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Friday, November 08, 2002

News From a Wet Place
Here’s irony: I, a Mancunian-turned-Seattlite, arrive in Los Angeles, and down comes the rain. The (appalling) TV news informed me that this is the first rain since Jan. 26. It’s really more like an intense mist, but it still had the local newsistas spending half the show on “Weather Watch.” (None of the reporters in the field seem to have the sense to wear a hat or hold an umbrella. I suspect they're cultivating the wet dog look to exaggerate the amount of precipitation.)

The afternoon's tennis was uninspiring and very brief. Still very few people in the stands—and even fewer paying customers from the look of some of the folks sitting near me. Not that I blame the organizers for papering the room. Hell, they could give away another 19,000 tickets and still have room for all the folks who actually paid for their seats. It's hard to know why. There's no doubt that the draw is incredible—these really are the top 16 women's tennis players in the world—but maybe because of the lack of spectators and atmosphere, no one can be bothered to drive over to the Staples Center to watch. Tickets are pretty expensive too—for this afternoon's session, for example, the cheapest seat in the house was $25; the most expensive $125. For that, spectators got one singles match (Justine Henin v. Kim Clijsters, which started well but ended up in a blowout 6-2, 6-1) and one doubles match (Prakusya and Lee v. Stubbs and Raymond, which was also a straight sets drubbing). A bit much.

Indoor tennis in the middle of winter (slight exaggeration since we're in Southern California, but it is raining) is a tough sell, except in places where folks are starved for sport or when there's some special reason to watch (a grudge match, a home-town favorite, etc.). Still, at least three of the 16 singles players here this week are native Southern Californians, and no one, apparently, could give a shit. Probably the best solution would be to change the definition of a calendar year and play the championships after the U.S. Open when Americans still have tennis on their minds, but then there's a good chance that none of the big names would play for the next three months. But perhaps that would be better for the game, long-term.