Tag Archives: Can’t Cry Hard Enough

Wrapping up a fabulous and weird U.S. Open, where Stephens and Rafa shone and I peed next to a Hall of Famer. Remembering 9/11 on this day, always. And Week 1 in the NFL, when both NY teams stunk

So much to get to you today, I hope this blog doesn’t go 2,000 words or something. Of course I, like most of you, have loved ones living in Florida in the path of this hellacious Hurricane Irma, and I’ve been worried about them most of the weekend. Thank God so far my friends in Tampa, Miami and Orlando seem to be doing OK. But the videos and photos from the weekend were just awful. The ocean receding in Tampa? Roofs being blown off in Miami? Godspeed to all down there.

Want to write more today about the terror of hurricanes, and about my son’s 3-year-old birthday party Saturday and why it eerily felt like my wedding.

But I’ll get to that Wednesday. Today, I want to start with the U.S. Open, which was wacky, wild and wonderful. So many top players were missing this year (Serena, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka) that you knew some different names would show up in the late rounds. But Sloane Stephens? Kevin Anderson? If you had both of them playing after Labor Day, you were in the distinct minority.

Stephens was once a rising phenom in the tennis world, beating Serena at the Aussie Open three years ago and seemingly destined for the Top 5. And then… not so much. Her dedication to tennis was questioned. Stories about how she just wanted to be famous, and her attitude, were abundant. Then her results suffered, she was injured and didn’t play for nearly a year, from summer 2016 to this summer, and her ranking fell to 957.

And today she is the U.S. Open women’s champion. She was flawless on Saturday in the women’s final, pummeling Madison Keys all over the court, smiling and consoling and acting stunned at the amount of the winner’s check she earned (hey, $3.7 million IS a lot of money.)

I have no idea if this will propel Stephens into being a consistent force at Slams, or if Keys will learn from this experience of being overwhelmed on the big stage after playing so brilliantly in the semis. But I do know that both Stephens and Keys are worthy of praise and admiration today.

— I’ve seen a lot of beautiful displays of sportsmanship after a match is over, because tennis players almost always comport themselves as sportsmen (or women.) But this one, this one I’ll never forget, and will pretty hard to top. Sloane Stephens, the champion, moments after winning a Grand Slam, stands at the net consoling her sobbing good friend, Madison Keys, on the loss. Really sweet moment.

— And on the men’s side, to quote my friend Jon Wertheim, how about on Jan. 1, 2017 I told you Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would combine to win all four Slams this year? You’d have laughed so hard and then recommended a good psychiatrist.
But it happened. Sunday Nadal put on a clinic in the final against Anderson, a 31-year-old South African who’d never gotten this far. As disappointed as I was that Federer and Nadal didn’t finally play in New York this year, in the semis, the Federer fan in me is glad they didn’t. Because Roger was shaky the whole tournament before losing, and Nadal was playing extraordinarily well, I think Rafa would’ve beaten Fed easily.

As it was, Nadal had the easiest road to a Slam, maybe ever, not having to beat even one Top 25 player. But that doesn’t matter; he was on his game and is such a worthy champ.

— So as I’ve mentioned a few times in the past few weeks I was once again fortunate enough to be credentialed as a reporter during the U.S. Open, and it was once again the best gig ever. I wrote 14 stories, for seven different newspapers, covering men’s, women’s and juniors players.
The USTA and tournament organizers make it ridiculously easy for us journalists, giving everything we could want, and you will never ever hear me complain about getting into the U.S. Open for free, receiving a meal per diem that actually goes pretty far, and getting sweet seats on every court (for a few non-marquee matches on Ashe Stadium I actually was sitting ninth row, baseline, where all the fancy people usually sit.

A couple of behind-the-scenes memories from my third straight year covering the Open:

— I peed next to NBA legend David Robinson. Not something that happens every day. I wandered into the closest bathroom near the afore-mentioned sweet Ashe Stadium seats last Tuesday, and a second after I approached the urinal I heard large footsteps, and a very large African-American male peeing to my left. He finished before me (hey, he was a Navy officer, I’m guessing he does everything fast) and as he turned away from the urinal I caught a glimpse of his face. Me and David Robinson, emptying our bladders together. Good times. (No I didn’t ask to shake his hand).

— Definite journalistic highlight was getting to ask Roger Federer a question in his pre-U.S. Open press conference. I really, really don’t get excited about talking to athletes anymore, I’m way too jaded/experienced for that. But this was Roger freaking Federer, maybe my favorite athlete of all time. So it was pretty cool.

— Got to see wheelchair tennis up close for the first time. Truly extraordinary watching what these athletes can do. Except for being allowed two bounces to return the ball, the rules are almost all the same. Watching these players spin and push themselves all around the court was inspiring.

— Finally, when I was 9 years old I watched Boris Becker win Wimbledon at 17 and I went outside my house right after the match and started hitting tennis balls against a brick wall on the side of our house. To say Becker inspired my love of this sport is an understatement.

I saw him several times walking around the Open this year, and spoke to him for 20 seconds about a match we were both watching on a TV monitor. The little kid in me was very excited about that.

**Next up, today is of course September 11, which means we should all stop and take a few minutes to think about the events of that horrible day in 2001. It’s been 16 years now, and it doesn’t seem any more real.

I watch this video (above) and a few others like it every year, and as I type this thousands and thousands of motorcycles are roaring into Manhattan as they do every year for the 9/11 ceremony, and this anniversary will never, ever be forgotten.

Sixteen years. Wow.

**Finally today, because I’ve rambled long enough in this space, I’m going to cover Week 1 of the NFL very very quickly, and briefly. Here goes:

— The Jets stink, as we expected. Fifteen more losses to go, and we get the No. 1 pick in the draft!
— The Giants might stink, which is unexpected.
— The Houston Texans hosting a home game two weeks after the worst storm in the history of the city seems crazy to me. Although this story makes me think maybe it was a necessary distraction for the city.
— Tom Brady lost at home. Always noteworthy and always puts a smile on my face.
— I can’t remember an NFL season where I was less excited for opening day. Lot of possible reasons why, but I was really just not into it.
— There are a lot of shitty, shitty quarterbacks in the NFL. Methinks Colin Kaepernick won’t be unemployed all season.

Fifteen years on, hoping 9/11 memories don’t fade. NFL football is back, and the Jets blow one they should’ve won. And Kerber and Wawrinka win terrific U.S. Open finals

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Sunday was the 15th anniversary of September 11, and in so many ways I can’t believe it’s been that long since the worst day of most of our lives. It’s hard to believe that there are high school students about to graduate this year who were still in diapers when the Twin Towers fell.

I have to be honest: I didn’t watch much of the 9/11 remembrances on Sunday. Between NFL football starting and my son turning two and us having his birthday party, and the U.S. Open finals still going on, I didn’t spend as much time as I usually do reflecting on the meaning of 9/11.

I know the NFL did some really nice tributes before games, and of course the readings of the names who died, always shown on 9/11 on New York City TV stations, was powerful.

I hope 9/11 continues to stay fresh in our minds, and that the horror of that day doesn’t fade with time.

I remember as a kid watching some Holocaust movie on TV and wondering why we were still talking about this tragedy, 40 years later. Some grownup (it might have been my parents, or a teacher) told me that it’s incredibly important to keep talking about these things, as fewer and fewer people who were alive then are around, to keep the horrors fresh in our minds about what happened.

Fifteen years isn’t that long in the great span of time; I just hope as the years go by, the memories of that horrible day continue to remain fixed in our minds.

And now, the one 9/11 tradition I always do manage to uphold (and put on the blog): “Can’t Cry Hard Enough,” a montage of the images and sounds of 9/11.

**Next up today, the U.S. Open men’s and women’s finals were this weekend and both were pretty darn great. Angelique Kerber, who has been the best women’s player in the world this year, outlasted Karolina Pliskova (conqueror of Serena in the semis) in a three-set thriller. Then Sunday Novak Djokovic, who I would’ve thought was a shoo-in to win once he got through his first few matches unscathed, was beaten again by Stan the Man, aka, the Other Swiss Guy, aka Stan Wawrinka.

angiekerber-usopen

With Djokovic hobbling around and Wawrinka blasting winners, Wawrinka won his third major title, in four sets. It’s pretty amazing how Wawrinka, after spending years being a pro ranked in the 11-25 range, has become a legit Top 5 player the last two years. Proves how even when you’re one of the best in the world at what you do, you can still get better.

On a slightly personal note, I was fortunate enough to do a ton of freelancing at the Open this year, and one of the players I got to know was 16-year-old Kayla Day, from Santa Barbara, Calif. She got to the second round of the women’s draw before losing to Madison Keys, then rolled through the juniors tournament and won her first Grand Slam title on Sunday.

She’s a terrific kid, really smart, and friendly and kind, and her Mom’s great, too, and sometimes it’s just so much fun as a reporter being in on the “ground floor” of a star’s career, seeing what they’re like at the beginning.

I have no idea if Kayla Day is going to be a star, but she’s off to a fantastic start, and maybe one day I can say “I knew her when.”

(By the way, if you’re wondering “Really Michael? You’ve been covering her all week? Where are your stories?” To which I sadly answer, “behind a paywall on the Santa Barbara News-Press website)

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**Finally today, football, football, football! Specifically, NFL football. More specifically, my New York Jets.

Yep, another banner start to the season for my Gang Green. Play well enough to win, make some big plays on offense and defense, but give up plenty of big plays on D (hey Darrelle Revis, didn’t you used to be awesome), and oh what the heck, miss an extra point and a field goal and lose by one to the Bengals.

From what I saw the Jets offense, with Matt Forte having a great debut, was fine until they got inside the 10-yard-line. And the defense couldn’t cover anybody in a Cincy uniform, and of course a kicker the Jets used to have (Mike Nugent) scored the winning points against them.

Yep, going to be a fabulous season.
Just a couple quick-hit NFL thoughts before I turn out the light:

— Good for Oakland’s Jack Del Rio, going for two points when down 1 with less than a minute to go against New Orleans. NFL coaches are so freaking risk-averse, it’s so rare to see one with guts. The Raiders went for two instead of playing for OT, scored, and won by one.

— Oh, the Browns. Such a Browns way to start a new season (it’s kind of amazing they’ve lost 12 consecutive season openers. Hard to do.) Not only lose, but lose to a rookie quarterback (Carson Wentz) who they could’ve drafted if they’d stayed at the No. 2 spot in the draft.

— I already hate this new Patriots QB who we will never see again after Tom Brady comes back. Arizona, you’ve gotta find a way to win that game Sunday night.

— Finally, nice to see Victor Cruz playing football again for the Giants, and that Cowboys receivers are still making horrible decisions at the end of games (though Dez Bryant wasn’t the culprit this time). How do football players STILL not know they’ve got to get out of bounds at the end of games?