Happy Labor Day, my fellow Americans (and if you’re reading this somewhere else, happy Monday).
I’ve had an amazing week at the U.S. Open, once again freelancing for multiple newspapers and websites, earning some scratch while also watching fantastic tennis.
I’ve walked more steps than even my FitBit cared to count, spent hours in the sun (yes Mom, I lathered on the sunscreen) and saw some amazing stuff. Won’t bore you with all the tennis greatness, but definitely wanted to share a few sights, sounds and smells I was lucky enough to experience.
I am so damn fortunate.
— So I have to lead off with the highlight of my journalism year, or maybe the decade: The greatest tennis player of all time (non-Federer division) is Australian Rod Laver, who dominated tennis in the 1960s. He’s also famous for being one of the nicest people ever. I stumbled upon a note in the U.S. Open program Sunday that “Rocket” Rod was doing an autograph signing of his new book in the Open bookstore at 4 p.m.
Now, there was no indication he’d be doing any press, just a simple meet and greet for anyone who wanted to buy his book. And I had no specific story I was working on that needed quotes from him.
But I mean, COME ON, it’s Rod freaking Laver! I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. So I schmoozed his publicist who was standing three feet away from the stack of books and the line of people waiting to meet Laver, told her I just needed five minutes, and then waited an hour until he was free. I knelt next to him, asked a few fairly relevant questions about young players he’s liked and the Aussies and racket technology and like Elaine when she first talked to John F. Kennedy Jr. on “Seinfeld,” all I could keep thinking was “I’m talking to Rod Laver!”
Interview was over, I shook his hand, walked away, and smiled for 20 minutes. After so many years as a journalist, I never get starstruck, but this was awesome.
— So you sit next to all kinds of people at the U.S. Open, and some of them are really, really clueless. On successive days last week I had someone ask me if I was Australian because I had an Australian accent, and someone else started speaking Polish to me because he thought I was Polish.
— Silliest thing in all of tennis: Player wins a point because a shot hit the net and barely trickled over, and the opponent was way back at the baseline and therefore can’t get there in time. The player who won the point holds up his/her racket and hand to say “Sorry.”
In what other sport does luck get apologized for? Does an NBA player who accidentally banks in a 3-pointer apologize? How about a wide receiver in football who catches the ball that deflects off a defender?
So silly that this still goes on in tennis.
–I know he lost in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday, but Rafael Nadal hit the shot of the tournament the other night. This is just ridiculous.
— Saw at least three women wearing leather skirts and carrying Hermes bags around the grounds. Really people, this is what you wear to a tennis match?
–Finally, it was very cool getting to see the making of a new star up close. Two weeks ago I’d never met Jared Donaldson, the 19-year-old pride of Rhode Island. Then I covered his qualifying matches, interviewed him a bunch of times, met his dad and agent and sister, wrote four stories about him, and seen the best week of his life as he reached the 3rd round. He’s a smart, kind kid who was off the radar screen for a while, but no longer ignored in the tennis world.
Suddenly, he’s a little more famous, and likely will be a lot more famous. Very cool to be there at his “coming out party.”
**Next up today, I thought I’d seen pretty much every kind of football photo there is. But this picture from the Dallas Morning News photographer Jae Lee, during a high school game last Friday, is unlike anything ever.
The offensive lineman’s helmet coming off and Lee snapping the picture at exactly the right moment makes it looks like there’s a ghost player protecting the quarterback.
How cool is that picture?
** And finally today, on this Labor Day spare a thought for Jerry Lewis, who is still going strong at age 90. If you’re like me, you remember the more than three decades Lewis spent doing the Muscular Dystrophy telethon every year on Labor Day.
Say what you want about Lewis (and the ignoble way the telethon streak ended, with he and the MDA parting on ugly terms), but he raised millions and millions of dollars for a worthy cause, and spotlighted a problem few others were talking about.
Just a little clip to remind that beyond the jokes, those telethons did a lot of good for a lot of people.