Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tennis, Anyone?

I have been a big tennis fan for 25 years. My first exposure to the game was watching John McEnroe in the semifinals of the U.S. Open in 1984. I had just bought a television after a decade without one and was flipping through the channels, all five of them. I knew nothing about tennis, the scoring, the rules, the shots, nothing, and yet it was obvious to me that I was watching a genius, a master of the game. I have just spent many hours watching this year’s U.S. Open (yay, Del Potro!) and wish to discuss a couple of pet peeves and an interesting twist on a cliché made by one of the commentators.

The first pet peeve is misuse of the phrase “back to deuce.” I insist that this phrase cannot be used when the score first hits 40-all. The players have arrived at deuce; they cannot go back to deuce until they have played the first one. No exceptions, guys. To say “It’s back to deuce” after the first six points is absurd.

My second pet peeve is directed at ESPN2, which is carrying the U.S. Open for the first time this year, in concert with the Tennis Channel and CBS. The 2 clearly stands for second rate, or at least second class. Every moment of every game is spoiled by the endless parade of scores and trivia across the bottom of the screen. It’s hard enough following the tennis ball getting smacked around the court at tremendous speeds; loss of 10% of the screen and the consequent foreshortening of the relevant image make it even more challenging. If the intrusion was a simple, steady right-to-left flow, it might be possible to ignore it. But no, the words jump and dance and skitter and bounce, a constant annoyance and distraction. I ended up covering the bottom of my screen with duct tape (it took two layers) so I could concentrate on the game. Am I the only one who finds this disrespectful not only of the viewers, but of the sport itself? I always enjoyed Wimbledon on HBO and the U.S. Open on USA. I wish the tennis tournaments would return to the networks that treated them with more respect.

Finally, one of the commentators (it might have been Darren Cahill) misspoke and crossed two clichés to make an amusing hybrid. Referring to a player who had gone from being up a break to losing the set, he said that change in fortune had “knocked the wind out of his socks.” This amalgam of “knocked the wind out of his sails” and “knocked his socks off” raises interesting images of a player being blasted out of his tennis shoes, probably with a noise much like a raspberry or a fart. I don’t think the phrase will catch on, but I did enjoy it.

This is article 10 in a continuing series. © 2009 Christine C. Janson

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