tennis video

So, funny story, I put the following video up on youtube last week.  It was fine for about a day, and then I got my account suspended for a copyright infringement from Tennis Australia.  Sadly, it wasn’t a first time offense-  I got a warning from youtube a couple years ago when I uploaded Scott Norwood’s missed field goal in Super Bowl XXV.  So I suppose my banishment is partly understandable, although I can’t imagine how the following video could possible harm Tennis Australia.  In any case, here’s the video, sorry it’s sort of blurry at times, but enjoy it while it lasts before I get sent to jail.  

tennis

Disclaimer: I originally planned on just writing a couple lines and posting some pictures, but it ended up turning into a lot more than that.  So, if you are interested in reading 2,000 words about tennis, please enjoy.  Otherwise feel free to skip to the photos and video. …ahem…  

Last weekend I flew down to Melbourne to see my friend Matty, hit up the Crown Casino (at one time the biggest casino in the southern hemisphere) and go to the Australian Open.

I had been to the US Open several times before, but always during the first week.  The first week of a tennis grand slam is pretty cool because there are matches playing on all of the little courts, and you can walk right up to any court you like and watch all day long.  Men’s singles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles- it’s an orgy of world class tennis.  I had hoped to go to the first week of the Aussie Open, but it didn’t work out, and the only time that worked was the finals weekend.  So, I ponied up some cash for the men’s final, half expecting to see a single lackluster match like Djokovic vs Tsonga (the ’08 final), or a one sided affair like ’07 when Federer swept Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets.  When you see just one match, you’re a lot less likely to get your money’s worth.

Of course, anybody who buys tickets to a grand slam final these days dreams of one particular matchup.  As Federer and Nadal cruised through the early rounds I could start to feel it.  There were a few scares, like when Federer fought back from two sets down to beat Berdych or the unbelievable semifinal when Nadal somehow outlasted fellow Spaniard Verdasco in a 5 hour epic.  After Nadal pulled it out, the stage was set for the 7th Federer vs Nadal grand slam final in the last 5 years.

A big part of what makes sports so great is rivalries.  And when it comes to team sports, usually you fall into one camp or another before you are old enough to decide for yourself.  My dad was a Yankee fan, my older brother was a Yankee fan, and I was going to Yankee games before I could walk, so when the Red Sox play the Yankees I’m rooting for the pinstripes.  It’s as simple as that and I don’t think twice about it.  But in tennis, you get to choose.  You HAVE to choose.  McEnroe or Connors, Sampras or Agassi.   How you pick is up to you- personality, hair style, hotter girlfriend, better net game- there are no rules.  But in rivalries you have to take sides.  And right now, there is no better rivalry in all of sports than Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal.

As much as I respect Federer, I’ve always been a Nadal guy.  I think some of it comes down to happenstance.  Roger started winning during a bit of a down period in tennis- right as the Sampras/Agassi era was dying.  He was classy, soft spoken, and dominant.  From ’04 through ’07, Federer won an incredible 11 out of 16 total grand slams.  It was fun to see him rack up the numbers, a la Tiger Woods, but part of me wanted to see him lose.  I wanted to see someone wipe that crowd pleasing smile right off his face.  But it never happened.

Even when Nadal came up and beat him in the ’06 French Open final, Federer didn’t seem bothered.  He thought to himself, “It’s all right, Nadal was born to play on clay, he can have the French.”  He wasn’t remotely worried that this guy would be a threat to his legacy.  Like every other tennis fan on the planet, I thought the same thing.  Up to that point, Nadal was an incredible 14-0 on the slow red clay of the French Open, but he had never made it past the fourth round of any other grand slam.  Furthermore, the fact that Nadal was a Spaniard made it all too easy to dismiss him as a clay court specialist:  fellow Spaniards Sergi Bruguera, Carlos Moya, Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero had all won French Opens in the last 15 years, but none of them won any other slam.  There was no reason to think Nadal would be any different.

But then, something crazy happened.  In July of 2006, on the slick grass of Wimbledon, Nadal made a run.  He got all the way to the final- the first Spaniard to make it that far at Wimbledon since 1966.  Where the hell did that come from?  I remember the final clearly.  I got up early on Sunday morning in the sweltering heat of my crummy brooklyn apartment, and fixed the rabbit ears (no joke) to get the best reception possible.  The picture was still a little snowy, and I watched as a jittery Nadal got blanked in the first set.  From there on out, the match was a joy to watch.  Wimbledon is known for having very short points- the ball doesn’t bounce very high off the grass, so long rallies are rare- but in this match, every point seemed to last three or four incredible shots beyond what anyone expected.  I was hooked.  It was shocking to watch somebody who could keep up with Federer on grass, where he had been nothing short of unstoppable.  Nadal played great in the match, but that wasn’t enough to keep Roger from cruising to his fourth straight Wimbledon title.  All with that same smile on his face.

The next 12 months was more of the same.  Federer won the US Open and the Australian, while Nadal took the French, further cementing his status as a clay court guy.  The two of them faced off again in the Wimbledon final of ’07 when it finally happened:  In the fourth set, Federer lost a critical point on a video replay challenge by Nadal, and the classy Roger Federer lost his cool, berating the umpire and bemoaning his bad luck.  I specifically remember Federer getting pissed off in this match and to my delight, YouTube has the proof to back me up.  Check it out:

At long last, someone had gotten to the unflappable Roger Federer!  Now, Roger might have gotten screwed on that call, but against anyone else it wouldn’t have bothered him. Nadal was a threat and Federer knew it.  Nadal had pushed Roger to a place that nobody else could.  This was the moment I had been waiting for.

Despite that resounding wiping of Federer’s smile, Roger showed great toughness by rallying to win the match in five sets for his fifth straight Wimbledon championship.  He won the US Open that year too.  Nadal won the ’08 French (he is currently 28-0 lifetime at Roland Garros), easily sweeping Federer in the final, 6-1 6-3 6-0.   Heading into last year’s Wimbledon, I openly predicted that Nadal would break through and win his first title on the grass.  He proved me right- barely.  Nadal edged Federer in the greatest match of my lifetime, taking the fifth set 8-6 as darkness descended on London.  Federer had won 41 straight matches at Wimbledon up to that point, but now it was Nadal’s turn.  In tennis’s greatest rivalry, Nadal took a decisive lead.  Lest anyone think that Federer was washed up, he won his fifth straight US Open last September for his 13th grand slam.  Which brings us up to last weekend’s Australian final.  

Surprisingly, despite Nadal’s great success on the French clay and Wimbledon grass, he had never even made it to a final in either the US Open or the Australian Open – the two hard court slams.  Federer, on the other hand, had won an incredible 8 out of the last 10 overall titles at these two events, but he was beating guys like Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick- never Nadal.  Had both Nadal and Federer been fresh coming into the final, it would have been a tossup in my mind, with maybe a slight edge to Nadal.  But Nadal was coming off that endless semifinal against Verdasco two nights earlier, in which he was genuinely up against the ropes for most of the match, and I had to question both his legs and his sharpness.  I expected Federer to win, and Vegas agreed by installing Nadal as a modest 3-2 underdog.

We filed into Rod Laver Arena and the atmosphere was buzzing.  The match began with back to back breaks and the crowd was into it.  It looked to me that early on, Federer was trying to keep the points a little bit longer to test Nadal’s legs coming off the long semifinal.  But Nadal punished that strategy with his strong ground strokes and he looked to be the stronger player throughout most of the match.  Nadal took the first set, then Federer evened it up.  The third set was when Federer had his chance.  He blew no fewer than SIX break points in the third set, and Nadal ended up taking it in a critical tiebreaker.  It looked like Federer might be done, but he won the fourth set, sending the crowd went into a tizzy.  I couldn’t believe I got to see a Nadal Federer five set final!  Everybody was excited, and I started looking at my watch, trying to figure out just how long the match might go- the first four sets took nearly four hours all together.

In the end, the fifth set was a bit of an anticlimax.  Nadal broke Federer twice, and that was it.  Although I was rooting for Nadal, I was secretly hoping that the fifth set would get to 14-12 or something crazy, just to trump last year’s Wimbledon final.  But I was happy to see Nadal win.  At this point there is absolutely no question who the man is in tennis.  And remember this- Nadal has a legitimate chance to become the first player to win all four slams in a single year since Rod Laver did it back in 1969.

I felt sorry for Federer, who would have tied Sampras’s record of 14 grand slams had he won.  The moment when he broke down trying to give his post match speech was a rare glimpse into how great athletes can feel when they come up short. There is no question at this point that Nadal is biting into his legacy a little bit, but this gives Federer a great opportunity for an epic comeback.  Federer seems like he’s been around for ever, but he’s only 27.   Sampras won his last slam at 31, and Agassi won his last at 32.  That gives Federer a few more solid years.  If Roger ever wins a French open, he would be probably be considered the greatest tennis player ever.  Right now though, it’s starting to look like the Spaniard across the net may some day take that title for himself.

(note: video coming soon)

At long last

Let my blog be the last to wish you a happy 2009.  It’s been too long, really.  So long that I will count down, in chronological order, all the CRAZY ASS SHIT that has gone down since I last posted.

First, we elected a black president!  Remember when everyone was all “swing state” this and “trig palin” that?  That’s how long ago my last post was.  I did my meager part in the historic proceedings, submitting my absentee ballot for a non swing state with plenty of time to spare.  Congrats to Obama for taking care of business and leaving no doubt who the man is.  Winning Virginia and North Carolina was a really nice touch.  I can report that the Australians, who a few months earlier had expressed skepticism that Obama would pull it off, were appropriately happy for us.

A few weeks later, I went to the Rugby World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand with a couple australian mates.  It was a lot of fun, New Zealand pulled off the upset to the chagrin of most of the crowd (although there were a ton of Kiwis there), but that created some nice drama and tension, which is what sports are all about.  The highlight was probably the streaker:

naked guy runs across the "football pitch"

naked guy runs across the "football pitch"

 

Then in early December, I went to a Kanye West concert.  I foolishly forgot to bring my camera to document the experience, but rest assured, it was a lot of fun.  The preponderance of white people at a rap concert in the US is a known phenomenon that takes a little getting used to. But in Australia… I mean, we’re talking a near total whitewash.  There were a few pacific islanders here and there, but I have never seen so many pasty white kids rolling on E before in my life.  Should I acknowledge the fact that I’m also white or should I just move on?  Let’s just move on.

Then I flew back home for a few weeks.

First I went to Giants stadium with my old man, who hadn’t been to a game in nearly 20 years.  It was cold, it was windy, but it was amazing.  We witnessed one of the all time regular season thrillers, a Giants victory in overtime to clinch home field advantage, before a frigid crowd of 80,000 Giants fans.  Great stuff.  

Then I went home and met my niece Clara for the first time!  Meeting a baby human, who shares 25% of the same genes as me, knowing that she doesn’t understand a word I say and won’t remember a single thing that happens, was truly a bizarre experience.  I have hardly had any real interaction with a baby before, and it was pretty fun to see what would make her perk up, giggle, or bawl uncontrollably.  I’d say we got along swimmingly.  Here are some pictures:

christmas morning, clara in lap, mom looks on

christmas morning, clara in lap, mom looks on

clarame

is Clara copying my pose?

guess who gave clara this gigantic jacket?

guess who gave clara this gigantic jacket?

The other great part of being home was obviously the home cooking.  Chicken wings, rock cornish hens on christmas, bagels and lox, the works.  I should have taken some photos of the food because it was that delicious.

Then I went to NYC for New Year’s.  A couple of my friends not only graciously put me up for a few nights, but they also threw a slamming party on New Year’s Eve.  Good times all around.  

I was in New York for less than a week, but I consumed no fewer than three pastrami sandwiches from Katz’s deli:

best fucking sandwich

best fucking sandwich

Other new york highlights:  Going to a knicks game (they lost of course),  watching more football over beers and wings,  seeing the Wrestler (great movie), and making an illegal copy of my buddy’s apartment key which came in handy.

Then I flew back to Australia, and on the second leg of the flight they bumped me up to first class!  It was predictably amazing.  The glasses of champaign, the fully reclining seats, the lamb chops and smoked salmon, I could go on…

It’s good to be back.  Out with the wool socks and in with the flip flops.  We’ve had highs in the 80’s every day since I’ve been back. (suck it).  The only low point so far was when I got up at 4 am (the 3am kickoff moved back an hour when the US went to daylight saving time) on a monday workday morning to watch the Giants get their asses knocked out of the playoffs by the f’ing eagles. All of the excitement from the victory I had witnessed a few weeks prior vanished real quickly.  What a disaster.

But that was mostly forgotten last weekend, when I went to my friend Trent’s engagement party.  Nothing like an engagement party to break the ice with 75 australian strangers over an endless open bar.  I think Trent’s aunts and uncles were amused by the tall loud american walking around.  The details are a little foggy but I specifically remember the good times rolling.

and now, bringing us full circle like a good narrator should, Obama is in the Oval Office.  It’s sort of bogus to sum up all of my political feelings in less than a full sentence, but like a lot of people, I’m optimistic yet undeniably guarded with respect to the potential for real progress in the next four years.  Mostly I’m just amazed that we finally have someone different in there- the last time we had a president not named Bush or Clinton, I was just four years old.

Well, that’s it for now.  Check back in early February, I am going to dust off the old photo journalism skills (shhhh…) to document my upcoming trip / bender to Melbourne.

A few observations from down under

You’ve probably been wondering if I have any thoughts on Australia so far. Here’s a rapid fire list of observations I’ve been collecting over the last few weeks.

1) For some reason, rules are extremely important to people down here. You can get a ticket for jaywalking and they have electronic speed traps set up all over the place. On the first day of every month there is a very loud, obnoxious test of the emergency system at my job. Cabbies go out of their way to ask you to buckle up. Perhaps most annoying, they are very picky about what clothes you are supposed to wear when you go to clubs around here. For instance, not once but twice I have been turned away from a club for wearing a collared shirt (No collared shirts allowed!). We go to the next place down, and my buddy was not let in because he WASN’T wearing a collared shirt. Same stupid bullshit flies for footwear. Also, they are extremely strict about not letting inebriated people into bars or clubs. And I promise, it’s not just me.

2.) The weather really is georgeous. The last solid month has been picture perfect. It’s ridiculous. Soon it will get a little too hot, but then it’s time to head to the beaches. I haven’t been yet but I’ll give a report when I go. Along those lines, I am hoping to go deep sea fishing in the next couple of weeks, so hopefully that will happen and I can get some more photos up in this bitch.

3.) Halitosis totally flies down here. I have never smelled so much bad breath in my life before I got here. I don’t know if the toothpaste is really expensive, and I can say from experience that bubble gum IS about 3 times more expensive here than back home, but somebody needs to politely say something to the 30% of people here who are walking around with disgusting breath. To a smaller extent, the same thing is true with BO, although my thoughts on this are so heavily influenced by the one smelly Indian guy I sit next to at work that I will give a free pass to the few others that I have noticed.

4.) They actually play decent basketball down here. I just joined a league about three weeks ago, and I was expecting everyone to play like sissies. But it is actually a very competitive league in which I fit nicely. This has been a pleasant surprise. A buddy of mine plays squash on the reg so I’m hoping to get in on some of that.

5) Blind people, disabled people, midgets. There are a lot of them here. It’s at least a daily occurrence to see a blind person or a midget. This one is actually not a negative since I have no problems with any of the aforementioned people. In fact, I’ve always had a fantasy where I am friends with a blind person, and I get to tell them about all the stuff they miss out on. With midgets and disabled people, I can help them reach for things they can’t on their own.
I am really not sure about the explanation for their increased numbers- I’ve been tinkering with a pseudoscientific answer about the homogeneity of the gene pool here, but I think the real explanation is not an actual increase in the number of blind people, but more a result of handicap access and such. Good for them. the more the merrier.

6) Australians are very cautious pedestrians. Maybe it’s because you can get a ticket for jaywalking! I was also a little cautious at first because of the left-right swap, but now I’m always the only person crossing the street when the red hand is still up, while a dozen people stare at me with combination of annoyance and envy while I reach my destination a few precious seconds quicker than they do.

7) The people here have a much better understanding of the world around them compared with the average American. A lot of the news coming into this country is from international outlets like the BBC, and people are always aware of what the exchange rate is between the Aussie dollar and the US dollar. (Brief aside- the exchange rate has fluctuated wildly since I’ve been here. When I got here in July, it was 98 US cents to the Aussie dollar, which was a 24 year high, and just a couple of weeks ago it dropped to 65 US cents to the Aussie dollar, which was a 5 year low. Obviously, the cheaper the Aussie dollar is the better off I am.)

I might have met a few people who seem to have a little resentment towards Americans, but by and large people don’t mind at all. However, people will usually play it safe by asking if I am North American, so as to avoid accidentally offending someone from Canada by asking if they are American.

Also, I have sensed some excitement about the, dare I say, impending Obama administration. Just like in America, nobody is exactly sure what we have to look forward to, but everybody seems happy to soon be rid of George Bush. I for one and pumped about the open book of possibilities that an Obama presidency provides. In fact, I’ve already voted! Not bad, right? Too bad Connecticut is not a swing state.

That’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll get his blog back up to cruising speed soon, but no promises. Peace out.

uncledom

all my life, i’ve been the baby of the family. my grandparents are the old ones, my parents and their siblings are in the middle, while my sister, my brother and I are the young ones with our whole lives in front of us, during which we will presumably figure out everything that those a generation older have already.

and then, one day, all that changed.

It was sunday night, 3 o’clock in the morning, and I was staying up to watch the Giants game (the very phenomenon for which this blog is named, in case you were wondering). During halftime, I decided to give my dad a call since I figured he was watching the game, and he broke the big news.

My grandparents are now great-grandparents and my uncles are great uncles. My parents are grandparents, my brother and I are uncles, but most importantly, my sister is now a mother thanks to the birth of Clara Gail Burris, 7 lbs 14 ounces, born September 14th. Check her out:

My Niece Clara!

My Niece Clara!

Isn’t she adorable? Aren’t you jealous I get to play with an infant when I come home for christmas? Isn’t this pretty much the coolest thing in the world? Here’s what I’m thinking for a christmas present:

Wouldn’t she look great in those? How long before she learns to say “Uncle David”? She’s going to love me, right? Aren’t I perfect uncle material? Along those lines, am I supposed to grow a creepy mustache and wear short shorts now, or is that only what my uncles did when I was a little kid in the 80’s?

Chris Rock used to say you got every kind of uncle: your gay uncle, your alcoholic uncle, your stealing uncle, and your molester uncle. ( “Everybody’s got that one molester uncle.”) Which one will I be? I’d say it’s pretty much a tossup at this point.

Does being an uncle mean I’m supposed to get serious and start taking steps towards being a responsible human being? Before my niece was born, I seriously anticipated having such emotions, but now that it’s happened, I’m happy to report that I feel nothing of the sort. If anything, I’m happy to get a glimpse of what parenthood is like through the eyes of my sister and brother-in-law without having to do a damn thing myself. It’s like having a friend who goes to law school straight out of college, so they can tell you how miserable it is before you make the same mistake. Or, if they love law school, they can explain how awesome it is so you can join in the fun!

All joking aside, congratulations to Heather and Darren, who I’m confident will make awesome parents. Baby Clara will have every opportunity to experience what’s good about life. I am thrilled to have a supporting role in what will be an incredible adventure for the new family.

ps. for more pictures of baby clara and her family, check out her blog! footmassage.wordpress.com

Koalas and Kangaroos!

So yesterday, I went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which was awesome.  It’s kind of like a zoo, but it’s a little more spread out, and some of the animals are given plenty of space to roam around.  Plus they are very friendly! Sadly, I was unable to fulfill my dream of getting a picture of a baby kangaroo peeking out of a mother kangaroo’s pouch, but I was able to see some cool stuff. Also, there is a 3 minute video at the end.

Check out the pictures, which you can click on for a better look:
 

I liked the sign out front

I liked the sign out front



Cool looking bird

Cool looking bird



an emu!

an emu!



the dingo was sleepy

the dingo was sleepy



Wombat!

Wombat!



koala bear!

koala bear!



baby koala bear!

baby koala bear!



koala bear and me!

koala bear and me!



kangaroo checking me out

kangaroo checking me out



kangaroos drinking in unison

kangaroos drinking in unison



kangaroo hands!

kangaroo hands!



up close and personal

up close and personal



Lastly, I made a video! If you ever wondered how a Kangaroo walks without hopping, now’s your chance to find out! You can see kangaroos walking and jumping around, two different koala bears stuffing their faces, and if you look closely, you can see a kangaroo poop right at the 1:19 mark. Also, you can see me petting a kangaroo and treating it like an infant. Enjoy.

Dead or Alive?

When you have a job, like mine, that requires you to sit at a computer for 8 hours a day, you tend to find odd moments when you aren’t doing work but rather goofing off with the help of the internet.  Well, my lovely australian employer blocks access to my gmail account, facebook, and espn.com, so I have to get creative with my time killing technique.  The one website it doesn’t block off is Wikipedia.  With this vast resource of utterly reliable, unbiased and exquisitely researched information at my fingertips, the options are endless.  

So here’s the game that my morbid imagination came up with:  I think of someone who achieved fame decades ago, but who I haven’t heard anything from in a long time.  Then, I try to guess whether that person is alive or dead.  The game gets intense, as I load Shel Silverstein’s wikipedia page, thinking he’s probably still alive, hoping he’s still alive, praying he’s still alive, only to find out that he died back in 1999.  What a sad twist!  It almost feels like I caused it.  So anyway, if you want to play but are having trouble thinking of people who fit the bill, I’ve put together what I think is a good starter list.  Maybe you already know about some of these, but if not feel free to guess!  I don’t want to spoil the surprise right here, so I’ve put the answers down at the end of the post.  Also, I’ve separated out the sports figures from everyone else: 

Dead or Alive?

 Non-Sports Figures:  1) Neil Armstrong,  2) JD Salinger, 3) Judy Garland, 4) Steve McQueen, 5) Richard Pryor, 6) Chubby Checker.

Sports Figures: a) Sandy Koufax, b) Johnny Unitas, c) Julius Erving, d) Joe Frazier, e) Gale Sayers, f) Stan Musial

Take Neil Armstrong, for instance.  I bet you hadn’t even thought of this most famous of astronauts in a long time.  But now that I bring it up, aren’t you curious about what he’s up to?  That moon landing was 39 years ago, and he must have been at least 35 or 40 years old when it happened, so if you do the math, it’s basically a tossup whether he’s lasted this long.  I think this game has some real potential.  If you still think this game is pretty F’d up, well, I can’t really blame you.  On the other hand, if you love the game and have some good examples to share, feel free to post them in the comments.

In other news, I got this video forwarded to me from my friend Rob yesterday.  I don’t want to oversell it, but I personally felt it was the funniest video I had seen in a very long time. So why not spread the love?  Check it out:

 

 

There is so much to love about this video, from the fact that everyone involved was clearly hammered to the fact that the kid manages to end up farther away from the basket than he started. I really can’t say enough about it.

That’s it for now, I am developing some amazing international travel related epiphanies, but they are still very much in nascent stages.  So stay tuned.

 

DEAD OR ALIVE ANSWERS:

Non Sports: 1: Alive (1930-) 2: Alive (1919-) 3: Dead (1922-1969) 4: Dead (1930-1980) 5: Dead (1940-2005) 6: Alive (1941-)

Sports: a: Alive (1935-) b: Dead (1933-2002) c: Alive (1950-) d: Alive (1944-) e: Alive (1943-) f: Alive (1920-)