With the U.S. Open being hosted in near-by New York City, I figured it couldn’t hurt to watch a little tennis. After all, fundamentally, it’s a great sport: it requires a certain brand of athletic explosiveness; the strategy involved and ball placement is just as important as a players’ athletic competency; and it’s always entertaining to watch the ball boys/girls run across the court at a frantic pace hoping they don’t trip over their own feet.
The sport of tennis is without a doubt esthetically pleasing. And in the limited number of times I’ve played tennis, I found it to be not only a fantastic workout, but also a game that requires that a player give maximum effort for every point earned. No other sport makes the player pay for laziness like tennis does.
With that being said, there’s one aspect of tennis that has always rubbed me the wrong way. It’s an inherent flaw that is shared with the other gentleman sport, golf, and it’s robbing the fans of having an influence over the game.
Tennis is very popular. But it doesn’t resonate with sports fans the way team sports do. This is partially due to the fact that team sports have multiple moving parts and more variables to consider. Which, in turn, makes it more interesting to debate: when a player looses in tennis, the player has only him or herself to blame; but when a team looses, the blame can be shared throughout the roster. This is only part of the problem. But the major gripe I have with tennis is the way the sport has silenced the fans at live tennis events.
When a fan buys a ticket, they’re not just purchasing the right to view a live sporting event, they also reserve the right to cheer, boo, and have as much influence over the contest as they choose with their voices. This aspect, however, does not exist in the game of tennis. I guess it’s because tennis – just like golf – is considered to be one of the gentlemen sports, and it’s not proper etiquette to cheer or boo when play is taking place.
If it’s a question of concentration, then that may be the most ridiculous notion that I’ve ever heard of. First off, if a professional athlete can’t compete at the highest level at their sport because of crowd noise, then they shouldn’t be playing a sport professionally to begin with. Secondly, does it not take concentration to, say, hit a baseball? Or for a quarterback to change a play at the line of scrimmage while this is going on? Or shoot a game-winning free throw in basketball? I think you know the answer to that. Additionally, if crowd noise were a factor at tennis matches, fans wouldn’t have to bare witness to the symphony of grunts vocalized by the players.
This highbrow attitude being displayed at live tennis matches is robbing the fans of the full sports experience. You should boo while your most hated player is drawing back to serve. You should cheer when your favorite player is forcing his or her opponent back-and-fourth on the court. And you should voice your displeasure with a refs call or a player’s decision to go to his or her backhand. Crowd noise is part of the fan experience, and is your right when you buy that ticket.
So use it!