Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On The Open

TigerBlog's introduction to sportswriting came in the form of numerous Fridays and Saturdays at high school games. He assumes this is how all the greats got started.

Not that TB is one of the greats, of course. Well, maybe he is. Depends whom you ask.

For instance, his grandmother Judy certainly thought he was one of the greats. Judy Roder was MotherBlog's mother. Standing roughly 4' 10", she was the taller of TB's two grandmothers, edging out FatherBlog's mother by about an inch or two.

Judy and her husband Joe ran a driving school, called Roder Auto School. It was on Lefferts Boulevard, in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, not far from Kennedy Airport.

Louis, the official toy poodle of TB's youth, used to spend his summers with Judy and Joe and would bark in his friendly way at the would-be drivers. When it came time for TB to learn to drive, Joe taught him how, just as he did TB's other cousins.

They were snowbirds, Judy and Joe, as they would spend much of their winters in Florida for years and years. Their apartment on the third floor at 8300 Talbot Street (TB thinks that was the address) was adorned with photos from their time in the Sunshine State, as well as every conceivable picture they could find of their two children (MotherBlog and her older brother Larry) and their four grandchildren.

Judy and Joe lived on Mountain time, or maybe even Pacific time. Up at 4. Breakfast at 5. Lunch at 10. Dinner at 4. In bed at 8, Joe always with his transistor radio.

To the visit with them was to eat, eat and eat. Until you couldn't eat anymore. Until you were so stuffed with chicken soup, brisket, deli, bagels and lox and whatever else she was serving - all washed down with YooHoo of course - that you couldn't eat another bite, something that when informed of she would always say the same thing: "What's the matter? You don't feel good?"

Joe passed away in 1991; Judy followed three years later. Both lived well into their 80s and were married for, as TB remembers it, 64 years.

TB is pretty sure the last time he had an extended stay in his grandparents apartment was when he covered the 1985 U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows, also not far from Kew Gardens.

TB spent two weeks with his grandparents. He covered matches all day and night and then returned to their apartment, where he'd be greeted by Judy and a late meal. This was late by any standards; by Judy's, it was probably closer to early than late.

The 1985 U.S. Open winners were Hana Mandlikova on the women's singles side and Ivan Lendl on the men's singles side. TigerBlog's biggest memories of the tournament were 1) sitting next to Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press in his pressbox seat and 2) the graciousness and class of women's runner-up Martina Navratilova, who became an instant TB favorite.

As for Albom, he would talk about how competitive the newspaper war in Detroit was between the Free Press and the News, and TB would try to get him to understand that the one between the Trenton Times and Trentonian was even wilder, given how much smaller Trenton is than Detroit.

The two Detroit papers merged in 1989. Amazingly, shockingly, both the Trenton Times and Trentonian continue to be published every day. In the world of newspapers, there is little than can match up to that, even if nobody outside this area could care less or even knows about it.

TigerBlog hasn't been back to the U.S. Open since. In fact, he isn't nearly into tennis as much as he used to be; these days he prefers his racket to be slightly smaller and the ball to be black and hardly bounce.

Because the Trenton Times and Trentonian are still publishing, he was able to see that Princeton women's tennis coach Laura Granville has been doing radio at the current Open in New York.

Though Granville has no previous radio or TV experience, she seems to be enjoying her debut.

And it has to be great for her to be back at the U.S. Open, a tournament in which she competed regularly when she was one of the top professionals in the world. Maybe not a top 10 player, but an established, successful pro tennis player.

Granville is entering Year 2 at Princeton. The college tennis season is a long one, with 24 separate dates of competition listed on the schedule for the fall alone.

Granville is as accomplished an athlete as any current Princeton coach.

She was a two-time NCAA champion at Stanford, and she then had her professional career before returning to Palo Alto to get her degree. Princeton is her first coaching stop, and her team went 12-7 overall and 4-3 in the league in her first season.

When the Open is over, she'll be back to getting ready for Season 2. In the meantime, she's definitely enjoying her time behind the mic.

TB has done enough radio to know that if you know your stuff and have some personality, then you can be pretty good on the radio. He hasn't heard Granville, but he assumes that she's pretty good.

TB hasn't had that many conversations with her in the last 12 years, but she's a very friendly, very funny person. She's got the kind of sharpness that translates well to broadcasting.

And to coaching.

Princeton women's tennis is in good hands.

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