...especially if you hate sports. With the Rogers Cup coming up, we present an appreciation for a sport of rackets that eschews the racket of sports.
That old Sloan lyric “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans” could easily be applied to professional sports teams, too. You might be all for physical fitness and cheering on your hometown heroes, but to actually go out and watch a live sporting event often means surrounding yourself with loudmouthed jocks who think a) getting wasted at the game is itself a competitive sport; b) the fights are the good bits; and c) the stadium is the last refuge of chest-thumping caveman behaviour. Or at least that’s the nightmare I imagine it to be, based on what I’ve seen in the parking lots and the streets pre- and post-games. Which is why, as a straight-edge person who always identified more with “Jock-o-Rama” than “We Are the Champions,” I limit my spectator participation to the one sport I consider an antithesis of all that: tennis.
If you too are scared off by sports-fan culture but have found yourself drawn to the drama and glory of the Olympic broadcasts and want to experience a live competition, you could do no better than hiking up to York University for the Rogers Cup, happening Aug. 4 to 12—not only because it’s bringing the best men’s tennis players in the world to town, but because it’s the perfect way to enjoy sports for people who think they hate sports. Here are five reasons why:
Etiquette: I was going to write that tennis is a great game for those who like to “shush” others, but even shushing is too rude at tennis. While you are most welcome to applaud and cheer for a winning point, there is no boo-ing of the loser. Most importantly, quietness during play is a virtue. So, for fans in the stands, there should be no drunken shouting, no drunken singing, and most definitely no vuvuzelas. If the official on the court thinks the crowd is getting too rowdy, he or she will simply utter a “thank you,” which is tennis code for “shut the fuck up.”
Fashion: If you agree that jerseys are function not fashion and should be worn by players and players only, tennis is your game, a welcome respite from oversized, over-branded sporting apparel. Instead, you can bust out some classy Fred Perry whites. You do know that Perry was a Grand Slam tennis champ well before he created his mod-friendly clothing empire, right? And that his brand’s laurel-wreath logo was the original symbol for Wimbledon? Well, now you do.
The women: Tennis may be the only popular sport where women players get as much attention as the men—and as much money. Ever since Billie Jean King founded the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973, the ladies have been pushing for equal prize money; in 2007, Wimbledon and the French Open finally relented, and now top players such as Venus and Serena Williams routinely bring home millions. Sure, some spectators come for the sex appeal of those short-shorts, but the women’s tournaments are far from a hooting, Hooters-esque environment and the sport as a whole is delightfully cheerleader-free. Which makes it fun for everyone. And I don’t think anyone would think of producing a While the Men Watch Tennis play-by-play.
Individualism: Who says athletes have to play well with others? Single’s tennis is one-on-one action that rewards individual effort. Coaches aren’t even allowed input during most matches. So if you’re new to tennis, you don’t have to memorize the names of a dozen players to follow along and, if you’re a super-fan, you never have to get sick of post-game interviews about how the players have such a “good ball team” that “gave 110 per cent” when you know that one dude totally screwed up and ruined things for everyone. Victory and defeat is yours alone, making this a great sport for loners.
Love: There’s something quite poetic about the odd tennis scoring nomenclature, where zero is described as “love” (apparently because it sounds like “oeuf,” the French word for egg; the term is also a holdover from the when the game was played with hands instead of rackets). And so while you’re waiting—quietly—for the next game, set or, match to start, you can contemplate a world where, whether or not you’ve scored, you can still be full of love.