Archive for the ‘commentators’ Category

stay, don’t go

March 9, 2011

By Jonathan Scott

Another brand of March Madness is upon us: With the unisex goodness that is the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells tournament, the 2011 pro tennis campaign kick-starts into high gear. This 1-2 punch of Cali and Miami makes for a full month of top-notch tennis. Indeed, spring’s done sprung.

Now a curious trend seeped into tennis again in 2010: jumpy observers of the sport seeking to retire players -– good, even great stars who reaped some solid results -– before they themselves are ready to hang up their racquets. The guilty parties: too many tennis writers and other observers and “personalities” involved to various degrees. Their victims? Among them, Andy Roddick, Venus Williams, and even Roger Federer, proving that not a single star is exempt from these hasty calls to exit.

But Roddick won Memphis last month, dousing the ballyhooed, raging fire that is young Milos Raonic and coming up with possibly the best championship-point winner ever. He also ignited his fellow Americans’ effort on the Chilean clay in Davis Cup, punctuating his clinching win with a scissor kick (Video: here) that would make Sally O’Malley salivate. Too many quickly forgot that Venus seized some early 2010 titles and vaulted to no. 2 in the world before injuries in part derailed both her autumnal and 2011 Aussie exploits. (Oddly, she’s now singing 311 karaoke on a MIA-to-Turks cruiseship and showing off some fly dance moves for someone with chronic knee issues.). Fed himself ran the table at the London year-end championships in December, outdoing even Rafael Nadal in the final, and snagged an early 2011 title before a taking-all-comers Novak Djokovic rolled over him in Melbourne.

Still, retirement happens. It’s inevitable. Justine Henin’s departure has itself turned into a piece of music with multiple movements, the strings swelling and falling at different points. Henin has been like that lover who breaks it off and then loiters for attention: Mercy. And merci.

All of the brouhaha catalyzed a thought: Who or what in the sport truly needs to go?

Without further ado, a few items –- persons, peccadillos, and other pesky minutiae –- that best get gone. Now. Conversely, some other talents and trends are welcome to get comfy. So there it is: Stay, or Go.

GO: Foremost, let’s be done with the freak injuries. Some stars are making the maladies on TV hospital dramas seem realistic: Victoria Azarenka scarily passed out on court after bopping her head during a warm-up run, and then Anna Chakvetadze did her best Vika impression. Meanwhile Andy Murray strained his hand by playing video games excessively (okay, that one proved a fib). It seems a few players just need to be grounded.

Granted, Serena’s recent pulmonary embolism/hematoma scare is more than legit. Anyone who relishes compelling tennis, even if no fan of hers, whether onlooker or media, can only hope she makes it back into the mix again. Tennis needs her fight and her bite. Not every player needs to be Mama Kim Clijsters, portrait of civility.

Speaking of, GO: Can we just be done with all the talk about Clijsters’ motherhood? Cute turned to precious in a hurry there, and not in a good way.

GO: That hand-strain hoax aside, Murray might want to consider tempering his video gaming: Girlfriend Kim Sears reportedly already broke up with him once over the habit. Word to the wise, young gun: the lady has you on watch.

Judy Murray, we heart thee.

GO. STAY. Good dog: Not to pick on the Murray familia too much (see below), but what of these tweets from the family’s resident cur, this Maggie? So let it be written, so let it be done: No more Murray mutt tweets, at least not until Andy bags that virgin Major. It’s no less lame to put your pet on Twitter than it is to fashion a Facebook profile for it.

STAY: Judy Murray, British tennis coach and mom to Andy and Jamie. Yes, she advises her son. She also isn’t afraid to shoot a witty retort at a former player who yaps about her spawn’s chances at winning big with her on board.

GO: Boris Becker. Just let it be, Boorish. You were a fine player, a flame-maned, serve-and-volley stud on grass. Then you knocked Murray and his mum for his underperforming at Slams, chiding him for his closeness to Judy and (good grief!) for standing by his girl at age 23. So a former player cheats on his pregnant wife with a Russian model (in a closet), resulting in a lust child, and then doles out unsolicited relational advice? Laughable. Not content to merely stand by his statements from the fall, BB waxed on again after Murray’s mopey, one-sided loss to Nole in the Aussie final. Sigh. Everyone’s a Carillo. Click to read more, kids. You don’t want to miss these musings.

(more…)

this year, no merry carillo-mas (on espn)

December 18, 2010

In his yearly Baggies post, where Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim hands out the best (and worst)-of the year, he also compiles a list of latest happenings in the tennis world. Among them this year: a good-bye to “Mary Carillo on ESPN”. So what gives? Your guess is as good as ours. Oh, it’s just not going to be a Merry Carillo-mas!

(image via opencourt)

amelie, the holy and glowing one

September 8, 2010

Yes, we know Amelie Mauresmo is glowing in this picture. And no, it’s not the lighting. Or make up. Or video editing. It’s her natural glow. Her new, natural glow.

I caught a glimpse – well, a thousand glimpses – of Amelie at the US Open this week, and the gal hasn’t looked this good since she exorcized her demons at the 2006 Wimbledon and bowed to the tennis gods in thanks.

Here’s what we think Amelie’s secret is, now that she’s working for Eurosport and living the life of the rich and famous, with no pressure on her goddess-like shoulders:

Amelie doesn’t sleep at night, instead, she does yoga for two hour periods, only taking breaks to smell sunflowers that she grows on her windowsill, that – oddly enough, don’t get any sun – and she waters with red wine, exclusively. Each morning she wakes up and reads Eat, Pray, Love and then goes out and has gelato for lunch – usually pineapple berry with chocolate sorbetto – before returning to her lodge (yes, she lives in a lodge) and watches Eat, Pray, Love the movie, which she got boot-legged by Julia Roberts herself. As a favor for Amelie. In the afternoons she usually does gymnastic routines in a leotard onesie, something that Reebok would never let her wear. She has 17 such leotards. She’s sworn off coffee so she only drinks grapefruit juice, straining the pulp first and drinking it from a hollowed out coconut. Before bed… er, we mean her 8 hours of yoga… Amelie high-fives the poster she has hung over her loft bed. It looks like this:

That, folks, has produced such glowing. It’s a simple recipe. Try it.

(screengrab via facebook.com; getty images photo)

james speaks for hundreds of players, still can’t quiet pam

June 22, 2010

James Blake spoke out for hundreds of players who, over the last ten years, have heard Pam Shriver‘s voice carry on to the court, by shushing the ESPN correspondent today, but Shriver’s decibels didn’t drop after his initial rant.

While Blake was clearly irritated on his way to a three-set flop-out, he called out Shriver on being too loud while doing sideline commentary above Court 5. Shriver relays the details, but as she does so, she speaks at the same volume she had been the entire time, choosing to continue to get under the skin of the American. He let her know again how frustrated he was, and P-Shrive still couldn’t get a clue. (Click image to watch video.)

Later, we suspect, James received hundreds – if not thousands – of appreciative text messages from fellow players for his actions. He also, we (still) suspect, is crafting a Commentate-o-Meter to measure the decibels of on-court reporters. Shriver is expected to give Michelle Larcher de Brito a run for her high-pitched money.

(screen grab via youtube)

live blogging the FO (men’s) final

June 6, 2010

5:39 PM 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 Game, set, match, Nadal I’m pretty happy for Rafa and that win. He definitely deserved it. Congrats, big guy.

5:24 PM 6-4, 6-2, 5-3 Nadal Time for the Robin Soderling to pull out the gladiator armor. He’s neeeeeeeeding it.

5:07 PM 6-4, 6-2, 3-1 Nadal No, we have no idea who the junior champions are, either. And so much for Bode Miller‘s U.S. Open bid. Kind of rough for the USTA‘s number one story line to flame out in the first round. McEnroe is really doing his best to verbally route for Sod to take this to four or five.

(more…)

mary the olympian

February 28, 2010

If you’ve watched more Olympics than me (and I only got to the most important three hours of it, the women’s free skate), then you were sure to have had the pleasure of watching my favorite tennis commentator — and esteemed journalist — Mary Carillo in one of NBC’s delightful featurettes.

Carillo’s sports knowledge is obvious, and her word-choice is always that of a well-educated, thoughtful commentator. She’s a natural — even in nature!

Enter our Mary The Olympian photo gallery, where we chronicle the many trials and tribulations of the great Carillo in her coverage for NBC’s peek into life as a Canadian as an Olympic contest all of its own. They were, after all, Mary’s Olympics…

Things looked suspicious at first — and so did Mary — but her training for the Olympics were about to hit full stride. (more…)

watching the men’s semis: nole + ferrer, roger + kolya

September 8, 2007

Congrats to Novak Djokovic for downing David Ferrer in three easy sets — 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; and to Roger Federer for beating Nikolay Davydenko (le sigh) after a seesaw third set that saw a million breaks of serve (7-5, 6-1, 7-5).

A few things I noticed while I watched these U.S. Open men’s semis with Chris and Matt:

  • Using the ball bounce as a beat was great sound for the opening montage of CBS‘ coverage.
  • We laughed out loud at the Tina Fey AmEx commercial. It was like a short episode of 30 Rock! “No, the other kind of german shepherd!”
  • Srdjan Djokovic takes off his shirt after his son Nole does so after his win. And the father encourages the rest of the Djokovic box to do so. Uhm, NO.
  • Apparently Justin Gimelstob was talking about Tommy Haas‘ nipples on last night’s episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
  • As of 3-2 in the first set, CBS had not panned to Mirka, nor had the commentators Dick Enberg, John McEnroe, and Mary Carillo made any mention of R-Fed besty Tiger Woods.
  • We were fans of Ferrer’s multiple necklace charms, as well as Davydenko’s wedding-ring-on-the-neck. Kolya’s hot wife, Irina, was there to cheer him on. As was his brother and coach, Eduard (also wearing Airness).
  • Celebs in the stands: Catherine Zeta-Jones, plus Kirk and Michael Douglas. Also Robert De Niro, Ilie Nastase, Boris Becker, and Anna Wintour.
  • Nevermind. The Mirka sighting was at 3-3 in the first set.
  • And comparison to Tiger in the eighth game.
  • Kolya, in all his matches at this year’s Open, was never scheduled for a night match. Is this what being the fourth seed affords a player?
  • As Enberg waxed nostalgic over the last two weeks, he mentions that Jankovic has recently been signed to endorse toothpaste.
  • Speaking of Dick (dick?), did he really say something — at two different occasions, even — about Roger’s back muscles? He was in awe of Federer’s “two ridges…” Whaa?

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open coverage continues…

thank god for usa network

September 5, 2007

Thank god for USA Network. In their decades of covering the U.S. Open, they’ve settled into a style that’s worlds better than CBS‘ (such a relief!). They also keep it consistent and simple: no unnecessary graphics; minimal “comeback kid” or “on the rise” profiles; ample servings of quality matches not involving Americans; a nice sampling of play (i.e., they’ll cover those outer court, low-Q-rating matches in the first week); and they take air breaks of very reasonable length — essentially just enough to cover the changeovers.

The Commentators:

  • Jim Courier — Wow. Where does one begin? With Mr. Courier, it seems we have a perfect balance of pros (brilliance) and cons (hubris, arrogance). Let’s start with the pros: here’s a guy who can back up the goods. Not unlike Johnny Mac, he also has tremendous access to the players and makes good use of it. He’s smart guy, surprisingly articulate, and occasionally makes insightful cultural references.

    But the true bonus with Jim is his tendency to deconstruct tennis broadcasting: “I’ve just been told I can’t say ‘hot chicks’ anymore,” he said the other day in reference to a comment about Safin’s former box-sitters. Or “I’m being told I need to wrap it up,” he’ll say, I’m sure to the great chagrin of his producers. Novice? Yes. Novel? Definitely.

    Another example: the other night, after a long post-match analysis from Jim, host Al Trautwig asked if he wanted to keep going, upon which Jim said, “Okay. Can I read your prompter?” This brashness with which Courier tears down the fourth wall is quite a breath of fresh air.

    He even got into it with Tracy Austin, insisting that Radwanska, who upset defending champion Maria Sharapova, used gamesmanship and broke the locker room code of ethics in attacking Masha’s second serve. Austin countered that this brashness is just the way players are today. Courier’s apparent anger, verging on hostility, brought a little verité into the USA Network booth.

    All that said, Courier is far from perfect: quite often he is the epitome of smug. “Let me tell you how much I know about this; and let me also tell you how much I know about that,” he seems to be saying. He’s passionate — which of course is important — but when he continues to expound deep into a game without stopping, he’s cut off his nose to spite his (and our) face(s). One wonders whether Courier has spent any time reviewing tapes of his broadcasts; if he does, one hopes that he’ll notice his tendency to ramble. Once he corrects this, we may have a truly great player-cum-commentator on our hands.

  • Tracy Austin — All designer business suits (bright blue ones, no less) and mind-numbing, somewhat grating patter, Austin has milked her playing days into a commentary career like a character on The Surreal Life. (Racqonteur gives her a C-.)
  • Al Trautwig — Nice deep pipes and always solidly on-the-ball, Trautwig is the best studio host USA has had. His transitions are impeccable and I’ve never seen him falter in improv mode. A weakness: in his one-on-ones, he doesn’t allow the interviewee much time to respond. But at least he keeps things moving.
  • Michael Barkann — This long-time roving reporter is great at what he does, and far too often it’s a relatively thankless task: I wouldn’t want to be interviewing players who clearly don’t want to be interviewed (which seems to be the case before every Ashe stadium match), but he does it (though I’m fairly sure it wasn’t his idea). He’s also accomplished at the mostly heinous celebrity-in-the-crowd interviews, an equally unenviable task that he manages to get done (thankfully there have been few of them thus far in ’07, though we were horrified to see him sit down for a long exchange with Donny Trump during the Ferrer-Nadal match). He’s at his best doing the roving reporter thing, perhaps throwing in a quick exchange with a fan or two.
  • Ted Robinson — Almost no complaints; there is nothing about Ted that’s not to like. He has a great memory for past matches and players; he keeps things moving but doesn’t ever seem to talk too much; he throws out some relevant anecdotes when things on the court are a little slow; and he knows how to keep it brief at crucial periods in a match. His one downside, which has been minimal at this Open, is his tendency to set McEnroe up for patting himself on the back, which he (Mac) clearly doesn’t need any help with. Still, overall Robinson is a key fixture for USA’s coverage. (add Ted’s blog to your reading list.)
  • Bill Macatee — he’s substantially better here than on CBS. He’s a nice, dry, straight man with an ample smidgeon of personality. Easy enough to tune out, or in, as is appropriate.
  • John McEnroe — Hey Mac: keep the focus on the match and the players and off yourself, and we’re all good. Has the way that Mac has been doing a little biographical digging, and age comparing (is Hyung-Taik Lee the oldest player left, or is Moya?) shown signs of maturing? Heaven forbid.

(photo of Courier by mugley)

Michael Shaw is currently following the Open from his couch on the West Coast.

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open archive
>> michael shaw archive

sketches of the open’s humble broadcasters

September 5, 2007

Those of us neither out in Flushing, nor subscribers to extremely high-end satellite packages with live feeds, are ultimately resolved to endure CBS’ weekend coverage. As green as TTC proved to be in covering their inaugural slam at this year’s French Open, one perversely hopes that they’ll gain enough leverage to buy out CBS’ Open contract.

NBC is not without substantial guilt for its own slam (RG and Wimbledon) coverage, but the combustible pairing of a major network and its home (okay, American) slam leads to far too much spoon-feeding of emotion and drama, akin to the worst of a Hollywood movie.

We as viewers are savvy enough to bring our own sense of meaning to any given match or storyline (and, if there isn’t one, then we can always fast-forward). Serious tennis fans can really do without the amped-up graphics, schlocky promos, and sentimental broadcasters, not to mention the three-to-one ads-to-tennis ratio.

It was quite a jolt adapting from USA’s coverage to that of CBS’: what with the eye strain adjustments to deal with all the bleached out and overly sunlit footage. (Can’t they just use the same filter that USA does?)

And whoever decided to greenlight those pre-match interviews should be hung.

Hey, at least the CBS commentators are a relatively known bunch.

  • Bill Macatee — basically innocuous, with an even more sterilized persona than on USA.
  • Mary Carillo — she’s her usual effervescent and laugh-happy self, a solid and colorful voice, if at times a bit too harsh. (It’s hard to erase the memory of her referring to Davydenko, back when he was ranked #3, not only as “the most anonymous #3 player in the world ever,” but also as “a total mook”.)
  • John McEnroe — Mac has become familiar enough in the booth that he’s not too hard to tune out, or at least tune down. Mac can bring brilliant analysis to the table for any given match, which he deserves credit for, but his overall vibe gets watered down by an ego untethered and run amok. Somehow the CBS dynamic doesn’t allow him quite the forum for inevitable self-aggrandizements.
  • Patrick McEnroe — P-Mac’s commentary is overall equal to John’s, if only because he’s more consistent and doesn’t indulge in his own accomplishments (perhaps just a function of having far fewer than his brother?). His pairing with Mac for the Nadal-Tsonga match was both fun and efficient. His broadcast voice has come off as a bit thinner than it has on ESPN.
  • Ian (pronounced EYE-en) Eagle — not only a capable but even an enjoyable play-by-play guy; newest to the team. It’s a shame he’s been relegated to something of a transition host with minimal air time.
  • Dick Enberg — give this guy an opportunity to sentimentalize, and he’ll take it and run. He’s actually a fine commentator, but over the years most of us have gotten more our fill; and, within the confines of CBS (Enberg joined ESPN’s Aussie Open coverage last year), it all feels just that much more mainstream.

Up next: a look at USA Network’s coverage.

(photo by artnwine1)

Michael Shaw is currently following the Open from his couch on the West Coast.

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open coverage
>> michael shaw archive

“dangerous” to whom?

September 4, 2007

Is it just me, or is anyone else getting a little sick of hearing commentators use the word “dangerous”? As in: “This guy is a really dangerous player,” or “She’s a really dangerous floater in the draw.”

Here’s my beef: clearly “dangerous” is a subtext for “this player could wipe out a seed,” and that could be disastrous. Why? Well, it would mean there’s one less popular player in the draw; and the following round’s match-up might not have the same buzz (Masha vs. Peer sounds better than Radwanska vs. Peer, right?), which would adversely affect ratings. That, in turn, could lead to losing ad revenue and even whole accounts, which could lead to admen/women losing out on performance bonuses.

So let’s just agree that when a commentator calls someone a “dangerous” player, they’re just saying that some ad wonk won’t be getting a flat screen upgrade if said player wins.

Michael Shaw is currently following the Open from his couch on the West Coast.

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open coverage


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