My column on AOL Fanhouse
Rafael Nadal had won the French Open after a year of uncertainty about his body, his career, his family, and it all came in the same place where Francesca Schiavone had won a day earlier, and rolled around in the red clay like a little kid. I admit to feeling the emotion.
And the ghosts, too, of Roland Garros, of Bjorn Borg, Suzanne Lenglen, Rene Lacoste. So I went down to the court, pulled a Tic Tac box from my pocket, emptied it, scooped up the red clay and took some history home.
On Sunday, the French tennis federation will vote on whether to keep the French Open at the quaint spot in Paris, or possibly to move to a modern expanse in, gulp, the suburbs.
How do you feel about that, about what modernization is doing to our most cherished sports memories? Is your baseball team still in the place of your greatest childhood memories? Your football team?
Two hours after the Chicago Bears lost to Philadelphia in the playoffs a few years ago at Soldier Field, the old place was coming down to make room for a new stadium. Modern times insisted. It was a rush job.
So I went out to the stands for one last look. Sat there. Called my dad on the cell. Talked about seeing the Bears there as a kid, watching Stan Smith in a tennis tournament there. My dad said he saw auto races there.
History. Even Jack Dempsey fought Gene Tunney in the famous long count. Al Capone had bet on Dempsey.
The bulldozers were already there when my dad mentioned something about, well, never really liking the place. I noticed it smelled like urine. The seats were uncomfortable and didn’t even face the middle of the field. The bathrooms are disgusting, the food no good, the sightlines a disaster.
We started laughing and realized: The place is a dump.
Reality weighs more than memories.
This takes me back to Roland Garros. It is beautiful, romantic, nostalgic. It’s not a dump. But it is a terrible, terrible place to watch a tennis tournament.
Sacrilege? Just reality. Reality from a guy with a Tic Tac container of red clay on his desk. Continue reading