Why No Tennis Tuesdays…

I mentioned in my first Football Friday for this season that I have a former colleague who has lobbied for Tennis Tuesday to be a feature of these rants.  Obviously, if I were to attempt to do that, I would need to pay a lot of attention to tennis so that I would have some perspective and/or basis for commentary on things happening in that sport.  Right now, the US Open is underway and a happenstance in that tournament pretty much assures that I will not be pondering a deeper dive into the events of tennis.

Mike Bryan is an elite doubles player; he teams with his brother, Bob; they were entrants in this year’s US Open.  Let me be clear; I do not know Mike Bryan from Mike Tyson or Brian Williams; if Mike Bryan walked into my home and bit me on the ankle, I would have to ask him his name.  Mike Bryan was fined $10K by the tennis mavens for the following incident:

  • There was a shot that was ruled as “in” by the line judge.
  • The Bryan Brothers requested a review and the review showed that the ball was “out” and that the line judge made an incorrect call.
  • After the ruling was reversed, Mike Bryan took his tennis racket and placed the head of the racket against his shoulder such that the handle was pointed outward.  Then he “pretended it was a rifle” and aimed it at the line judge.

That behavior engendered a $10K fine and that is absolutely nothing more than Virtue Signaling on the part of the tennis mavens – and Virtue Signaling is something we have in over-abundance to the point that Virtue Signaling needs to attract scorn.  Look, if what Mike Bryan did was sooo egregious that it required a Virtue Signaling response, why not set the stakes such that he would never think of doing something like that again – and neither would any other tennis player no matter how much of a “bad-boy” he might be.  What might such a punishment be?

  • How about declaring that he and his brother are disqualified from the match and that they are eliminated from the US Open and their opponents will move to the next round of the tournament.

Please don’t tell me that is an over-reaction because I think fining someone $10K for pretending that a tennis racket is a rifle is either a gross over-reaction or a feckless gesture.  [You may take your pick here.]  This is the “grown-up version” of an elementary school principal sending a kindergartener home for pointing his index finger at a classmate and saying “Bang!”  That principal would be over-reacting and Virtue Signaling; and so were the “tennis mavens”.

Meanwhile, in another corner of the tennis-world, the tennis coach at UNC-Charlotte recently resigned his position “to pursue a new career opportunity”.  The resignation came only a couple of weeks before the intercollegiate tennis season was to begin and the press reports in the Charlotte Observer did not elaborate on the specifics of the “new career opportunity”.  The paper did report, however, a few other things that may have a bearing on the coach’s decision:

  1. His record at UNC-Charlotte was 34-44 over a 3-year span.  I am not suggesting here that he was nudged out the door, but with that record, I don’t think the Athletic Director lost a lot of sleep while pondering how to maintain the tradition of the tennis program at the school.
  2. The coach is the subject of a defamation lawsuit bright against him by one of his former players who alleges that he was kicked off the team by the coach after the coach fabricated a story/situation that accused the player of bullying one of his teammates.
  3. The lawsuit also alleges that the coach was in fact the bully and that he engaged in several incidents of “improper behavior”.

Here is a link to the story in the Charlotte Observer.

In the past, I have banged on Florida baseball fans in Tampa and in Miami for not supporting MLB teams in their area.  Lest anyone suspect that I harbor some deep inner-hatred for Floridians, allow me to bang on the baseball fans in the Washington DC area right now.  Please recall, these are the fans who – according to local legend – yearned for the return of baseball for 35 years after the second incarnation of the Washington Senators left town due to lack of fan support.  With that local legend out there, let’s look at some data:

  • The Washington Nationals have been over .500 every year since 2012.
  • The Washington Nationals have won the NL East 4 times since 2012.
  • Notwithstanding the on-field success of the Nats, their attendance in 2019 is embarrassing – or at least contradicts the “local legend”.

Far too much has been made of the league-wide drop in attendance for MLB games in 2019.  In fact, the average game in MLB in 2019 draws 404 fewer fans than the average game did in 2018 up to this part of the season.  However, in Washington – where the team has been on fire since June 1st and where the team is in the midst of a division race and a wildcard race – the average attendance this year is down 3,929 fans per game.  That is not quite 10 times the average loss in attendance for MLB.  For the record, the only NL team with a larger attendance decline from 2018 to 2019 is the SF Giants.

The Nats’ attendance in 2019 is down 12.3%.  The Nats give tickets away on sports radio shows every day the team plays at home; the Nats offer some tickets for $10 to games that are less appealing than some others.  And they still average only about 60% of capacity.

Monday of this week was Labor Day and the Nats hosted the Mets.  Remember, the Nats are in the middle of a pennant race and a wildcard race and the Mets are a division rival.  Attendance that day was 25,329 – which was about 2600 fans fewer than what the Nats have drawn on average in 2019.  Oh, by the way, at least 30% of the Labor Day crowd – and maybe as much as 40% of it – were Mets’ fans wearing Mets’ colors and chanting “Let’s Go Mets!”

I told you what the “local legend” is.  The “local reality” is that Washington DC is not a baseball town today and was not a baseball town when the Washington Senators were here.

Finally, let me close today with two comments from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times pertinent to baseball attendance:

“Greenland is the least densely populated nation in the world according to 24/7 Wall Street with only 0.4 people per square mile.

“In other words, it’s the Marlins Park of countries.”

And …

“University of Chicago researchers are working on a pill to treat loneliness.

“They say it’ll come in especially handy if you’re ever in the stands at a Marlins game.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………