16 June, 2011

Bad Times Are Right Around The Corner

As a former resident of Boston, last night my Twitter feed and Facebook page erupted with messages congratulating the Bruins for their Stanley Cup victory.  I have to echo that it was well-deserved and the culmination of a hard-fought series that, dare I say, put hockey squarely back on the US sports radar.  Amidst all the "Go Bruins!" and accounts of Canadian rioting (which seems like an oxymoron) was a post from my buddy Aaron that got me thinking, he wrote:

     The Patriots officially have the longest championship drought of any major Boston sports team.  How the hell did that happen!?

The Patriots last won the Super Bowl in 2004.  Between that and the fact he's still married to Gisele Bundchen, life must be hell for Tom Brady. Just like it is for the city's long suffering sports fan... Boston's four major sports teams have combined for 7 championships since 2000.

But the point of this post isn't to mock my buddies or even call them spoiled, although both are worthy pursuits.

It's easy as fan to begin to irrationally believe that victory is a birthright.  Ever met a Yankees fan, folks?  Seriously?!  The fact is, the vast majority of sports fans know, even though you may have a run of good fortune, eventually it's going to come crashing down.  The losses will come, the bandwagon will go into the garage and someone else will revel as you sulk your way quasi-drunkenly into next season.

Right now, Swiss tennis fans are on the precipice of a nasty reality hangover.  Since 1997, Swiss players have captured 21 Grand Slam titles.  First Martina Hingis outsmarted most of her competitors and finished her career an Iva Majoli (who?!) upset shy of a Grand Slam.  Then of course, the Federer Express rolled through the last decade racking up major titles at an unprecedented clip, but what's next?  The only other Swiss men in the top 200 are veterans Stanislas Wawrinka, a longshot to bag the biggest hardware, and almost 28 year old Stephane Bohli ranked 136th this week.  The women, now without recently retired stalwart Patty Schnyder, have two in the top 200, Timea Bacsinszky and Stefanie Voegele, they're 22 and 21 years old and not exactly striking fear in the hearts of the top dogs with their respective rankings of 67 and 152.  In other words, apres Federer, la deluge.

Remember when tennis owned Germany and vice versa?  The country simultaneously produced two of the greatest players the game has seen, Boris Becker and Steffi Graf who combined for 28 majors in the late 80s and 90s.  They've had servicable players since, but no one has ascended those dizzying heights.  The TV ratings fell, the tournaments shriveled up or moved and suddenly tennis went cold.

The Spaniards have had a fairly sustained history of on-court success especially in the last two decades, but they've never had an all-season, all-surface champion like Rafael Nadal.  Sergi Brugrera was great, but he's not a GOAT contender. When Rafa heads to the golf course full time, what will become of Spanish tennis and its superfans?

The decline of American tennis has been well-documented. While the Williams Sisters and Andy Roddick's 21 major victories have at least kept the US in the international tennis conversation, most homegrown sports fans don't know tennis is played outside of Wimble-tin (as many of my countrymen erroneously persist in pronouncing the home-village of the All England Club) and the US Open. 

It seemed Russia was poised to own the game for a minute, but the Russian boom of Safin, Sharapova, Kuznetsova and Myskina (OK and Kournikova) to date has only resulted in 8 majors and a couple billion hits on the internet.

China's on every tennis watcher's radar now with Li Na capturing her first major. Will she drive a tennis boomlet in the world's most populous nation and if she does, will it be sustained?

The Serbian game is mighty at the moment, but what will happen when national hero Novak Djokovic fades from the ATP apex?  It might not happen soon, but it will eventually.  It always does.

To paraphrase Francesca Schiavone, enjoy this beautiful moment while it lasts Boston fans, Swiss fans, Serb fans, Spanish fans.  It is, in fact, beautiful...and beauty always fades.


  1. Ivan Lendl is somewhere sipping on a Snapple, wondering where his Czech tennis legacy lies...

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