Friday, September 10, 2010

U.S. Open Thoughts, Part 3 of The Last

The U.S. Open turns out to be like the Centre Pompidou: it shows its guts. The museum—like the Guggenehim—is one of those museums whose buildings are just as if not more interesting than the art that it holds. In the Pompidou’s case, it shows its guts—the pipes, the escalators, the stuff that’s typically hidden in a building or hidden away in the building is reversed so that it’s on the outside. Similarly, the U.S. Open shows the stuff that’s normally hidden.

With media, that is. There just isn’t enough room to tuck away all of the stuff that’s normally unseen in sporting events. For example. There’s an element of high comedy in seeing camera men—who are, as a rule, burly men who straddle the line between “fat” and “extremely muscular” with impressive ambiguity—walk around, because they always travel in packs, by necessity: one carries the camera, and the rest follow like elephants in a circus—they hold the wire off of the ground.

It’s also amusing the extent to which a staple of sports broadcasts—the fan enthusiasm shot, wherein a camera passes over a group of people and said group of people practically orgasms with enthusiasm—is feigned. Intuitively, you know this must be true; quite another thing to see it in person. In front of ESPN’s little outdoor studio—which houses their talking heads for the fortnight—there’s a hand-lettered sign, in declarative letters: “IF YOU WANT TO BE ON TV, STAND BEHIND THE LINE,” which was helpfully taped to the ground. People periodically obeyed and waved and did their business on camera. Hannah Storm was a popular figure for these people—one time she draped herself on the railing and carried on a flirting conversation with some family.

One of the more amusing media figures to see around was ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi, a little thumb of a man who looks like a particularly well-media-trained accountant, crossed with a local TV anchor in person.

Ultimately the biggest—expose, if you will?—moment of the tournament was watching the Tennis Channel booth: Sam Querrey, who had just beaten a somewhat impressive Bradley Klahn (Stanford player, for those of my readers who are interesting) was having a post-match spongebath/interview with Justin Gimelstob. I can’t remember the particulars of said spongebath/interview, but I do remember Gimelstob’s manner, which consisted of a loop—almost an recursive algorithm—of three basic reactions: look at camera, smile, look at Querrey, blink rapidly. He blinked as rapidly as a hummingbird hovers. He did it all quickly, too quickly, resembling actual human interaction in the same way that, say, a lemon-scented air freshener resembles the scent of actual lemons. What was interesting was when it was all over: Querrey hurried off, Gimelstob sagged back in his chair, closed his eyes, and exhaled deeply and quickly. Then he had some autographs to sign for all the kids who undoubtedly remember Gimbelstob from the breadth and depth of his doubles achievements, which ended five years ago.

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