September 2, 2009

Tennis Fans, Reveal Yourselves: The U.S. Open Has Arrived

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First off, hello there, my name is Rahul Kishore, and you’ve probably never heard of me before. They even give you a mugshot of me so you can find me on your daily walk through campus and either give me a high five or wring my neck. Talk about accountability. 
For the large majority of you, you’ve never met me and you probably never will. I’m a lowly sophomore in “the College” and generally I’ve become a slave of this paper and other student organizations. But for the few moments of the day I’m not being proverbially “pwned” by Cornell, I get around to watching, but rarely playing, sports. 
Sports columnists are rarely the types who actually play any sport. In fact, like myself, most have been benchwarmers their entire lives. All the glory and very little of the hard work –– that seems to be the sports columnist’s mantra. I’ve done everything from swimming and water polo to tennis and baseball, but unlike Michael Vick I’m not going to be making headlines for being the second-string backup left fielder for my little league team. It’s often said that if you can’t do, teach, and in my case, I can’t play, so I’m going to write.
For all the elitists out there, you’ll know that these next two weeks are truly special. For these two magical weeks, it is actually okay to be a tennis fan. People won’t wonder why you wear polos with obscenely large Ralph Lauren logos, and for once love means nothing. Well, okay, maybe not the first, but you can bring your tennis affair out of the closet because the U.S. Open has come to town. 
Why tennis has gotten the reputation as a sport only rich people play I can’t understand. It can’t be because half the apparel is designed by brands that have fashion shows in Milan, and it definitely can’t be because playing tennis is often reserved for those who have country club memberships. With all other incomprehensible issues in the world, I blame it all on the British. 
First off, the British are a gardening people, and so when it came time to pick a surface to play on they chose grass. As a testament to the style of tennis they play, the British wear all white when playing on grass, and yet none of their clothing gets stained. Playing tennis for exercise is just as preposterous as spelling colour without a “u” –– total bollocks.
Second, though the British may be the creators of the game, they absolutely suck at it. The last time an Englishman won Wimbledon was in 1936, when Fred Perry won. Yes, that Fred Perry, the one who makes polos nowadays. If you don’t know who Fred Perry is as a tennis player, you might still play tennis; if you don’t know what Fred Perry is as a brand, you definitely don’t play tennis. In a fit of necessity, the British have backed a Scot, Andy Murray, for the past few years at Wimbledon; how the Scottish are okay with this I’m not sure. I’ve seen Braveheart, and William Wallace would probably cut off some heads before he allowed Andy Murray to be called anything but the Scottish champion of Wimbledon –– that is, if Murray could ever actually win Wimbledon.
Third, Wimbledon. Yes, it’s the greatest annual sporting event that exists, but on the other hand, it is an exercise in ridiculous rules and weird customs that only a cardigan and sportcoat-clad anglophile could love. Unlike any other Grand Slam, the English show up to the aptly-named “Championships at Wimbledon” in their finest. The women in enormous summer hats actually cast spots of shade onto the court. As the matches on Centre Court progress into the afternoon, these most elitist of fans lounge back into their seats and enjoy one of the few British delicacies that foreigners actually enjoy: strawberries and cream. Have you ever heard of a more elitist dish? You might have to ask the French, who also, not unexpectedly, love tennis.
Finally, what the British brought to tennis, and what they’ve brought to pretty much every sport, are unnecessary rules. For example, you don’t often see tennis players making “Yo Momma” jokes on the tennis court, well not since Johnny Mac anyway. The British are a people of custom and hearts that are a bit damp from the rain. In the recent era it’s almost sinful to say much of anything on a tennis court. Even the famed grunts of once-good Maria Sharapova have recently come under scrutiny by the British overlords. No grunting at Wimbledon? Double bollocks.
As far as I can tell the British are pushing for what they have with cricket, a sport that is relatively passionless –– one they were good at initially but have sucked at since, and is full of rules and regulations that no normal human being could ever understand. Lucky for the world, the British Empire and the ease at which those Britons can do anything has severely diminished. Even better, we’ve got wild Spaniards (see Rafael Nadal), belligerent yet collected Americans (see Andy Roddick) and most of all, we’ve got people who show up to sit in the upper deck of Arthur Ashe Stadium painted blue and wearing nets on their heads yelling like little girls. Thank God for the U.S. Open.