I love just about every form of athletic endeavor known to man.
That means that I typically have very difficult decisions to make on the weekends, when sporting events are most frequently contested. This time of year, as so capably pointed out by my good friend Hotnuke, is much more difficult. See for yourself.
Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and college football are all competing for our sporting attention right now. Track and field is still in full swing. Golf and auto racing are going strong.
But one of the most festive events of the entire year is being contested right now, and it’s got my full attention for the first time in years.
That’s the U.S. Open tennis championships.
And I’m shocked to admit that the U.S. Open men’s final, had it been contested on Sunday as it was originally scheduled, would have. . .
I can barely type my thoughts. But this year’s USO would have made me tape, or perhaps even outright miss, some (if not all) of Sunday’s NFL opening day action.
Surely, this is sacrilege? Blasphemy?
I know, I know—to some who know me (or think they do, anyway), it would seem that this is an impossibility.
“Where did this come from? Didn’t know you loved tennis that much, but this is the N-F-freakin’-L we’re talking about!”
And honestly, there was an internal struggle (from wellsprings that I did not know existed) as I considered the ramifications of watching the USO this Sunday on the telly.
Some of the rationalizations are obvious.
NFL football will be played for 17 weeks, then the playoffs, and finally the Super Bowl.
The U.S. Open is akin to the Super Bowl of tennis, with all the pomp-and-circumstance, the fact that it is the last major of the year, the build-up and hype associated with it.
It only comes once a year, and this year in particular there is something very special about it.
Roger Federer is still the king of the mountain, and he is playing very well at this juncture. In some camps, he is the overwhelming favorite to win his sixth consecutive USO, as well as his 16th major title, both records for the men’s tour.
Lurking in the shadows, however, is an in-form Rafael Nadal. And he’s got plenty of incentive to steal the king’s crown.
Nadal was on the shelf for a couple of months with knee injuries. He didn’t get the chance to defend his hallowed Wimbledon singles championship this summer. And a win on the fast Deco surface at Flushing Meadows would give him a career Grand Slam.
That is, of course, if Federer and Nadal even make it to the finals. Federer has the formidable challenge of facing Novak Djokovic, while Nadal has to topple the massive Juan Martin del Potro.
Now, as much as I love my Sunday afternoon football routine—and as much as my wife hates but tolerates it—missing a couple of season-opening games is not as distasteful to me as passing up history in the making.
Don’t get me wrong; there is not another sport around that compares to American football. It’s violence, it’s mayhem, it’s warfare, it’s controlled chaos.
It requires the deep thinking and strategem of chess, with equal doses of courage and disregard for your own physical well-being.
Though both technology and techniques have made the sport downright space-aged, at the end of the day, this relatively primitive principle, highlighted in the words of Vince Lombardi, ultimately rules the gridiron:
“Some people try to find things in this game that don't exist but football is only two things: blocking and tackling.”
This year, though, the intrigue of the USO has won me over. Can anyone stop Federer? Is Nadal the kryptonite to Federer’s Superman? Can the Djoker prove to everyone that he is a threat to both of the men ahead of him? Can del Potro win his first major title?
Will Federer’s elegant, graceful game, augmented by healthy doses of power, carry him through? Or will it be Nadal’s endless ball retrieval and indomitable will to win that produces a title?
Perhaps del Potro, he of the big forehand and even bigger serve, will finally break through? Then again, could the clever Serb, Djokovic, figure a way to win his second slam on outdoor hard courts?
Which magician with the wand will exert his will and establish his dominance over Flushing Meadows in 2009? Who will soak in the roars of the rabid New York crowd?
I want to see the final strokes for myself.
There will be some 20 other opportunities to watch NFL football for me. And when the Super Bowl comes, I’m throwing a party again in my home for some of my football-loving friends. I will always love NFL action.
But I was prepared to watch opening week action after I had recorded them, if it came to that.
Thank goodness the New York weather interceded; the men’s final is now scheduled for Monday. This is called “having my cake and eating it too.”
Unless my wife insists on watching the Food Network, which is a debate for another day.
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