Friday, June 24, 2011

On hype, potential, and lawn sports

He was the golden boy of American tennis when he burst onto the scene around the turn of the century. He came along right around the time the careers of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were reaching their twilight years. And it seemed he would assume his rightful place as the heir of American tennis hopes. For a little while.

I'm speaking, of course, of Andy Roddick. The Nebraska kid with the rocket serve and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model for a wife.

I'll be honest: I was never Roddick's biggest fan. Mostly because I tend to root for the old guys to hang on for as long as they can. Same reason I was never a huge Pete Sampras fan. After Sampras ended John McEnroe's magical run at age 41 in the semis of the '90 U.S. Open, I've kinda held a grudge... for these past twenty years.

I was an Agassi fan, and wept openly after his farewell match. But you had to respect Sampras' game. He played the serve and volley as well as anyone since, well, no one.

When Roddick won the '03 Open at the age of 21, then became the first American man since Agassi to end the year as the ATP's #1 ranked player, I figured his inevitable ascension to and reign at the top was upon us.

But that was eight years ago. And it's still Roddick's only Grand Slam title. And even that, if you're nitpicking, wasn't the most difficult road to a Grand Slam title in tennis history. Roddick beat David Nalbandian in the semis and Juan Carlos Ferrero in the finals of the '03 Open. Not exactly Federer and Nadal. In fact, Roddick's title came right around the same time that Federer was about to take over the tennis world -- Fed won his first Grand Slam that same year, at Wimbledon.

Since then, Federer and Nadal -- not Roddick -- have established themselves as this generation's Agassi and Sampras. So who's to blame? Them? Or him?

It's impossible to say for sure, but I'm willing to give Roddick the benefit of the doubt. He has made four other Grand Slam Finals, losing three of them to Federer. Maybe Roddick just came along at the wrong time? Or maybe he was never quite that good? Top ten talent, but not top three?

Whatever it is, all I'm saying is can we please stop hyping the guy. Roddick has won as many Grand Slams in the last seven years as I have. He's only made one Grand Slam final since 2006. And hasn't even made it to the quarterfinals in five of the past six majors. He's no longer the highest-ranked American. That honor now goes to Mardy Fish. Heck, he's not even the highest ranked guy named Andy anymore.

For a long time, I rooted against Andy Roddick. It was kinda like rooting against the Cubs. They're supposed to lose. Anything else and the Earth might begin to wobble and spin out of its orbit. But something happened on the way to Flushing Meadows. And lately I've come to take a more sympathetic view. Of Roddick. Not the Cubs.

I mean, God knows I know a thing or two about unfulfilled potential. What is potential anyway? If what is thought to be potential is never realized, was it ever really possible in the first place? Perhaps Andy and I aren't all that different after all. Save for the swimsuit wife, 150 mph serve, and the $19 million in career earnings.

Roddick plays his third round match today at Wimbledon -- site of 3 of his 5 career Grand Slam Finals appearances. For an Agassi or Sampras, Federer or Nadal, a third round exit would be a huge upset. But if Roddick loses today, will anybody really be surprised?

Unless perhaps you have Andy Roddick posters plastered all over your bedroom wall, the answer is no.

Will it have been a choke job?

The answer to that is a bit more nebulous.

"This is a list of what I should have been, but I'm not. This is a list of the things that I should have seen, but I'm not seeing..."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I can't tell you why

(My Les Paul/Google effort. It was either that, Jingle Bells or Three Blind Mice.)

Spring is the new summer here. Although I'm not sure what that makes summer. And because I spend way too much time looking at the weather almanac online, I know that today was our eighteenth day in a row over 90 degrees. I have managed to golf a couple of times during the oppression. Nearly shot the temperature one day, so... I guess that's something.

I missed my 20-year high school reunion Saturday. Is missed the right word, if you skip it intentionally?

You know how these things can be. I just didn't want it to turn into the 20-year Bone love fest, celebrating my wit and all my accomplishments in.... blogging and, uh, other as-yet-to-be-determined areas.

There was a picnic in the park for lunch, then dinner at a tavern in the evening. One of my classmates called in between the two -- the girl who once nominated me for Best Dressed, which I always found ironic as on the day she did I was wearing a shirt Mom had bought at a yard sale, which was where I got probably half my clothes then.

"We missed you at the picnic. A couple of people asked about you."
"So what have you done today?"
"Not much." (Translation: Woke up about 9:30, ate some Cap'n Crunch, a couple of hours just disappeared, fixed a frozen pizza for lunch.)

Wow. Even for me, that was a complete cringe moment. I didn't have a good reason for not going. I didn't even have a bad reason for not going. I'm not one of these people who had a horrible high school experience. Au contraire, I ruled the school, in my own mind.

The best reason I can come up with is that I despise those two-minute conversations where you "catch up" with people you haven't seen in years and may never see again by asking where do you live, what do you do, and how many kids do you have.

But that's weak. The bottom line is it was just easier not to. Story of my life. Or at least a few chapters.

Maybe I'll go to my 25th. Or 30th. Or whatever comes next. I could do some impromptu stand-up so hilarious people will pee their pants and kick themselves because they didn't vote for me for Wittiest in 12th grade. It's quite easy to say that now and have it seem like a very real possibility. The attending, I mean, not the peeing.

So it's not that I regret not going, to this one, or my five-year, or my ten-year. It's just that I'm really not sure what it is that makes me not do these things.

And all this to say nothing of the light-speed at which the time has moved. Realizing I have been out of school for twenty years, hearing that kids who graduated high school this year were born in 1993 -- it's almost incomprehensible.

Years are funny things. When you stand them up next to hours, minutes, or seconds, they appear to be much longer than they really are. But it's just an illusion. Anyone who has ever stopped to look back on ten, twenty, thirty or more can attest to that.

"And there's the old movie house, they finally closed it down. You could find me there every Friday night, twenty years ago..."

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

There is no joy in Port Charles

We now interrupt what I had originally planned to post for today, which was nothing, to bring you a matter both of extreme importance and immense sadness.

The news came yesterday, in an email from a trusted friend. Her words: "I wanted you to hear it from me first." I clicked the link. My heart sank when I saw the headline:

Curtain To Fall On GH

I wanted to believe it wasn't true. That somehow there had been a mistake. But deep down -- in that part of the heart reserved for secret hopes, dreams, and fond memories of Luke & Laura and Frisco & Felicia -- I knew. You can't fight Katie Couric.

I just like to come home from work, take off my pants, get a snack, lie on the couch and watch my stories. It's one of the few simple pleasures of this workaday life. And now even that has been stolen from me.

By Katie Couric. Seriously? How many shows does one person need?!?!

It's been a rough past decade-and-a-half for me. First Opryland closes, and now this. I have watched General Hospital, sporadically, for the majority of my life. Tony Geary is on my mental top ten list of people to meet. (I say mental because I haven't gotten around to writing it down yet. Also, I've only come up with eight people so far.) And some might assume my rugged, stoic, somewhat emotionless facade was heavily influenced by Jason Morgan. And I cannot say for sure that they would be wrong.

Several concerned friends have asked if I'm going to be OK. And honestly, I don't know this time. Maybe this is the end of the road for me. I mean, let's face it, I never really figured out this whole, quote, "life" thing anyway.

Eh, who am I kidding? I don't even have a will. And I can't risk having my most prized possessions -- namely my Milli Vanilli CD and my Welcome Back Kotter DVDs -- falling into the wrong hands.

Besides, according to the article, it's not happening until the fall of 2012. So that leaves a little over a year. Those will be good times. Assuming, of course, that by some small chance the Mayans were wrong.

Maybe we can fight this. Boycott ABC daytime. Take it to the streets. Bring back our soaps! Are you with me, ladies... and, uh... guys?

"Now I'm sittin' here, I'm wastin' my time. I just don't know what I should do. It's a tragedy for me to see the dream is over..."