I am in the middle of a fight with the USTA. Well actually the fight is over and I won and the loss is all theirs. I don’t know if the experience speaks to a level of disorganization within the organization responsible for managing tennis. Or if it was just a fluke incident that really should not be over-interpreted. I really don’t know. I’d like to believe that tennis USA is in good hands. But honestly I’m not so sure.
What happened is this. I decided to renew my membership this summer when I went to the US Open. In fact, I renewed it for three years. You see, that’s how serious I am about supporting tennis. And let me make something immediately clear. I do not and have never participated in any USTA tennis leagues. I decided years ago that I was only going to play tennis for fun. This has been a source of frustration for various league managers over the years who have tried to recruit me to their teams because, even if I do say so myself, I have a good game. I have pissed off more than a few league recruiters by nicely saying, “No”. So, in other words, the USTA has really not done anything for me. Other than of course, functioning as the organizing body in the USA for the sport I love.
But despite this, I have remained a member of the USTA. I decided years ago that I would always support tennis, and if that means paying for a three-year membership in the organization that represents my favorite sport, well so be it. As part of the membership package, one receives “Tennis” magazine as well as the USTA magazine on an almost monthly basis. In a good month I simply scan them both – once you’ve been reading “Tennis” for some time, many of the articles start to feel recycled. And even that too is OK.
In exchange for prompt payment on the spot, the woman at the USTA booth assured me that my magazines would appear in “about two weeks”. I could live with that.
September came and went, no membership card, no magazines. October came and went, nothing. November – same stupid story. So then I got angry and I went all Kanye in their backside. I sent an ALL CAPS email asking them to send me back every last penny they had taken from me and immediately cancel my membership.
I received a response claiming that they had already sent me a “Tennis” magazine so they would issue me a pro-rated refund. Well that sent my inner Kanye FLARING, and I responded again in ALL CAPS that I had not received a SINGLE magazine and that I therefore expected to receive a FULL AND PROMPT REFUND!!!!!
I eventually received a contrite letter of apology assuring me that I would be fully refunded. And in all fairness, let me state clearly that the entire sum was refunded to me on December 8th, exactly three months and one week after they accepted my payment for a three-year renewal.
And then today, I received a copy of the November/December issue of Tennis magazine. The magazine normally comes in clear plastic. This one came in a white manila envelope. Somebody somewhere in their marketing division must have decided to make true on their claim to having sent me a magazine. So now I can truly say that they have. Needless to say, I instantly sucked my teeth in irritation. Who are these stupid people?
I must admit that I got further irritated when I saw the cover with the caption, “Serena Williams, No. 1 Again”. It took me a few moments before I realized that they were talking about the results of the US Open. Three months after the fact. Three months after Jelena Jankovic has trumped Serena into second place, leading her by almost 1000 points. Three months after Jankovic has been seen training her ass off in Mexico with Pat Etcheberry, running sprints with the marathon winner German Silva, so serious is she about remaining No. 1. In the meantime, Serena withdrew from the Hopman Cup.
I know that the USTA is not directly responsible for Tennis magazine (although they are clearly in each other’s pockets which is why “Tennis” is included as a bonus for USTA membership). Tennis magazine is put out by the Miller Publishing Group, which also used to own Vibe and Spin, both of which they sold off in recent years. Apparently they’ve elected to keep Tennis magazine. Cool. I’m down with that. But we are facing a period when the Internet is giving print a serious challenge, so much so that magazines and newspapers once thought to be impervious to change, indestructible really, now find themselves either downsizing in order to survive, or closing up shop altogether.
Is it then asking too much for the publishers of Tennis magazine to keep up with events occurring in the world of tennis? Is it too much to expect that the USTA will offer the kind of excellent organization that support like mine and thousands of other individuals have paid for? Apparently it is. And that’s why neither one will be getting a dime more of my hard-earned money.