Saturday, July 05, 2008

Oh please, (insert deity of choice here), no

The women should play best of five sets proclaims a British writer for the Guardian.

Why should they play best of five? Because the men do is the answer that it all whittles down to apparently.

And let me just say it's not the logic behind most of these arguments that I have a problem with. Yes, I know that the best of three was instituted to save women from the rigors of sport; preserve their repro systems and all that; to literally keep them weaker. And, yeah, that pisses me off. Because sure the women have the ability to play longer. And yes it has been an argument--however, unsuccessful recently--for giving women less money and less attention.

If women are allowed to play best of five, the writer says, they will create more memorable matches because, to date, all the memorable matches have been contested by men over the course of five sets and many, many hours.

And here lies the problem--problems rather. Because I am sitting here writing and watching as Rainier Schuettler and Arnaud Clement's match [I banked this so I would have something to post over the holiday weekend] goes into a fifth set and I JUST DON'T CARE. I didn't care about Andy Murray's 5-setter the other day. Well, ken, you might say to me, maybe you just don't like the players. True I dislike Murray and have no opinion on Schuettler. But I kind of like the veteran Clement. I like that he wears sunglasses and bandannas and seems to be a little bit of a bad boy without advertising it (I'm talking to you, Marat Safin!). And I would have cared a little more, but I just wanted it to end so I could watch the women.

What point am I making exactly? This: the matches are too freakin' long. And don't give me that television is ruining sports by having too much control over the schedule argument. Though that has happened and continues to happen, and I don't doubt that networks would have a cow if the tournaments said, "by the way, NBC, when you air the women's final this year, you better allot another 2 hours or so because we're going to 3 out of 5." It's not the real answer. The real answer is wrapped up in interest.

Please don't make me watch 3 out of 5 sets. It's tedious. It's tedious watching men play that long. It's tedious on television and it's tedious in person. The only thing 3 out of 5 is good for is getting out of the hot sun beating down on you in Arthur Ashe stadium and heading (in this order) to the bathroom, to the long line at the water fountain, and then the longer line at the food court to buy a $10 burger. All that lasts about a set and bam you're back in your seats in time to see the ending which is--admit it--what everyone cares about most.

We need a paradigm shift on this issue. First, there are have been plenty of memorable women's matches. Just because they don't last 4 hours and 21 minutes does not make them less interesting. The idea that the longer players battle it out, the more interesting it is, is just not true. Five setters are not inherently interesting. Just as three-setters are NOT inherently boring and unmemorable.

This leads to point number 2: make the men play 2 out of 3. They do it most of the year anyway. And make the deciding set a no tiebreaker--all the time--not just at the slams; for everyone.*

With the preponderance of injuries to both men and women--and for a myriad of other reasons--this could be beneficial to players and the sport as a whole.

*And while we're at, can we please change all doubles back to the way it was before the various tours started its doubles downsizing movement?


Helen said...

I'd agree that "bigger" is not "better." :-)

Then endless NBA season (forget the interminable playoffs), the holy carp, aren't we there yet of the baseball season, not to mention the 'It's almost summer, why are they still skating of hockey" doesn't improve the quality of the sport.

I might argue that the men playing the best of five allows for mediocrity and mistakes. If you're down 2-0 sets in the women's game, you're out. That's pressure. You only play 34 regular season games in the W? That's pressure - and encourages you to do your best day in and day out.

You want long matches -- you can get'em when you go 6-7, 7-6, and 7-6 (28-26).

And the "length of play should equal money" is bull. Should baseball players get paid more if the game runs in to extra innings and less if they have a stunning pitching duel that makes the game zip by?

Oiy, is all I can say.

Diane said...

I have mixed feelings about this issue. For a long time, I thought all 5-set matches should be eliminated for the reason you state. But then I realized I would miss them.

The equal pay issue, by the way, is rarely laid out in a logical, factual manner:

1. If 3 sets really is to women what 5 sets is to men (strength-wise), then it takes just as much out of women to play 3 as it does for men to play 5. Therefore they should get equal pay.

2. If women are physically up to playing 5 sets, then complaints should be sent, for instance, to the All England Club, who has repeatedly denied the WTA's request for the women to play 5 sets.

You can't have it both ways, but those who complain seem to want it both ways.

Helen said...

erps! who knew the boys read this blog!! Guess I got'em grumpy! *g*

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Could I just point out that the article concerned appeared in 'The Observer' newspaper, not actually 'The Guardian'. They do share a website because the former is technically the Sunday version of the latter these days, but I was confused when I went to actual copies of 'The Guardian' and couldn't find it.