Thursday, September 8, 2011

When greed wins out over practicality

Who knew that my decision to pass on this year’s US Open would turn out to be prescient? Allow me make this about myself for a moment – I actually feel relieved that I elected not to spend the $$$ to take myself on my annual pilgrimage to NYC. Think of the money I have saved!

But this is not about me but about the disaster that this year’s US Open has turned out to be for the players, for the organizers, and most of all for the fans. How ludicrous is it that a group of players had to band together and insist on not being made to play on dangerous wet courts? Heck, folks don’t even do that on free public courts much less at New York City’s signature sporting event!

And how petty was it when that USTA official made the snarky point about Roddick being up a break at the moment he was supposed to have been complaining about court conditions? What the heck did the score have to do with anything? Why should tennis players have to risk limb and safety all because the powers-that-be decided that money was better spent making a mini-stadium out of Court 17 than building a frigging roof?

For years we’ve all heard lots of reasons and opinions about why Wimbledon needed a roof and why the Brits would never buck tradition to get one. But guess what? The Brits did build a roof, so much so that this year, players were able to get their middle Sunday off and play continued uninterrupted into the second week.

And for years we heard about hot it was in Australia and why the dome needed a roof. Not only did the Aussies build a roof but they did so with such creativity that the very opening and closing of the thing has become its own event.

Yet here is the US Open, the USA’s biggest tennis event by far – with no ability to fend off the massive financial losses that will be incurred because no one elected to channel some of the past earnings into constructing a roof. Even newbie tourney Winston-Salem did a much better job of handling the impact of Hurricane Irene than the USTA has so far been able to manage the misty drizzle of New York. How embarrassing is this? Very.

I’m trying to wrap my mind around the quality of judgment that went behind the decision to dig a hole into Court 17 and create a mini-stadium that could hold a couple of thousand spectators. And certainly holders of grounds passes seem to be enjoying the opportunity that this new stadium has created to see some exciting matches.

I am grateful to Court 17 supporters who seemed to have aligned themselves behind Donald Young and pushed him to his best Slam achievement ever. It’s too bad that his re-match against Murray was re-located to the Grand Stand. But of course Murray was determined to make sure that everyone knew that that previous loss was just a fluke.

And thanks of course to those Court 17 spectators who helped John Isner take out Gilles Simon. This was their first meeting and I have to admit that I was worried. But I need not have – Court 17 was going to pull John through.

But I would demolish Court 17 in a heartbeat and use the money to break down and re-build Ashe stadium with a working roof. Building a roof over the existing Grand Stand would also have been the sensible choice. Developing Court 17 was the greedy one.

More than likely the decision to develop Court 17 was probably based on the prospect of selling hundreds and hundreds of additional grounds’ passes. In other words – greed. Razing Ashe stadium and building a roof over the new structure would however have been the common sense thing to do. How embarrassing is it that the USTA continues to lag behind the other Slam events in common sense.


happygeek said...

Interesting post. I noticed their website URL is ".org" which is normally for non-profit organizations (but not exclusively now). The ".com" is taken by golf, so it seems the ending wasn't available and they wanted to keep as close to the name of the tournament as possible. Perhaps they want to appear under the umbrella of a non-profit. Just guessing.

mat4 said...

It is clear, for years already, that the AO made the most to improve the conditions of play and his image overall. The tournament was relocated, then, when it was clear that the surface wasn’t good enough, organisers changed it too, then built two roofs...

The schedule, too, is made as a decent compromise between TV wishes and the needs of the players.

Wimbledon has also changed to the better, in similar terms.

But the USO and the FO are becoming disasters. There are no roofs. There are no lights, in Paris, the city of lights, so no night sessions. The schedule of play is tailored for TV, and, sometimes, some players are obviously handicapped by it.

There is so much money at stake that I suspect for years that the draws are fixed, too. It isn't sport anymore.

GrandSlamGal said...

Great article.

I would hope that a roof (or two) is a high priority for the USTA to work how (not if) it can be done and how fast.

tennischick said...

Thanks all. I think that after this year's fiasco, especially as an American did not benefit as Roddick did back in when he won his only Slam -- the powers that be may finally wake up and smell the coffee.

Teresa said...

This is a great article, and a great topic to explore. Thanks for sharing.