Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Guest TigerBlog - BrotherBlog, Live From Australia

TigerBlog spent a good deal of his Saturday wondering if he was working.

He was at work. He knows that. He's just not sure if he was working.

For most people, TB presumes, it's easy to tell if they're working. For him, it's not quite as clear cut.

He was at Princeton from around noon until eight or so. During that time, he saw squash, tennis and basketball, and the men's lacrosse scrimmage.

He didn't write any stories. He just watched, taking it in. That's what he does for fun.

When you work in college athletics, that's what you do. The whole point of everything you do is to enhance the experience that the athletes have, so why not go to the games? As he says, that's the fun part.

It's easy to forget that most people don't go to their own offices and hang out there for entertainment, right? Certainly BrotherBlog doesn't. 

At least TB presumes he doesn't.

BrotherBlog is a lawyer in Seattle. He teaches at the University of Washington Law School, his alma mater. His original alma mater is the same as his brother's, Penn.

TigerBlog isn't sure how many times BB has been to the Palestra in his life. He's not quite the Ivy League sports fan that his brother is.

Every now and then, though, he likes to go to a game or two. 

Most recently he went to a tennis tournament - the Australian Open, actually - along with Joe, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog. Joe has an undergraduate degree and Ph.D. from Syracuse and is a huge Orange fan.

As always, TB has an open offer for people who want to write a guest blog every now and then, and BB took him up on that offer for his trip to Australia, just as he did for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver back in 2010

So, without further ado, BrotherBlog reports in from the Australian Open:

How I spent (Australia’s) summer vacation

I am TigerBlog’s unathletic brother, and yet I found myself in January in Melbourne, Australia, at the Australian Tennis Open. Actually it was not random or accidental that we were in Australia. It was the 10th-anniversary celebration for my husband and I, and we wanted to celebrate in a big way—like going to the opposite side of the world.

TB asked me for some insights from my Australia trip, and here they are:

1. Travel to Australia.  Yes, it is very, very far away—another hemisphere. It takes a long time from the US.  We traveled from Seattle, through Los Angeles, to Sydney, and the LAX-SYD leg was 15 hours.  I’ve heard that the longest commercial route is Dallas to Dubai (at close to 17 hours), but 15 was plenty.  That’s several meals, several movies, and some sleep if you’re lucky or medicated. We left LAX at 10 pm Sunday and arrived 9 am Tuesday morning after crossing the International Date Line. The good news: After traveling all that way in January, you get to a beautiful, warm, sunny place where they are celebrating summer and where they speak a kind of English (for those who struggle with languages)—but drive on the other side of the road which is potentially dangerous to American pedestrians. We were just leaving tons and tons of Seattle rain.  For those of you in Princeton, you would have missed the blizzard.

2. Tennis fans. The word that comes to mind is “demure.” Not as demure and orderly as golf fans, who whisper, but not like football or baseball in larger arenas.  Tennis is a more intimate sport. All talking stops when the player throws the ball into the air for the serve. You could really hear a pin drop (metaphorical) or bird sing (actual) in those moments. Then the arena is all gasps and cheers as the ball bounces to the outer edges of the singles court or bumps over the net until one player scores.  And tennis has the best challenge system of all sports—a quick nod or raised finger by a player, a syncopated clapping rhythm, and then a television screen with the exact position of the ball—all within 15 seconds.  Compare that with the challenges in baseball or football that stop the clock, and leave time for several car commercials, while waiting for results. This is the perfect challenge system for fans with attention deficit disorder.

3. Tickets.  For those considering going, one can get a grounds pass to wander the grounds (on Saturday, January 23, that would have been with 55,000 of your best mates), or can get tickets for specific matches.  We did a combination to get the different experiences.  But even with the grounds pass, we were still able to get available seats in Hisense Arena, to see the Tsonga/Nishikori match.  (Straight sets for Nishikori.)  If you didn’t get there early, there was a two-hour wait on the “queue.”  But obviously those grounds passes are way cheaper than tickets for designated matches.

4.  Milos Raonic and Serena.  No, they did not play against each other. But by going several days, we had the opportunity to follow their progress during the matches. Raonic (ranked 13) beat Wawrinka (ranked 4) in a very close match on Monday, January 25, and then beat Monfils (ranked 23) on Wednesday, January 27.  He made it to the semifinals Friday where he played Andy Murray (ranked 2).  He was up two sets to one. One could not help but root for the underdog. Was this Raonic’s star ascending?  Was the difference in rank between 13 and 2 meaningless? Well, it was not to be that Friday, and Murray won out, only to be defeated by Djokovic (ranked number 1) in straight sets in the finals.  But I would look for Raonic in the future to make it into the finals. 

As for Serena (who needs no last name, ranked number 1), she completely demolished Radwanska (ranked 4) in the semifinal in straight sets without seeming to break a sweat. The excellent match was the other women’s seminfinals—Kerber (ranked 7) versus Konta (ranked 28)—and they came out swinging hard in the first set. Kerber took the first set 7-5, and then it was over (6-2). But, as we now know, Kerber took that intensity into the women’s finals and beat Serena. Regardless of whether one likes or dislikes Serena, it takes a lot of psychic energy to defeat Serena. She has amazing power on the court, and some diva moments as well. But also it is hard not to root for a fellow American on foreign soil. Apparently, according to our cab driver to the airport, she was quite cordial in person when he drove her earlier that week, and she even took a picture with him after the ride.

5.  Food. Stadium food is stadium food is stadium food.  Loved the “chips” (French fries) and the “drumsticks” (ice cream cones). Stayed away from vegemite, the Australian food paste. But really liked that Australians are even crazier than we are in the birthplace of Starbucks about their espresso, and it was plentiful and delicious.

Overall, it was a great experience with very fun Australians in a warm and sunny place in January, and I would highly recommend going to the other side of the world. 

Just look both ways when you cross the road—you never know which direction the cars are coming from!

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