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...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Last Week in Key Biscayne

Not quite Last Year in Marienbad, but it'll do for a brief glimpse at my memories of the Nasdaq-100 Open Men's Final last week -- a tournament I never miss, unlike the Doral, despite my equal love of golf.

I arrived there, comme d'habitude, late, when it was already 3-2 to Nadal versus Federer. But this time it wasn't really my fault -- there being two car accidents on the way to and 'fro, with the requisite pause-look-see-no-blood-and-guts-drive-away slowdown on both lanes.

When going to any outdoor event in South Florida, you must be prepared to face the scorching sun. The thermometre may read 89F, but you have add 10F for the baking hot hardcourt below. This is what you will need for maximum comfort:

  • Water
  • Hand-held fan
  • Hand towel
  • Hat or Cap
  • SPF Sun block
  • Rain poncho (the kind the NYT sends as a freebie to subscribers)
  • Relaxed, sporty outfit with trainers (sneakers for Americans)
In fact, that just about covers any activity in South Florida as well, so you tourists take heed.

A tennis tournament is somewhere between the tweedy formality of polo matches, and the ripped-shirt and denim shorts informality of baseball games. It also is one of those sports where the spectators oddly decide to dress just like the athletes. How come you don't see bleacher fans wearing tight hose, jockstraps and cleats during a Yankees-Red Sox game?

Now, if you're seated in the lower tiers, with the executive box crowd, you obviously have to dress the best of all, which fortunately, I didn't have to Sunday. I was in row ZZZZZZZY.

Not my photo, but it'll give you a good idea of where I was seated

Mind you, I still wore my best Calvin Kleins from tip to toe, and got approving looks from the Spanish contingent next to me. Their girlfriends were not amused.

And speaking of the Spanish Armada of supporters, my word they're a rowdy and nasty little bunch.

Spaniards, in my experience, transform themselves violently when abroad, as Incas and Mayans can tell you. From the earthy but hilarious, intellectual and elegant types at home, they become loudly antagonistic, hypernationalist creeps with chips on their shoulders abroad -- a bit like us Brits really.

But one thing you can count on is that you will be amused at their antics, especially if you speak Spanish. They say the most supercritical things in their own inimitably funny way, and you can't help but laugh.

Take the fellow next to me, whom I will call Jordí (he was from Barcelona, so the chances are good he's either that, Josep, or Iñaki).

Now for people who don't know, tennis fans are not allowed to yell out during points, or just before serves, but where's the fun in that, right?

So Jordí spent most of his time yelling "PHWAKATA!" whenever Nadal served up a big one, possibly to break Federer's return concentration. Since the chair umpire didn't say anything, he took this to mean, "you go girl", and I'm seriously wondering if it didn't affect Federer's attention that first tough set.

The girl in front of me, who seemed to know everyone around but little ole me, kept yelling "Viva España!!" (shades of Auntie Maud), and delivered a great big yell which I'm sure everyone watching heard on telly. If you remember it, you might remember seeing a fair-haired girl with her hands over her ears, grimacing in pain. 'Twas I.

A brief note about the water on sale (U$3):

My father is so cheap, he has been known to keep the old water bottles on sale the previous year, and refill them with tap water this year, cleverly making people think he's dropped a wad on some Zephyrhill's H2O.

In retaliation for years of embarrassment, I make sure I don't eat anything before going to these events, and pig out and gulp everything and anything I can get my paws on, water included. So I bought two water bottles and made sure people around me noticed the "spritz" sound the freshly opened bottle makes. That'll teach my dad to be a miser -- he's now got a spendthrift for a daughter. Hah!

The match itself was a rip-snorting one which went to 5 sets. It was all Nadal at first, whom apparently Bud Collins had said would win despite the heavily favoured Roger Federer's win streak. For a while, Collins and his muti-coloured trousers looked like geniuses, but then Federer decided to perk up. You know when that was? Well, let me tell you.

Federer is really a nice guy -- you can tell just by looking at him, and he's generally believed to be the Gentleman Jim Corbett of tennis.

Now most tennis players are stuck-up twits with no high school diplomas (I should know, I was a decent amateur player for a while), so they overcompensate by being nasty to underlings and vicious to opponents. Pete Sampras was popularly believed to be quiet, but he was an aloof sulky man, who rarely said thank you to anyone outside his tennis racket. Lindsay Davenport has the ego of the Titanic just before it met the iceberg. The Williams sisters veer from sweetness to touchiness at the drop of their father's race-card hat. Even Andre Agassi, a down-to-earth guy by all accounts, can get prickly if you interrupt his concentration (during commercial shoots). Steffi Graf was no slouch in that department herself.

So when he had advantage, and a lob return which he easily could've put away for game point, he did the nicest thing a professional can do -- he gave his opponent the chance to catch his breath, set himself and return the lob for a winner. Did Nadal thank him? No. He proceeded, a few points later, to humiliate Federer with a little soft touch volley which won him the point. That's when I saw Federer say to himself mentally, "Screw the Mr. Nice Guy routine, I'm winning this tournament". He was unstoppable after that.

Which was a good thing for the smattering of red t-shirted Swiss fans in the stands, with faces as lobster red as their flag. They apparently didn't read my "Must Have" list up top. Tough swiss cheese.

The match ended with the "Furia Española" quieted down slightly, now content to snipe about Federer's alleged effeminancy, although Nadal was the one who looked like a girlie-man with those long greasy locks. Tell me, why is it that Latins (whether Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, not to mention Argentinians) insist on looking like bad Robert Plante clones? Can't someone tell them the 1970s are gone if not forgotten -- sadly? I can't wait until they find out the Berlin Wall came down.

Lastly for me, a quick trip to the FILA tent (the main sponsors of the event, along with Mercedes-Benz) to buy my requisite commemorative t-shirt and bibelot souvenir from the tournament. The selection was paltry at best. Some disreputable looking t-shirts, with a choice of white, baby blue, and baby duck yellow. Ick. So this year, I decided to buy a new pair of trainers, since I have decided to take up tennis again, as soon as my academic year is done.

Take a look at them, the FILA Women's X-Speed. A snip at $75, and there's nothing my dad can do about it, since I used his charge card. Hah!


Now, how to convert my all black t-shirts and shorts wardrobe into ones which won't give me heat prostration in the 100F summer weather? I know! A shopping spree, followed by two sessions in the food court with plenty of bottled water to tie me over in between Bébé and Victoria's Secret tours of duty.

Nothing like taking your dad's life lessons and making them your own.


  • Zephyrhill water! No wonder your dad refills 'em -- this stuff tastes terrible.

    By Blogger JSU, at Sun Apr 10, 07:18:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Nice account :-) I´ve never been to a real important tennis match...

    I also don't know why some Latino hairstyles are stuck in the 70's... at least they're better than the goatie or large sideburns crowd or the urban, hiphop yech

    By Blogger Alessandra, at Sun Apr 10, 10:24:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Way not to get the point, JSU!

    Just kidding. I know Zephyrhill's is bad, in fact, the only thing I like about them, is the cute old lady who does their ads for them, "keep it in the fairway".

    Other than that, it tastes like someone stuck a pair of old socks in it.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Apr 10, 10:53:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Hey Alessandra. Thanks for your kind words. :)

    What match did you attend? And I once visited a blog by a Brazilian woman named Alessandra, so I'm not sure if that's you, or some other bird, I mean, lady.

    And speaking of Brazilians, I am happy to note that these "Latinos" (a word I despise) are the only ones I know whose haircuts are nice and short.

    Very becoming on men.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Apr 10, 10:55:00 pm GMT-4  

  • I happen to like the "netheads" as I call them who follow American players around. They literally have nets on their heads and counted every Roddick ace at the Toronto event with a chant. Never got around to asking if they're a splinter group of Sam's Army.

    Sweet shoes Vicky!

    By Blogger Renato, at Mon Apr 11, 12:03:00 am GMT-4  

  • Renato! What a lucky escape!

    I do believe you were close to people in a cult, and no doubt, they were scouting for young, vigourous, intelligent adherents such as your good self.

    One can always tell cultists by their work always done in tandem, usually expressed in vociferous shouts, and their uniformity in dress or some such distinctive clothing.

    Whew, thank God you left without taking their brochures. Next thing you'd know you would be lying in a cot, dressed in all-black, with Nike sneakers and a passport in your pocket, waiting for Halley's comet to pick you up.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Apr 11, 12:44:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Last time my cousins went to an event was in Montreal a few years ago where he sat 2 rows from Mandy Moore. I dont think he watched much of the Roddick match. He even got ehr autograph at the end.

    The only tennis event I've ever attended are Canadian Davis Cup matches in Calgary.

    - Peter

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Apr 13, 01:17:00 am GMT-4  

  • Hi,

    The most important tennis game I've ever attended had B.Borg in it, after he had not been a champ for probably 20 years... I'm guessing that's the number of years...

    I came across your blog through the soccer photo... which I put on mine.

    As far as I can tell, I've always been a human and of the female sex, since I don't have any mental diseases that makes me think I am a bird or a gerbil or a pig like so many of my fellow humans.

    Civilization is such a zoo...

    Except for French men, who in MHO are the most gorgeous men on Earth, and who also usually wear their hair short or somewhat short. But I like the faces better than Latinos and other nationalities. Why do you hate the word Latino?

    By Blogger Alessandra, at Wed Apr 13, 10:57:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Ah yes, Alessandra. I do remember that, since when checking my Technorati account, I noticed you had credited my site with that famous photo of the Argentina NT in effeminate poses.

    Hehe. I still love that photo.

    As for the reason why I dislike Latino -- oh I dunno, a personal quirk I guess.

    First, being a Brazilianist, I notice few people who use the word include Brazilians (except as an afterthought, "oh yeah"), and it is almost synonymous with "Hispanic".

    And then there are some people who, IMHO, hide behind the word to avoid saying "I'm mixed" or indeed, of 100% black or indigenous origin.

    But that's just a technical point I picked up from some Cuban friends here.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Apr 14, 11:05:00 pm GMT-4  

  • I have my pet peeves with several labels, too. Regarding your comment, I think calling a Brazilian or Brazilian-born person who moved to the US a Hispanic is worse than Latino. Latino makes me think of anyone from Latin America that went to the US (even Caribbean). I understand it as very general. Hispanic seems more specific, just those from historical Spanish cultures.

    One of the best exagerated examples I saw of this race/nationality labeling caos, was a very white South African woman who moved to the US and would teasingly refer to herself as African-American. And another blonde and blue eyed Argentinean who said she was "a woman of color", because she was Latino/Hispanic. She didn't go as far as a "colored woman," but close...

    By Blogger Alessandra, at Sun Apr 17, 04:18:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Wow, I've never heard a Brazilian called a Hispanic in the US, which doesn't mean it doesn't happen! I just never heard of that.

    If it does happen (and I suspect you mean in the oficial US census), that's ridiculous.

    For that matter, what does a Yugoslavian Peruvian, a German Brazilian, an Italian Argentinian, and a British Chilean have to do with Hispanitude?

    American PC labelling is seriously messed up.

    At my University, we have a student association for black students. But hang on, it's not called Black American Association, but African-American Student Association.

    So my friend, born and raised until age 15 in Angola, but of Portuguese parents, with an US passport, tried to join it.

    She said those were the 5 most uncomfortable minutes she ever spent on this earth, as people almost screamed at her "how dare you, are you making fun of us", etc. etc.

    And for a girl who was raised en pleine guerre civile in Angola to say that, you can imagine how bad it was.

    Oh well.

    Hey, Alessandra, what did you think of my Roberta Close blogpiece? ;)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Apr 18, 02:13:00 am GMT-4  

  • You wrote:
    If it does happen (and I suspect you mean in the oficial US census), that's ridiculous.
    No, I wasn't talking about the census, just self-labeling and labeling others in every day situations.

    You wrote:
    Hey, Alessandra, what did you think of my Roberta Close blogpiece? ;)

    I think the problem with sexuality in the world today is a lot worse (and is certainly not constrained to one or two countries). There is no end to how mentally diseased and dysfunctional humans beings can be, and that certainly includes every single aspect of sexuality. I agree with your view that modern liberal societies (in Brazil or anywhere else) have an increasing appetite for grotesque circuses, a hunger for dysfunctions and/or vulgarity and/or violence as entertainment.

    I noticed something which raised a couple of questions, in another comment you wrote " I don't know what kind of bird, or lady you are". Here you ask what I think of your transvestite post and you put a wink next to it. It looks like you've made certain specific assumptions about what/who I am that you think are very clever.

    The last person I saw making the same line of assumptions about someone else was the homo bishop Robinson. You can read about it here:

    You gave me the impression your mind works along the same lines as his.

    By Blogger Alessandra, at Wed Apr 20, 12:57:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Alessandra wrote:

    No, I wasn't talking about the census, just self-labeling and labeling others in every day situations.

    Ahh, yes -- those are much more difficult to pin down, and disagree with, because how can one disagree with how a human being views themself?

    As to the Roberta Close part:

    Oh Alessandra, Alessandra. What a tragedy of errors.

    Of course, I cannot know how my words sound to another person, and each person "targets" a certain aspect of one's words, but you have misread my Roberta Close question COMPLETELY.

    Let me explain.

    I am a Brazilianist. A Brazilophile, if you will.

    I love speaking Portuguese (with a Carioca sotaque), and love mentioning Brazil at any opportunity I get.

    Thus when I asked you about Roberta Close, it would be as me asking you about my recent Jo Soares/Xuxa post -- not because I think you are a TRANSVESTITE (or gay, or what have you...), but because you are BRAZILIAN.

    You, of all my current readers, therefore are the only one who MIGHT have some cultural knowledge of Roberta Close, and thus I was egging you on for an opinion about the piece.

    On the 'net, one never knows who one is dealing with, but for you to think that I have been making sly allusions to your gender or sexuality, well then you really don't know me very well.

    "The bird" reference was a clarification of a slang term we use in British English, which was a pedantic clarification, not some veiled doubt as to your feminity.

    Now listen, if I have caused you any offence, I apologise immediately. You seem an intelligent person, and like your commentary.

    But also, I am a little concerned. Your logical leap was understandable, but I sense something else at work here.

    Do people frequently confuse you with a man, or was this just totally my faux pas at work?

    As a woman, I know how difficult it is to be on the 'net, and get either deragatory remarks or a kind of salivating male attention which can be a turn off given the wrong context.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Apr 21, 09:17:00 am GMT-4  

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