There are many things I dislike. Vegetables in my dessert. Non-alcoholic beverages. The sun. Hunters. People. I overlook this for one day every summer when I sweat like a whore in a church and push my way through 70,000 of the rudest people in the world, seeing as it is in New York.
I’m talking about the US Open. I make a sacrifice to emulate a Finnish sauna experience (with more germs and less attractive people), marinating in a pool of my own sweat for the opportunity to watch 11 hours of tennis porn on 17 courts. If you don’t recall the story how the phrase “tennis porn” was coined, here is a refresher. It is also a reminder of the great tennis nicknames my fellow porn addict and I used to come up with. This year we had a new one. Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece, who Miss Daisy thinks looks like Jesus. For a brief time we were calling him Dirty Jesus, but eventually settled on Sexy Jesus. ™
Tennis fans are like polo fans, only slightly less pretentious. There are a fair number of snooty rich people in their seersucker sport coats (in 95 percent humidity) and pink and mint green poplin Lilly Pulitzer sundresses. It boggles my mind how these people do not sweat, but I suppose they could afford to have their sweat glands removed for such occasions. I, on the other hand, needed one of those cooling towels wrapped on my head like a turban.
I am truly lucky to live a scant hour from one of the tennis Grand Slam tournaments because I can go every year, since the restraining order lapsed. I am also fortunate to have a friend from my Catholic grammar school who learned the Karmic benefits of charity, and offered me free tickets she won, so I was able to go twice this year. Which is nice, because I only have 2 (slightly used and worn) kidneys, and I really can’t afford to sell either.
The grounds passes are a phenomenal deal, at roughly $65 for a grounds pass (plus $76.50 in Ticketmaster surcharges), so you get to watch tennis all day and night except for Arthur Ashe stadium. The second night I was there, one match lasted until 2:22 am. We were long gone by then, but theoretically it could have been 15 hours and 22 minutes of tennis that day.
The ticket prices are a bargain. It is the $25 to park where things start to add up. $11.50 for one beer (granted, I pay the extra dollar for Heineken, because I need to blend in with the crowd). If you want a Grey Goose mixed drink with honeydew shaped tennis balls, it is $17.50 per drink, which will make you sweat even more and hate your life as a splitting headache overtakes you from the searing heat. But people do it. These are the same people who pay $29 for a lobster roll made with mayonnaise that has also been sitting in 90 degree temperatures all day. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to be using a public toilet that has been used by 298,422 people when the salmonella kicks in. But maybe rich people don’t get food poisoning either.
People do things that absolutely baffle me. As people watching goes, the US Open experience is not quite Wal-Mart (because it is mostly rich people). Still, it is baffling not in the skin crawling way, but more in the “Monsanto is poisoning our water supply and giving us brain damage” kind of way.
I understand that the food there is expensive. And maybe if you traveled from overseas you are going for more than one day and can’t afford to spend $80 per person on bad fried food for the day. I witnessed a Scottish family sitting on the bench in front of me. An older couple, with their college aged son. The dad pulled an 8 pack of Freihofer’s hot dog rolls out of a bag and distributed one to each of his family members. Because that was also dinner, so it was rationed. Now, since I’m going to Scotland in 6 weeks, this made me question whether Scottish food is so bad that I should have a backup plan like a hunk of Cabot cheese in my day pack. It also made me question how they got that in past security, when it clearly says no outside food. If you’re diabetic, I don’t think hot dog rolls will do much for you. Maybe they are allergic to everything BUT gluten and needed it for medical reasons. But it must suck all the joy out of an event when I’m sitting there with Ben & Jerry’s and you, poor son, are eating a hot dog roll your Da is making you eat and ensuring no slutty American girl will even look at you. He should have snuck a baguette in his shorts. A hot dog roll is like Wonder Bread. It’s not even bread. It’s mostly air.
Food seems to bring out the worst in people. At 9 pm, we snuck out of one court at match point to beat the crowd to another court that was still playing. We ducked into the best bathroom on the grounds (the furthest away from civilization) and it was virtually empty. Except for one woman. Washing a giant bundle of grapes in the sink before putting them back in a plastic shopping bag. This begged many questions. First, getting this past security. Second, carrying it around all day in the heat, and presumably setting the bag on the nasty germy ground throughout the day. Then, washing it in a sink that is an E.Coli in Rio Carnival parade, where surely at least one grape touched the sink. Finally, putting it back in the bag that must have carried the dirty grapes and already had the bacteria orgy going on all day. Why? Why is that your go-to snack at 9 pm at night? Just pay the $5 for popcorn.
I admit that I pack a lot of crap in my day bag. Phone, camera, extra batteries, nasal spray, hand sanitizer, a dish towel to sit on so my fat legs aren’t soaking in the sweat germs from 100 people who sat on the plastic chair before me. Call me a germophobe, but I’ve done this enough times to learn that hygiene and comfort are critical to a full day of tennis porn enjoyment. But I’m not carrying around unnecessary crap.
Like this. A woman, who I hope is from Argentina and not Bellevue, was watching a match with a diminutive underdog from Argentina, Diego Schwartzman (insert inappropriate WWII joke here). She clearly had been carrying around a stuffed donkey wearing an Argentina Lionel Messi shirt all day. I get you are a proud Argentine, and Messi and Schwartzman are the same size. But why do you feel a need to sit in the nosebleed seats of Grandstand and hold up a stuffed donkey wearing a soccer jersey whenever a tennis player wins a point? He can’t see you. And even if he did, he’d probably say, “Don’t compare me to fucking Messi, weird senora.” Or something to that effect.
But by far the most annoying part of the US Open, for someone who hates people, is the mass of Japanese tourists. At least they have money and don’t do disgusting things with food. However, it is supremely annoying that you are walking shoulder to shoulder with sweaty people you really don’t want to be touching, and the crowd stops right in front of you sto the Japanese people can look up at the sky. Sometimes they take pictures. Of the sky. I think they are looking for Godzilla. (Before you send hate mail, I am not being racist. I am commenting on the clear influence of this film genre on generations of Japanese people. I would say the same about Swedish people and Ingmar Bergman films. Except Swedish tourists are too polite to just stop in a horde of people trying to rush to see Rafael Nadal doing his OCD ritual of adjusting his junk.) They are more polite than Americans, and will apologize when you inevitably run them over, but it is annoying nonetheless.
It is something I do once (or twice) a year. Only slightly rivalled by my experience at JFK airport for people watching/murder plots. And the porn makes it all worth it.