Written by Stanley Greenberg Friday, 04 September 2009 00:00
We never played tennis in the crowded streets of the Bronx. We played stickball, hit the penny, ringolevic, football (with rolled up newspapers), basketball, Johnny on the pony, 3 feet to Germany, Immies (marbles) and kick the can.
So how did tennis become so popular? Was it the suburban living and newfound lifestyle of ex-Bronxites and Brooklyn people? Is it the fact that our generation is getting older and those other street games are no longer acceptable? Are those other games too hard on aching muscles? All of the above reasons are true.
We used to have our baseball heroes! Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Duke Snider, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were our idols. Baseball has gone from a pastoral game to an ugly business now that players’ salaries are more important than RBIs (runs batted in).
We needed fresh heroes!
We needed Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick. How about the fact that the women entered the tennis scene? I could watch Maria Sharapova all day or all night playing tennis. Even if she gets routed by the Williams sisters (Venus and Serena), she is pretty enough to be one of my heroes.
The New York Mets have become a medical disaster phenomenon. All their star players are on the disabled list: Beltran, Reyes, Delgado and even David Wright took a 94 mph baseball to the head. Tennis is gentler, more mannerly (except for John McEnroe).
Tennis also is an international sport. Players from the entire planet will descend on Flushing, Queens to participate in the United States Open Tennis Tournament. It is one of four international venues. Wimbledon, London, Paris, France and Melbourne, Australia are the other sites for worldwide competition.
Tennis is played on many surfaces. Red dirt in Paris, grass in England and hard courts in the U.S.A. Such diversity!
Enjoy the U.S. Open and, hopefully, America does well. Incidentally we never played golf on the crowded streets of the Bronx either.