It might be because, after years (at least three) of not reading him at all, I've had time to forgive him some of his worst excesses and actually appreciate what quality there is in his writing. Or it could just be because I'm lazy and this is an easy way to churn out a quick nugget of content when I've got nothing else to say. Who knows? (Or dares to dream...)
Anyway, his latest column for ESPN The Magazine features only the most passing of references to Boston and none at all to random pop culture (read: The Karate motherfucking Kid, which I suspect he actually quietly retired a couple years ago), which is good, has an interesting topic, which is great, and is pretty much spot-on in its analysis, which is surprising.
The topic is why Roger Federer has not done for tennis what Tiger Woods has done for golf. The basic premise is...well, I'll just go ahead and quote him:
Unlike golf, another time-sucking sport that appeals to a specific audience, tennis lacks a Tiger to keep it relevant. When tennis develops its own version of Tiger—first Pete Sampras, then Roger Federer—the guys do almost more damage than good. We see the best tennis stars as the Ping-Pong player at a family gathering who destroys all the uncles and cousins, and eventually kills everyone's interest in playing Ping-Pong for the day. Golf is a sport that hinges on luck and timing, streaks and slumps, and the quirks of different courses. So it's almost inconceivable for a golfer to dominate as Tiger has. But for Federer to dominate, it's completely conceivable. And boring.
Yep, pretty much. There is a slight problem with this theory, in that for Federer to truly be like Tiger, he would have won every Major. Bill completely omits the whole Nadal-on-clay/Federer-on-grass thing, which is another reason tennis is having trouble. I mean, I would have called it a "rivalry", but that suggests the two are actually competitive against each other. Instead, one just kicks the other's ass on one surface, and vice versa on the other surface.
That might suggest tennis could return to greater relevance with the emergence on someone who was dominant on every surface - someone legitimately chasing the Grand Slam into the US Open would be huge in much the same way horses like Big Brown get people to momentarily care about horse-racing, but it's pretty much impossible with the whole Nadal/Federer thing still in effect - but even if that happened, I have my doubts. The other possibility I'd like to entertain is a Brit winning Wimbledon, as that would almost have to be by definition a massive underdog story due to Britain's crap training regimens, but I may just be indulging my redcoat fancy a little too much there by thinking Americans would care about that. Still, you look at soccer's ratings these days, and you never know.
I've got to think golf, niche sport though it is, derives some of its appeal from the fact that lots of people actually play golf, and the presence of a lot of random apparently out-of-shape dudes (Phil Mickelson and Rocco Mediate spring to mind) reinforces the delusional notion that literally anyone could have the round of their life and win a Major. Less so with tennis. And by "less so", I of course mean "not at fucking all." Anyway, that's my tuppence. Um, I mean "two cents." Yes, yes, that'll do. American!
All this talk of tennis and British currency is making me feel rather unpatriotic. Time to refuel with a little help from my new favorite show...
If that's not a mantra, I don't know what is. Somebody's congressman is about to get a letter requesting that be made our new national anthem. (Hint...it's mine!)
Anyway, there were only a couple of random parts of the column that didn't work for me. Since I don't want to be accused of going easy on Simmons (or too hard on him, for that matter), I'll deal with them quickly.
You can't have four "majors" when absolutely nobody cares about one of them. (I believe not even The Schwab could name the last 10 Australian Open winners.)
Maybe one of our readers (of which we have a few more than usual lately, thanks to some random links) can help me out here, as I must admit I'm not an expert, but can't pretty much the same argument be made for the PGA Championship? Isn't that sort of also a black sheep major? I dunno, it seems like golf does just fine with only three truly relevant majors, so he might be barking up the wrong tree there.
This final one is the title of the column, so it probably wasn't even written by Bill, but it's so damn weird I can't even work out what the hell it's supposed to mean.
Wimbledon? I wouldn't miss it. And I don't mean that in a good way.
Huh? Just...huh? If someone can explain what that means in the comments, you might well end up preventing me having a fatal aneurysm. Because I just know I'm going to blow a gasket working out the logic of that one.