field courts and pick and choose matches to watch for as long or short a time as we please.

Best Vantage, Behind Courts
Last night, back at home (after a perfect exit form Shea parking!)we watched, sort of, as Federer (3) played Giraldo. It was mildly comic to listen to the McEnroe brothers try to inject some enthusiasm into the festivities.

They talked and talked as if filling in the gaps of a Mets game across the road, but they never mentioned what was painfully obvious to anyone paying the least bit of attention: the match was boring, excruciatingly so except for the fact that Fed was there to gaze upon. They never mentioned the "b" word, never mentioned that maybe it's time to cut the early mens' rounds to three sets from five...

...And they never mentioned the thousands of empty blue seats**, visible to everyone in TV land. How long can the US Open remain the US Open, with $23Million in prize money, when everything is put together so well, but Americans just aren't interested in tennis anymore?

5th Major?
Russia and China are lurking as possible new 5th Major locations (or 4th replacing Australia?). Offering twice the prize money in either place, at a time of their own choosing, might seem like an offer the players cannot refuse. Maybe then Americans will begin to pick up racquets once again and place them into their childrens' hands, while locking up the lacrosse sticks, football helmets, and soccer cleats.

*It was something of a surprise to check the previous 25 year (1960-1985) American record to find: only 3 American men, but 10 titles, and only 4 American women won...14 titles. That record, by a few players, built the current popularity of the US Open.

**In fairness, it was the day after Irene and many were still caring for their homes or stuck in an airport. But, still, you'd thing the powers that be would have let people fill the lower seats for the TV cameras.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Sun Also Sets: Tennis At Forest Hills

©2011TWMcDermott      Note: print/online versions of this story currently run in The Rye (NY) Record.
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium

As a boy growing up in a place called Forest Hills, I looked forward to late August and early September. I was not thinking about going back to school or even the pennant race. I was thinking about “The Nationals,” which was what we called the US Open before it opened.
Forest Hills Stadium at The West Side Tennis Club,  threatened in the near future with possible demolition,  was built in 1923, the same year as the old Yankee Stadium; and, for many, holds just as many memories of great players and epic games. We saw Hoad, Rosewall, and Laver there in their primes; saw Althea Gibson, Karen Hantze, and Chrissie’s first pig-tailed match. Saw Ashe win the very first “Open” in ’68. We saw Gonzales just past his prime, playing under lights, and then way past his prime, playing doubles with partner Jimmie Connors (true: Connors's mom made him do it). Saw Billie Jean Moffet become a King and then become Queen of tennis. 
And we may have even taken for granted the unique and wonderful fact that tennis alone among major sports held both Mens’ and Women’s Championships together, as it still does.
We also saw The Beatles turn us on in 1964 on a stage set above the turf, heard Bob Dylan get booed for plugging-in, and saw Mick prancing about; but mostly we came to see tennis played on the soft green lawns on crisp September days. 
Lew Hoad
I grew up across the street from the entrance to the club on Tennis Place. My father took me to my first matches, the Mens’ Quarter-Finals in 1956. Rosewall, Savitt, Seixas, Fraser, and Emerson played that day (all eight men were from the US or Australia!), but the one who stood out, the one I most wanted to be, was Lew Hoad, who was seeking to equal Don Budge in completing a Grand slam that year.
Hoad combined the quickness and power of Willie Mays with the agility and finesse of Nureyev (okay, I didn't know who he was in '56, but it's true). I was immediately drawn to tennis as a great running and hitting game, but was also drawn to the aesthetics of the game, as played on soft grass. This has all but disappeared in the men’s game as played today on clay and deco-turf, as well as hard-as-rock Wimbledon lawns. 
People talk today about whether Laver or Federer is the best men’s player ever, and after over fifty-years of observing the best players, I think that’s an appropriate discussion (for the record, Laver, in his prime, would win in four on the soft turf). But, I also think it’s a little sad that two names almost never enter into this conversation: Pancho Gonzales and Hoad. In their primes, at their best, they could consistently play at the same level with Laver and Federer.
Concession Near Portals 5&6
Forest Hills Stadium has seen better days. When I was last there, in 2005, it was sad to see the deterioration. I was lucky to have the very same Ken Rosewall as my partner that day, Hoad’s great friend and doubles-teammate, who defeated him in that ’56 final. Amazingly, there I was nearly fifty-years later playing with Rosewall less than a hundred yards away from center court and the stadium seats between portals five and six, where I had sat as an eight year old boy watching him. There are no coincidences in life, I assure you.
He was, as always, very gracious as I told him my story and how I had revered Hoad, who had recently passed away. We spoke about the old days, when they used to stay together with a family in “The Gardens” up on Greenway North. 
We won our short match that day, I’m relieved to report. When I asked Rosewall whether the Open was planning to honor him the next year on the fiftieth anniversary of his win, typically, he hadn’t even thought about it until that moment. As it turned out, they did honor him at the Open’s current location in what is very generously called Flushing Meadow.
Rolled For Tilden, Gibson, Laver, Evert
There was a time when I could tell people I came from Forest Hills and they immediately knew where it was, because of The Nationals. It is the kind of place that people remember visiting, even if they never really did. Many of these people remember, perhaps not so fondly, boys like myself, who made small fortunes running “pop-up” parking operations. We simply “borrowed” neighbors’ driveways so that visitors could avoid having the famously annoying parking stickers on their windows. 
Then, we conveniently disappeared, leaving clueless home-owners and hapless motorists to their own devices. Terrible, but true.
The Sun Also "Sets"

Forest Hills might have been able to renovate the Stadium and retain the Open for a while after the late-seventies, but, in the end, it would have been the parking that did them in. Whatever you think about the Flushing Open as a venue (I happen to think it’s fine), its parking operation is far superior to anything my friends and I could manage. 
The author is working on a book (a very long book it  would seem) about growing up in Forest Hills Gardens, home of The West Side Tennis Club and Tennis Stadium. You can see more photos of the old Stadium grounds and take a tour of The Gardens at :

Thursday, August 25, 2011

When The Whine Glass Runneth Over!

We know that these are challenging times and we do not deny that we are facing several critical national and international issues. The global economy does seem to be sputtering; the national GDP is barley growing; the Dow charts look like a diagram of the Coney Island Cyclone; and the popularity of Congressional and Presidential leadership is near an all time low. Healthcare has become a pejorative term.

BUT, perhaps the biggest problem of all is that we have become a nation of whiners. We hear enough whining in a week, even by relatively fortunate and prosperous people, to create a vast vintage Whine Cellar!

We say, "Enough already." There are some small but meaningful things that we can all do to make life a little bit easier right now.

1. B+. Being positive is not the same thing as being in denial about problems. Even if we do not have a specific solution, staying positive makes finding and/or recognizing solutions possible. Cost: zero. See Ed Note, below.

2. We live in the wealthiest country in the world; our annual GDP is $14.7 Trillion, and that does not really count the cash economy flying under the radar. Yes, the deficit is about 90% of one year's GDP. Get over it and go out and buy something, right now.

3.Want better healthcare? Go on a diet; we are huge. Big news (Really Big): you do not need a Constitutional Amendment, Congressional legislation, Tea Party Caucus, or an Executive Order to stop eating terrible food six times a day and to begin exercising. This med is free! Cutting back on meals buys your sneakers.

4. Want to be/feel better? Dress Better! The way many of us dress is indeed a national disgrace, but we can fix it without the government, MSNBC, or Fox telling us what to do and when to do it. A trip to any airport or DMV will demonstrate what we're talking about; we have become addicted to wearing gym shorts and tee shirts anywhere but in a gym, Jim (see#3, above)! Wear clothing that fits properly and makes you look smart, prosperous, energetic, positive....employable, and good things may happen. Cost: worth every penny and do not scrimp.

5.Be Courteous. This costs nothing and makes you and at least one other person feel better about things, even on bad days for both of you. We're not making this up. Use turn signals when driving; non-use of turn signals is epidemic. Also, what's up with hitting your horn one nano-second after a light turns green? Stop. And Ladies, it doesn't hurt for you to hold a door for someone once in a while. Cost: nothing.

6. Okay, so everyone wants better schools and has a theory about teachers, teachers' salaries, and teachers' pensions. Enough! Want to be smarter? Read, study. Harder, longer. Want your kids to be smarter? Help them read, study! While we're at it, why not put up signs at the entrances to your town saying, "We love our students and teachers!" If we can celebrate our football, lacrosse, and field hockey teams, don't you think we should celebrate school?! Cost of elevating our image of school and teachers? Nuttin', Honey.

You're Welcome.

Ed Note: The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation is a very worthy cause. Please be generous in giving and/or buy a B+ decal for your vehicle...as a reminder to B+

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some "Times" Facts Just Get In The Way

These are the perfect, crisp summer days; the ones we remember occurring often in our youth, with a slight chill in the mornings, then a hot, bright sun at mid-day; with a breeze and just the right number of clouds, moving at exactly the right speed, slowly enough to block the sun and cool us, swiftly enough to encourage a late summer tan. And, the salt water is deep blue, fresh, and clean everywhere.

These are days when our thoughts could or should turn from the transitory Dow Ka Ching to the eternal Tao Te Ching. Well, for some of us anyway...

...While sitting on the porch on these wonderful late summer days, reading the paper of record, we have found three recent instances in which the paper did not let the facts get in the way of the story they wanted to tell us. Let us straighten the record:

1) A front page story about the battle to replace Anthony Weiner in my old Congressional district in Queens featured the fact that the local electorate seemed very angry at President Obama. Gee, what a surprise. It seems that this anger is making it possible for the Republican candidate to mount a credible campaign in a district so heavily dominated by Democrats that it could elect a schmuck (as the ladies of Queens Boulevard would saylike Mr. Weiner in the first place.

Q Bridge
Nowhere in this front page story does the reporter mention, not even once, that former Mayor Ed Koch had made a rare visit to Queens, crossing what is now humorously known as the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge (probably named so because the former Mayor can once saw it  it from his Manhattan apartment)
to flagrantly, publicly, loudly, and pointedly endorse Mr. Turner, the Republican candidate. 

Mr. Koch was also very upset at the President for what he thought was shabby treatment of Israel, a move that the Mayor, best known as the champion of the Pooper-Scooper Law, knew would play well in the district. 

The reporter declined to answer our question as to why he had conveniently forgotten this fact, despite having written the story about Koch's endorsement of the Republican himself several weeks ago; a report we, might add, that offended many readers who wondered why, at that particular time in US history, Mr. Koch would place the interests of another country ahead of our own critical needs. Incompetent and/or dishonest reporting.

2) A recent report on how San Franciscans are very depressed about the woeful slide of the World Champion Giants was entertaining; however, it seemed more than a bit strange to real Giants' fans, who have been following the team closely this season (and a million other seasons). Why was it strange? The reporter failed to check the actual 2010 vs. 2011 team record for the day he published the story.

If he hadn't been so lazy or contemptuous of the facts, he would have known that on the same day last year the Giants were 69-56, a full 6 games behind San Diego in the standings. That does not look so wonderful compared to the team's current 2011 record of 68-60 and 1.5 games behind Arizona to us. SF Giants fans may still be sad, but the reporter can't simply skip over the most important facts!

We would think that a Times reporter would know that last year the Padres peaked too early, while the Giants came on strong at the end. But, this story did not even mention anything about the actual standings in either year. Lazy and/or incompetent reporting and editing. The reporter has declined comment: probably too embarrassed.

3) Finally, today's Business section reports on the Lacoste brand and how it is re-positiong itself as a premium brand. It tells of how the once-vaunted brand became so widespread that it appeared in discount stores like Walmart. Also, the quality suffered. But, the story flagrantly leaves out an important fact by not mentioning the name IZOD once in the story, when it was IZOD, a division of David Crystal that owned the US rights to the brand for its years "in the desert." Strange indeed. Was it pre-agreed to not mention it?

Le Corcodile
Also, the story fails to mention that the Lacoste family fought hard to wrestle-back those rights from IZOD and began raising the quality of the shirts and brand, making most of the shirts in France itself, returning to the original chemise style, and opening up boutique shops. this began more than ten years ago, but you would never know it by reading lazy and inaccurate story. No, we didn't even bother to ask about this one.

... So, while we sit on the porches in the morning, reading about Libya, deficits, earthquakes,  and the eternal and infernal presidential campaign, we can rest assured that our guess is as good as the paper's as to what is real, what is meaningful, what is honest and truthful...or maybe even better...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Squire Tuck Reports: Soho

Jack Spade/Greene St.

Our old friend, Squire Tuck, has made it his mission to roam around the world, frequently on the isle of Manhattan, in search of stylish things to wear, use, or just show; as well as to find delicious things to eat and comfortable, hospitable places in which to eat them.               ©SquireTuck2011.

In Spades: When Kate and Andy Spade sold their remaining shares in their brands, the well-known Kate Spade and the better kept secret Jack Spade to Liz Claiborne, it was natural to think the worst. After several recent trips to the original Jack Spade store at 56 Greene Street in Soho, including a viewing of the new expansion and renovation, I can report that all is well:   http://www.jackspade.com/shop/home.php

Yes, the shop has lost a little funk and may appear a touch too spiffy for JS purists. Yes, some of the off-beat "artwork" high on the walls above the shelves has been replaced with product. Yes, it would be nice, no offense helper-gents, to have more ladies to help customers. But, there is more product than before and it is both distinguishable from J.Crew or Billy Reid and true to its own brand origins.*

I've been using their iconic messenger bag and various sized satchels since the beginning, and drily wear one of its authentic macintosh coats (and wish it had an inauthentic zipper!). We recommend the new Graham Sport Coat ($495), a thick cotton-cord jacket made for cool autumn or early spring air.
Graham Sport Coat
There is a button and a loop to secure the collar and keep out a brisk wind. Also, saltwater-washed oxford shirts in close-to old Brooks' colors: so weighty off the shelf you won't need that sweater (make sure your washing machine is properly bolted down).

I could point to many instances of a large corporation buying and burying great brands, and, admit to missing the "we don't mind if we don't actually sell much stuff" -air of the original JS shop; however, this is still a great alternative, when a guy needs something encompassing both traditional style and a nod to the now.

#6 LexLine to Spring or Canal or Broadway Line to Prince or Canal.

Seize Sur Vingt: Just north of JS, at 76 Greene Street, you will find this unusual men's shop. We were originally attracted to this brand by its striped and plaid cotton shirts and by the unusual, perhaps unique in NYC fact, that many of them are made in Portugal. Who knew? The prices are somewhat higher than some of you usually pay, but you simply need to buy fewer, better things.   http://16sur20.com/

They also have suits and jackets, but you better be in pretty good shape for these, and be ready to pay somewhat more than you would at your alma mater Brooks or for the Ludlow "suiting" at J.Crew.

As with the Jack Spade report above, I especially address this message to wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters of RareBurghers, because we know that it is you who actually will be buying clothes for many of these store-shy guys. And, it is you who will be, shall we say, stretching the guys' haberdashery limits.

To you, we recommend trying a 16sur20 shirt to begin. $240. Yes, you can.

No Sole
Forecast: When you can no longer find your favorite type of boat shoe to replace the ones you bought four or six or ten years ago, you may find that they have been discontinued. Not to worry. 

Many shoe brands discontinue certain styles, because...well, just because they feel like it. I like boat shoes to have a dark colored sole, instead of white, because they are far more versatile. White soles only look good on an actual boat. Maybe.

When this kind of thing happens, one of the places to go to for help is Forecast Footwear at 510 Broadway in Soho. I just replaced my old brown Timberlands for $74**

McNally Jackson: Along with Mysterious Books (Warren St/Tribeca) and Crawford Doyle (1082 Madison), this is one of the last great indie bookshops in Manhattan. I recently picked up a copy of Patrick Leigh-Fermor's Mani, about his travels in Greece, before, during and after WWII.

PL-F was a great friend of Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire, whose book Wait For Me, I bought for my wife last year, and promptly borrowed. This is an unlikely book for me to like as I do not read memoirs, am not a fan royals, think her Mitford sisters were bonkers, and worry when I like what are so obviously chic-books. Still, I read on. M-J is at 52 Prince St, east of Lafayette.

* If you want to get at least a hint of what the original Jack Spade was like, try The Liquor Store, a mens only J.Crew shop, 235 W. Broadway at White St., which was designed by Partners & Spade, Andy's new thing ( http://partnersandspade.com/ ). Or, if it's Saturday, visit Partners & Spade itself at 40 Great jones Street, around the corner from Billy Reid, and wonder, as I do, who in the world would ever buy some of this stuff.

** They did not have the same boatshe in black, which was disappointing, since I like to buy both colors, when I find a shoe style that fits and has great style. Also, I have been known to wear one brown/one black, just to be prepared for all situations, although nobody has ever noticed.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Walking Around: Summer

Summer Stripes/ Manursing 
Summer Home/ Duxbury MA



Summer Checks/ Kingston MA
So True/ Greenwich CT

Some Are Smart. Greenwich CT

Summer Squire/ Greenwich CT

Summer Prayer/ Greenwich CT