Archive for Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Fly Route

September 15, 2005

It's a constant battle with my girlfriend.

Unless I am firmly holding the remote control when she walks into my apartment, my daily dose of ESPN's Sportscenter, the football game I'm watching or the baseball game I'm keeping tabs on is immediately exchanged for a thrilling feature on MTV, VH1 or even the watch-paint-dry Food Network.

It's not that she hates sports or even that she never tries to watch them with me. She just doesn't get into it often.

So imagine my excitement when I actually convinced her to watch an event with me (by "convinced" I mean she went to the bathroom, I leapt for the remote and when she returned, she didn't complain).

Andre Agassi was playing James Blake in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.

And it was an unbelievable match. Agassi lost the first two sets 3-6, 3-6 before bouncing back to take the third 6-3, and the fourth, 6-3.

I really like tennis. It's a fun game to play. It's not very hard to learn and you don't have to have a ton of experience to at least have fun playing with someone better than you. It provides a good workout, but in the lazy sort of way that you don't even realize you've been busting it back and fourth until you finally stop 90 minutes later.

And I like watching tennis, marveling how hard the best players can slam it so hard without depositing the ball over the fence like I always do.

I have no real favorite. I typically cheer for the American. I like Agassi in the same manner that I like Brett Favre and Roger Clemens -- he's accomplished so much, played so long and proven so many people wrong, no matter how much I despised him at one time, I have to root for him now.

Even though I don't often go out of my way to watch a tennis match, I couldn't change the channel after I stumbled onto the U.S. Open.

When we tuned in, Agassi was losing in the fifth set. He rallied a little, but the inspiring story of the age-old Agassi at the U.S. Open seemed to be finished. Blake was a point away from advancing.

Blake's not a hard guy to root for either. An unheralded American himself, his amazing run had been the story of the tournament to that point. The two put on an amazing show.

But somehow Agassi survived.

Sometimes people lose tennis matches, rocketing balls out of bounds time and time again, doinking shots off the net repeatedly. But no one was losing this match. Both players were reeling off amazing shot after amazing shot, the emotion of what each and every point really meant broadcast across their faces for all to see.

Agassi bounced back and the match went to a tiebreaker. I was ecstatic and my girlfriend was cheering right along with me for every serve and volley.

Finally we had found a bond in sports, thanks to Agassi, Blake and their amazing tennis match.

So impressed was I that during the commercial before the start of the tiebreak, I flipped to ESPN, wondering what it had to say about this astonishing match.

But ESPN wasn't showing video of the dramatic fifth set or alerting its viewers to what was taking place.

ESPN was broadcasting a press conference.

A worn out Agassi offered a tired smile.

"Andre, what was it like to finally win that match in the tiebreak?" a reporter asked.

"What did you do!?!?" my girlfriend screamed, punching me in the shoulder.

I flipped back to CBS, the channel carrying the match. A small sign, "Live," was anchored in the top corner of the screen.

Blake had bounded to a quick lead in the tiebreak, and again Agassi's goose looked cooked.

"It must have been from last year," I said of the press conference.

I checked back though, and confirmed my worst fears.

The lying dirt bags of CBS sometimes tape delay tennis matches half an hour.

We watched the end. Agassi rallied and the tiebreak tied at 6 before the old champion finally sealed the deal, winning the decisive tiebreak 8-6.

But the excitement was gone, our sports breakthrough lost, possibly forever. When she waltzed in the next night, I didn't even resist. MTV, VH1, the Food Network -- thanks CBS. Thanks a lot.

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