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Aussie Open: A Great Break From Football
January 28, 2013

This is what the NFL calls the bye week. It's the week of no football, which is supposed to be used by the players to rest up for the big game. It also allows the media to focus on ridiculous statements by current or former athletes, or something that someone said on a talk show that wouldn't be news otherwise. For me, it's a good time to watch some tennis.

When the football season used to start on Labor Day weekend, the Australian Open Tennis Championships concluded on Super Bowl Sunday. Now, they fall in that convenient bye week. And even though crowd favorite Li Na lost to repeat champion Victoria Azarenka, and Novak Djokovic won his third straight Australian Open Men's title, and Andy Murray couldn't win the big one yet again, it was still entertaining stuff.

ESPN was there to cover it en masse, too. The Worldwide Leader had ten broadcasters to get us through not only two weeks of coverage, but the final days. There was studio host Chris McKendry (female), play-by-play guys Chris Fowler (male) and Cliff Drysdale, analysts Darren Cahill, Mary Jo Fernandez, Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe, and Pam Shriver, and sideline reporter Tom Rinaldi. All of those people combined have a total of zero grand slam singles titles, but each provides their own unique insight. The crown jewel of the broadcast team, though, is Chrissie (they don't call her Chris, probably because of McKendry and Fowler) Evert.

Evert is relatively new to the team. She's been there about a year, but brings with her (by my count) 18 major championships. Not that there is much disagreement among analysts, especially between Chris, Chris, and Chrissie, but if there is, you have to go with the 18 grand slam titles. Evert did the color commentary during the women's final with Pam Shriver as lead play-by-play. Not to get a male-centric here, but Shriver would get a little too melodramatic at times, and it would have been nice to have someone like Fowler in there. After the retirement of Dick Enberg a couple of years ago, Fowler is really the only true broadcaster in the bunch. Drysdale has been announcing for years, but he is also a former player. Fowler, Shriver, and Evert in the booth, and Fernandez courtside would have been the best announcer lineup. Fowler and McEnroe had the men's final.

The women's final went three sets, and even though the men didn't go the distance, the four-setter took almost four hours. The women couldn't hold serve, and for a long while the men couldn't break. Djokovic finally took over down the stretch and took the men's crown. Azarenka, who was not booed, but clearly wasn't the crowd favorite, was appreciated by the thousands when she accepted her trophy.

A fun weekend. Even a virtual vacation. Now back to football. Niners and Ravens? Yuck. Tennis anyone?


Code Violations: There actually is (or was) such a thing as racket abuse, and players would be warned or penalized. Serena Williams destroyed her racket in her semifinal loss to Sloane Stephens, and the chair umpire did nothing. Williams was asked about it after the match, and said it “felt good”. I'm still mad at her for her U.S. Open outburst at a lineswoman, but there should have been a point penalty, or at least a warning. Classless.

Lakers: How come they can beat the best team in the NBA, but can't beat anyone else? I was watching my recording of the men's final, and only saw the final minute of L.A.'s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kobe Bryant is Magic Johnson now? 14 assists in each of his last two games.

Three-and-a-half weeks: Not a condensed version of the Mickey Rourke-Kim Basinger movie. Speaking of Rourke, did you hear the story about him? Apparently it was reported that Rourke was killed in a snowboarding accident—crashing into a tree. Our FM morning host came in last week and asked us if it was true. It's now believed that Rourke is fine, and just as weird as ever. The three-and-a-half-weeks I was referring to is how long until the first spring training baseball game.

Pro Bowl: Didn't watch. Don't know who won. Don't care.





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