Monday, February 2, 2009


I rarely go live concerts any more.

Or the movies.

In spite of the fact that I usually get in for free.

The reason is simple.

I have become a crotchety old pain in the butt who simply cannot listen to people in the audience babbling inanities during the music or movie or play.

Always, during these moments, I ask myself, "What is it exactly that YOU could say right now or ever that is more glorious or important than what Mozart or Francis Ford Coppola or G.B. Shaw has to offer?"

Great, brilliant cellists and piano players are bringing back to life before your very eyes and ears the works of genius and some ditz head must say something crucial to his or her companion.

Thus, I now find myself poised over the MUTE button during the Australian Open tennis finals.

That blathering idiot, Dick Enberg, described by Wikipedia as "one of the most prominent and respected play-by-play announcers," simply never shuts up.

Through every point of an almost 5 hour epic match he tells us everything we needn't know, everything we already know.

Even during the point!

One of the several beauties of tennis -either as a player or a spectator - is the silence.

The orgasmic pornographic grunts of players - begun some years ago with Monica Seles and continued now by men and women alike - was more than enough.

But add to that Enberg's relentless pursuit of the obvious.

"If he wins this point, the match will be even."

"If he wins the next point, he takes the set."


Patrick McEnroe and some of his colleagues are players and they know when to shut up and let the play tell the story. The BBC knows this.

But Enberg must fill every potential void. And he must make terribly clever analogies to baseball in particular and other sports in general.

At several moments during yesterday's final, I hit the MUTE button repeatedly, only to find that Dick had talked solidly for five minutes or more.

This is, of course, why God gave us the MUTE and the FAST FORWARD buttons in the first place. Ah, the glories of recorded sports events. No commercials. No looks at faces in the crowd. No side bars with the announcer in the stands commenting on the wind, the sun or the snacks people are eating.

Now, the match itself.

Never, ever, have I seen something so dreadful.

Federer and Nadal fight mightily for four sets. Federer could easily and should easily have won the first three and taken the championship. But a) he didn't; and b) Rafael wouldn't let him.

In spite of his 5 hour and 14 minute exquisite fight with Fernando Verdasco about 24 hours earlier and in spite of leg and muscle problems throughout the final, Nadal did what he always does.

Heart, sinew and soul, he invested in every point in every moment and showed us again and again he is easily the greatest "warrior" to ever step on a court. There is no quit in this guy.

Repeatedly, Federer made beautiful hits that no other player on this earth could or would return... and there was Rafa returning the ball for an outright winner.


Two sets all. Fifth set.

Federer, whom we all now routinely and with considerable justification, call "the greatest player ever," has just won the fourth set convincingly 6-3 against a wounded and ailing Nadal.

Should easily now put away the fifth for the championship.

Instead, we witness to our embarrassment and astonishment and yes, disgust, the greatest collapse by a great player in history.

He couldn't hit a first serve or a forehand or a backhand.

This was the textbook CHOKE.

This was the living proof of what many of us have been saying for almost five years now - Nadal has gotten himself completely inside Federer's head.

He owns Federer.

Federer didn't simply lose to a marvelous champion. He blew it. He threw it.

And then he gets up at the presentations and starts crying uncontrollably. Sobbing.

Because he lost? Is he such a tender child that he truly believes he is never supposed to lose?

Because he lost so badly?

Rafa was, as always, warm and gracious.

They are, after all, not only great rivals but good friends. Rafa was visibly disturbed by all this carry-on. As were we.

Federer is reported to be a stubborn man who will not accept that he must fine-tune his already magnificent game to overcome the Force known as Rafael Nadal. But fine-tune he must.

Doing what he already does best has placed him within shouting distance of owning more trophies than any other man in the history of the game. And he can do that week in and week out against all the other players in the world.

But Nadal is different.

If this experience does not teach Federer this lesson, nothing will.

And that would be a terrible shame. For Federer and for those of us who love the game.

Wally's Hero and Role Model