Tennis, Oscars, Politics, and Other Stuff
January 30, 2012

Please pardon me if I ramble more than usual this week, but I'm still on Australia time. I didn't take a 20-hour flight to the land Down Under, but I stayed up late and watched a lot of tennis. A lot of great tennis. The night sessions of the Australian Open begin a little after midnight in California, and the night sessions feature the greatest matches, so you know if you want to see the whole thing (and I don't have any place to go, so why not?), then you know you are going to be up awhile.

The “epicness” began Wednesday evening (Thursday afternoon in Melbourne) with the women's semifinals, followed immediately by the men's semi between rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Nadal won in four sets, but needed 3 hours and 42 minutes. And that was nothing. The following night was the other men's semifinal between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. I wasn't really that interested in it in the beginning, but stayed up until after 5am when Murray took Djokovic to a fifth set, before losing in 4 hours and 50 minutes. Just getting warmed up.

Friday night/Saturday morning was a bit of a break. The women only play a best of three sets instead of five, so I knew there wouldn't be an all-nighter here, but still the “scream-off” (both women grunt loudly when they hit the ball) between Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka went until about 2:30 am, even though Azarenka dominated and won 6-3, 6-0. Wouldn't you know it, though, I couldn't get to sleep until around 6. I guess I'm getting used to this up-all-night thing.

Saturday night/Sunday morning was when I found out what time the sun comes up these days. The men's final between Djokovic and Nadal figured to be a classic, and it was. First serve was about 12:45am Pacific Time, and after the dust settled almost six hours later (a record), Djokovic won in five sets 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5. The trophy presentation almost seemed as long as the match (someone was nice enough to bring chairs out to the exhausted players while the President of Tennis Australia spoke), and ended around 7am. With tennis now over, and nothing else to do, I figured I'd might as well go get some sleep.

More tennis?: ESPN2's coverage was excellent, and the network certainly had a bevy of announcers in their bullpen. No Dick Enberg this year, but the roster of commentators numbered eight, not counting studio host Chris McKendry. Top play-by-play duties went to Chris Fowler with backup Cliff Drysdale. Chris Evert joined Mary Jo Fernandez, Pam Shriver, Darren Cahill, Brad Gilbert, and Patrick McEnroe as analysts...There were a couple of occasions where the sound and the pictures weren't in sync, but both times, the glitch was fixed after the next commercial break...I didn't have much of a rooting interest, but it seemed like every one I was rooting for, lost, especially Federer. I did find myself rooting for Djokovic in the final though. I really didn't need to see him literally rip his shirt off when he won, but he is the most conditioned human being I think I have ever seen.

Oscar Nominations: I certainly didn't get up early, or stay up until 5am Tuesday so I could see the Academy Award nominations for 2011. In fact, I forgot about about them until about Wednesday night. Nine nominees for Best Picture this year, and I have already seen Moneyball. I'm not sure if I'm going to have the movie-fest that I had last year. Maybe I'll see The Artist, but I hope there is at least some piano music or something playing during the silent film. I am interested in seeing The Help, and I think it's available on video. I don't know much about Midnight in Paris and I don't know anything about The Tree of Life. I'm a little curious about The Descendants, Hugo, and War Horse (what do you know, another nominated Spielberg movie!). Why wasn't Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close released prior to September 11? It would have been a great way to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the attacks. It's a little depressing to see now.

The State of the Union is Depressing: Speaking of depressing, I can't remember ever being depressed after a State of the Union address, even when there was a Republican in the White House. All of President Obama's “challenges” or “ideas” were either something he could have accomplished two years ago with a Democratically-controlled legislature, or something that can't possibly happen with the way things work in Washington (heavy sigh).

I watched the 2987th Republican Presidential Debate Thursday night in Florida (the debate was in Florida, I wasn't), and it seemed much the same as the previous 2986 (I've only watched about four). I enjoy the bickering between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, with Rick Santorum having to stir things up just to get attention. Then there's good old Ron Paul, who when he is finally called on, usually cracks a funny joke at the others' expense, and then says something that's actually interesting. Sometimes a little out there, but interesting. It's all very entertaining until you realize that it is definitely possible that one of these guys could be the leader of the free world less than a year from now.

Bob Dylan on the Brain This Week: Speaking of politics, this musical interlude (use your best impression if singing aloud)—“Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Don't stand in the doorway. Don't block up the hall. For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled. There's a battle outside and it is ragin'. It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls for the times they are a-changin'.” This was on Dylan's third album which was released 48 years ago this month, and just a few weeks before I was born.

Football?: One of the stipulations in the latest NFL television contract is whichever network carries the Super Bowl also has to broadcast the Pro Bowl. NBC responded to that by dusting off announcers Dan Hicks, Mike Mayock, and Doug Flutie instead of using the usual crew of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. I didn't watch much past the first quarter, but the AFC beat the NFC 59-41 in a game filled with onside kicks, fake punts and a even a dropkick attempt by Drew Brees.

Super Bowl Commercial Preview?: Maybe Pro Bowl viewers got a sneak peak. In the first commercial break after kickoff, NBC aired a Volkswagen ad featuring a bunch of dogs barking the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars. Hilarious.

Ah Pucks: If you like hockey but don't want to get bogged down with things like goaltending and defense, the NHL All-Star Game is for you. “Team Chara” defeated “Team Alfredsson” 12-9 Sunday in Ottawa...I was surprised that NBC farmed out the All-Star game broadcast to their cable NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) so that the Peacock Network could carry figure skating.

Nice quote: “Success is getting what you want and happiness is wanting what you get.” I don't think he said it first but NBC broadcaster Mike Emrick used it in the final seconds of the NHL All-Star game. Worth remembering.

View All Commentaries