Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Choosing His Battles

Why Some Sports Writers Shouldn't Write About Tennis and Why Some Mayors Need to Lay Off the Booze

The latest shit to hit the fan is the news that Andy Roddick has pulled out of the Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas with the reason being that he's "fatigued."

And why is this shit-hit-the-fan-worthy? Beats me, but the blowhard mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, decided to haul Roddick out on the carpet for it by saying that Roddick pulled out because he was afraid that "Lleyton Hewitt was going to kick his rear end." As reported by Ron Kantowski of The Las Vegas Sun:

Ron Kantowski is tired of overpaid athletes like Andy Roddick who talk a big game but then fail to make good on their word

One of the selling points of Las Vegas' version of the Tennis Channel Open is that it is so much more than just an ATP tour stop.

There is no shortage of things you can do on the midway at the spiffy Darling Tennis Center out in Summerlin while the guys with the big serves who wear their ball caps backward are changing sides.

You can have your serve timed, and see how it measures up against the guys with the big serves and backward ball caps. There are parlor games, such as table tennis and air hockey. There is a women's tournament and a junior tournament and a platform tennis tournament and a couple of college matches featuring the UNLV women's team. There's music and art and
instructional clinics and exhibits and trivia contests. There's even a contest to see who can string a tennis racquet the fastest.

This is what the tournamment organizers call "Tennispalooza.''

About the only thing you won't be able to do - if you are lucky enough to find a parking spot during the weeklong Tennis Channel Open that runs today through Sunday - is watch Andy Roddick beat some guy wearing a backward ball cap that you've never heard of in straight sets.

That's because Roddick, the world's fourth-ranked player and the TCO's top seed and biggest attraction, announced Friday, fewer than 72 hours before the start of the tournament, that he was withdrawing because of fatigue.

This is what the tournament organizers call "Andy's-a-looza.''

Actually, that's what the tournament organizers would call it if they had a big racquet in their bag. But this tournament is such a good idea that it actually might last a year or two beyond this one. And then they might need Roddick, or at least his name, to sell tickets again next year.

So tournament organizers refused to call him for a blatant double fault: Saying he would play, and then lying about it.

Tournament director Steve Bellamy said something about how the TCO would have loved to have had Roddick but because the field is so deep, it wouldn't miss him all that much. How predictable.

Good thing Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman isn't worried about selling tickets. Or refunding them. Just as predictable, hizzoner wasn't bashful about saying what was on his mind, and he didn't whisper it off the record behind closed doors in the player's lounge.

Grabbing the microphone at the official tournament draw Saturday, Mayor Goodman basically called Roddick a phony who reneged on his word. Then he said the real reason Roddick bailed on the TCO was because Lleyton Hewitt was going to kick his rear end. (He actually said "rear end'' too, although it took all his restraint not to use the real word in front of the genteel country club types.)

Earlier, Bellamy said Roddick "felt bad'' about pulling out, but he (Roddick) didn't think he "had the energy'' to go the distance here.

That has got to be the weakest excuse since the late Redd Foxx told the IRS that the check was in the mail. Too fatigued? Lack of energy? You're 23 years old, Andy. Have a Gatorade for cryin' out loud. Take the supermodels home early and get a good night's sleep.

The tournament committee apparently was so busy trying to get the hospitality tents set up that it didn't have time to update the official Web site over the weekend.

Roddick's picture and statistics were still all over it. If you didn't see The Mayor go ballistic Saturday night on Channel 8, you would swear he was still playing. For instance, by midday Sunday, nobody had made an effort to take down Roddick's giant likeness from the stanchions lining Durango Drive on the way into the tennis center.

Here's what I would do: Take Roddick's billboard down and tack it back up in the Tennispalooza section. Charge fans who paid hundreds of dollars to watch him play here this week another $5 to "Pin the Lame Excuse on Andy Roddick.''

The line forms behind Mayor Goodman.

The Las Vegas mayor, by the way, used to be a former defense attorney for some local organized crime members.

Mr. Kantowski's diatribe certainly garnered a lot of attention from Roddick and tennis fans. Some responses sent to the editor of The Las Vegas Sun were printed recently:

Letter: Fatigue wasn't a weak excuse for Roddick
Andy Roddick is 23 years old, and playing a sport that has one of the longest seasons in the world. He has just played two tournaments, one after another - reaching the semis and quarters of both, respectively.

Fatigue isn't a weak excuse at all - you obviously haven't had any experience with real fatigue. If you did, you wouldn't be talking so much rubbish.

As you noted, people go to tennis tournaments for a lot of reasons - not just to see Roddick play.

---Dushi Nesan, London

Letter: Give Roddick a break; he's paid his dues
Regarding Ron Kantowski's column on Andy Roddick withdrawing from the Tennis Channel Open ("Failing to make good on their word," Feb. 27):

I was in La Jolla, Calif., for the recent Davis Cup tie between the United States and Romania and trust me when I say Roddick was truly ill during the match on Friday, to the extent he was taken to hospital. Yet he went out and played again on Sunday. Then on to San Jose, and from there on to Memphis, Tenn.

Anyone doubting Andy's commitment to tennis should have been in Belgium in September when Roddick played a very tough five-set match on clay against Olivier Rochus with more than 7,000 Belgians screaming constantly, even during points, during his serves. Roddick gutted it out and kept us in the world group.

So give Roddick a break.

---Marianne Jenks, Jamestown, Ohio

TENNIS KNOW-NOTHING. Ron Kantowski is a big, fat idiot.

I also sent an e-mail to Mr. Kantowski ( and this was his response:
Thanks for the note. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

It would appear to me that Andy Roddick should have planned his schedule a little better, then maybe he wouldn't be so tired.

You are right -- I am not a huge tennis fan. But I am a fan of people who plunk down a lot of money for tickets, thinking that certain players are going to play. In that this is a first-time event and Las Vegas has a dubious reputation for supporting live pro sports, Roddick's presence -- and yes, Andre Agassi's (I did two columns on him not playing here) -- would have helped make it a success.

I understand that this is a common occurrence in tennis -- players pulling out of events at short notice. But it would have been cool if Roddick had at least shown up, signed a few autographs and TRIED to play before withdrawing.

Had that happened, I would have been the first one singing his praises.

Thanks for reading and writing.

PS: A tournament official told me that Roddick was rated No. 4. I will take responsilbility for taking him at his word.

It's obvious that this man does not know how the sport of tennis works. The comment that "Roddick should have at least TRIED to play" is absurd. What is Roddick supposed to do? Show up, play a few games then say "I can't go on anymore, I'm fatigued" and THEN pull out? Would it have been any better for Roddick to show up, TANK his match, and then leave? And what if he bombs out in the first round? Then what? What about all those people who bought tickets for the later rounds and were hoping to see Andy? Nothing is guaranteed in tennis. You can't buy a ticket to a tennis match that says, "ANDY RODDICK ONLY" on it. This isn't baseball where a tired pitcher can be relieved or hockey where an injured player can be replaced. Tennis is not a team sport.

As for Roddick claiming "fatigue" I really don't understand why this is a problem. It's a legit excuse. He played DC, San Jose, and Memphis all one right after another. He was ill. He fired his coach. He's in another transitional period and he's not looking sharp at all. Had he played TTC that would've been three weeks in a row of a lot of playing and I can't see how playing that much would've helped him prepare to defend his sf points at IW.

If the media's going to throw out the argument of "people pay money to see Andy Roddick and now Andy has disappointed them all, blah blah blah boo hoo hoo" then they should be blaming Bellamy and not Roddick. It's not Roddick's fault that the tournament director insisted on building the success of his tournament around one player. Why isn't someone with star power like James Blake being as aggressively marketed? Tommy Haas is quite popular too.

It is unfair to expect Roddick to play every single US tournament on the schedule. Some will argue, "Well then he shouldn't have commited in the first place," but that's baloney. People have no idea of the kind of pressure Roddick is under to at least commit to these US tournaments, and Bellamy is a very persuasive, ambitious man. We all know how hard Andy has pronouncing the word "no" and we all know that he is very much aware that he is carrying America's hopes on his shoulders. The burden is getting to be too much.

You'd think that Mr. Kantowski has a personal vendetta against Roddick--or perhaps he's just enjoying all the attention he's been getting--but every day he's printed some smart-alecky comment about Roddick not playing Vegas:
The Tennis Channel Open
Hometown hero Andre Agassi is in the United Arab Emirates talking ground strokes and offshore drilling with Arab sheiks. Top-seed Andy Roddick is home resting with an IV of Red Bull attached to his arm....


Odds on Andy Roddick (who withdrew, citing fatigue, on Friday) receiving a key to the city from Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman: 1 million-to-1.

You're a hoot, Mr. Kantowski. Find a new target already.

Peter Bodo actually applauded the Mayor for his "honesty" in one of his latest blog entries over at TennisWorld:
Honest Politician Alert!

Andy Roddick’s withdrawal from The Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas disappointed many fans, caused some to roll their eyes ("It's only February, for gosh sakes!"), and others to arch their eyebrows when they absorbed Andy's honest (if not entirely satisfying) confession that he was pulling out because of simple "fatigue."

I like Andy, but I have to admit that my Inner Truth Seeker jumped up, punched the air, and said, "Yes!" when I read [the mayor's remarks] in The Las Vegas Sun.

I like it when people have the guts to say what they really think, and I also like it when people hold tennis players accountable for their actions in an era characterized by rampant greed, ethical ambiguity, and an increasing sense that tennis players, like celebrities in general, are out of touch with the covenant they make with fans. Celebs today have figured out that as long as they keep finding ways to stay in the public eye, they can do—or not do—anything they want. I’ve written about this before, calling it the Caligula Complex.

Ironically, Andy always struck me as one of the more responsible athletes in this regard. It's unfortunate that he was the one who led a stand-up guy like Mayor Goodman to pop up on our radar. But these days, you’ve got to take your up-front and honest folks wherever you can find them, especially among politicians!

My take on the Andy issue: If it was just fatigue, it was wrong for Andy to pull out. However, I respect him for having the decency to be honest about it, instead of cooking up some phony-baloney injury in a cheap attempt to have it both ways: get out of a tournament commitment, yet not anger or alienate the fan base.

At the same time, I imagine that the fatigue Roddick cites is metaphorical as well as literal. He must be tired of the relentless speculation about his coaching upheavals, the wisdom of the apparent "catch Roger" strategy that seems to have been driving his approach to tennis for almost two years, and the spate of recent losses that can be traced back to the disastrous Gilles Muller loss at the U.S. Open.

I get the feeling that Andy is experiencing some turmoil and is looking to buy a little time in an effort to regroup and get things back under control. This may be a defining moment in his career: a time when he rethinks his entire program and either finds a way to punch back up to take his place among a Big Four (Federer, Nadal, Safin, Roddick), or a time when he accepts a not entirely horrific fate as the King of the Second Tier.

My response to Peter's blog entry:

Poor Andy Roddick. He's damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't!

Before the Roddick bashers invade this space to proclaim their undying love for a drunken mayor with a past history of being the defense attorney for the mob, let me just say that it's getting tiresome to see the non-tennis media (such as Ron Kantowski from the Las Vegas Sun is, of which this story originated from is) constantly getting on Roddick's back over everything he says and does. Tommy Haas also withdrew from the Las Vegas tournament and why is there no media outcry over that, I wonder?

After the Las Vegas mayor's ridiculous stunt, if Roddick decides to never play the Tennis Channel Open again, who could blame him? I'm sure the tournament director Steve Bellemy is working overtime right now to try to get the mayor to apologize to Roddick. Good luck with that.

And good luck to Roddick at Indian Wells.

Gosh dang, I'm all tired out now from all this battling. It takes work defending this kid.

* * *
More Mailbag Crap

When, oh when, will people please stop squawking about how Andy should hire Brad Gilbert back? You'd think they were Brad and Jennifer or something.
The Nick-Jessica line in response to the possible reconciliation of Roddick and Brad Gilbert was weak. Why won't anybody put any meat on this issue? Why are things so irreconcilable between the two? As you yourself mentioned, Roddick needs to find a way to get back to his '03 form (who was his coach then?). Such statements only invite fan speculation that a return of Gilbert is required -- yet when submitted as a possible solution we are greeted with a chorus of "never going to happen(s)" without any substance. What's with that? It seems to be easier to get Axl Rose to part with information about the mysterious new Guns N' Roses album (see Rolling Stone) than it is to get the dirt on the parting of America's top player and top coach two years after the fact. What gives? -- Hampton Long, Nashville, Tenn.

Before we attempt to tackle this question, can we all agree that there is a tremendous book/documentary dying to be written/made about Axl Rose? This is one of the great disappearing acts (move over, Iva Majoli) of our time and -- from the epic case of writer's block to the ill-fated VH1 appearance with Buckethead -- the circumstances could hardly be more bizarre. Mark my words, 20 years from now, the guy will be a cult figure, a cross between Jim Morrison and Mark Fidrych.

Where were we? Oh, right, Roddick and Gilbert. Sorry if that was a cop-out answer. Just that this was not an amiable parting. My moles tell me that Gilbert felt blind-sided by the firing and never appreciated Jerry Roddick's level of involvement. Roddick thought Gilbert handled the breakup poorly and didn't appreciate some of the on-air remarks that reeked of bitterness. Other players tell me that the two will ride in the same elevator car and decline to make eye contact. Roddick dances on that fine line between fierce pride and outright stubbornness. The day he swallows a calorie-bomb of pride and asks Gilbert back is the same day Bob Knight returns to coach Indiana.

Wertheim forgot to mention that Gilbert's loquacious and self-promoting personality also rubbed Jerry Roddick the wrong way. In 2004, I'm also certain that the fact that Gilbert spent more time promoting his new book "I've Got Your Back" than he did coaching Andy while he was playing overseas also had something to do with the firing.

People also tend to forget that the wheels were starting to come off the Roddick Express while still under the guidance of Gilbert, beginning with the five-set second-round loss to Olivier Mutis at the French Open, a five-set quarterfinal loss to Joachim Johansson at the USO, and ending with a salt-in-the-wound loss in straight sets to Lleyton Hewitt at the Year End Championships.


Noelle De Guzman said...

I completely agree, Tangy. Great post.

Renee said...

You've been busy... :-)

hasina said...

well said....

Silawen said...

Busy girl. Good going, you tell them! I'm interested in reading the internet you send that moron. ;)

Silawen said...

Sorry, I'm rather tired. XD

Anonymous said...

Andy Roddick bites. What he did was pretty lame, albeit incredibly common among all top players. There's really no reason to defend him--he's obviously not fatigued because he can't seem to go too far in any draws (zing). He might be fatigued mentally, but I'm not sure that's preventing him from showing up to Vegas, losing a match, and hitting the poker tables for the rest of the week. Why don't you start liking somebody worth liking, like Baghdatis, Nalbandian, Federer, Agassi, etc., and let the Vegas sportswriters write what they want about petulant Andy.

Anonymous said...

i have seen first hand andy and brad avoid eye contact. its quite amazing.

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