By Leandro DD Coronel
It’s the time of year when several sports are being played in the United States and one, tennis, around the world.
Baseball is being played and will climax when the “Boys of October” will contest the World Series. Basketball is at season’s end and the prospect of a championship sweep is real as I write this on Friday. The tennis season is in full swing, with the final results of the French Open already known to us when this column appears.
Among Americans, baseball is still the sport to watch. “Take me out to the ballgame” is still the theme song kids enjoy, tugging along with their dads to America’s “pastime.” Hotdogs and beer are the de rigueur snacks. The kids, of course, will settle for, what else, Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
American basketball is popular because of its fast, almost non-stop pace. It’s the reason the game is popular outside the gym because all that’s needed is a crude goal and a length of concrete or plain dirt to play on. No wonder some of the best players come from neighborhoods where pick-up basketball games take place everyday.
Tennis, an international sport, is nearing the peak of its season, with Wimbledon and the US Open in New York coming up soon.
But the week just past saw many upsets, especially on the women’s side, at the French Open, played in the gladiatorial air of Stade Roland Garros, the red-clay surfaced arena in Paris where physical endurance is key to success.
The French Open is the most grueling of all the four Grand Slams of tennis (the others are the two mentioned above plus the Australian Open which is played at the beginning of the year in Melbourne).
They’re called Slams because they’re played over a fortnight instead of the usual one week at regular tournaments and are best-of-five sets. That makes the French the most challenging, especially because red clay makes the balls bounce slower which, in turn, makes for longer, murderous, rallies.
Wimbledon, still played on grass, is considered the most regal among the Slams, not only because of the meticulously manicured grass courts but also because members of British royalty come to watch. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club hosts the tournament and the Duke of Kent is the president of the club.
Tennis has evolved greatly from the days of those small wooden racquets and lily-white attire. Nowadays tennis pros wear outlandish colors fashioned by the big-time sportswear companies like Nike, Adidas, UnderArmour, Lacoste and UniQlo. It is white that has become optional, a concession to television to make the sport more colorful.
But the most significant evolution in tennis is in the equipment (and in the training regimen of the athletes). Racquets have undergone constant changes utilizing high-tech metals and hybrids of all kinds, injecting tremendous power in tennis shots. This has revolutionized the game so much that someone who played pro tennis in the 1970s wouldn’t recognize the game today for its power among both men and women.
Although it’s played in autumn and the early part of winter, American football deserves a mention here because of how this sport has caught the imagination and loyalty of American spectators over the years. It’s also proof of American ingenuity in adapting something that could be boring (to American eyes) to make it more fun to watch.
Spectators in Europe, Africa, and South America will disagree but American football, with its dramatic changes from the original football (also called soccer), speaks to the Americans’ taste for instant gratification. American football is quick, muscular, and often brutal. That’s why players wear helmets and padding under their uniforms.
Sport, of course, traverses national boundaries. In our time, this is probably most true about basketball. A good number of players in the National Basketball Association come from Europe, Africa, and Australia, proving that basketball has become an international sport. We Filipinos are crazy about basketball despite our built-in disadvantage in height. We have basketball leagues practically all year round.
Games evolve because human beings have learned how to excel even more in their chosen sports. Dunking in basketball was both an unknown and a no-no in the 1950s and 1960s because the game was then played mostly by white Americans, who felt that dunking was showboating and, therefore, unsportsmanlike and insulting to the opponents.
Look also at how the three-point shot has evolved from a rarity before and which today is launched from “way downtown,” as exemplified by superstars like Stephen Curry, Lebron James and many other superhuman athletes.
Games and athletes evolve, others may say “mutate,” because they have to stay relevant and current in order to satisfy the insatiable craving for more, more, more of the fans.
Tantrum Ergo. Hats off to our journalists covering the conflict in Marawi City. It’s no picnic to cover war zones where bullets and mortar come within a hair between life and death. Congratulations to our journalists for bringing into our living rooms real-time coverage of the conflict.
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