Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving thoughts from Monday Night Football of all places!

So words of wisdom from an unlikely source last night ... Chris Berman at half time on Monday Night Football. He was talking about which teams were distinguishing themselves as best in the league right now, and of course debating different views on the subject. 

Then he said, think about it in between bites of turkey and dressing on Thursday ... and be thankful you live in a country with the luxury of worrying about such things. 

Well said. 

A happy, blessed and thankful holiday to you and yours. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Farewell to two champions and hello to a new!

For those not following the US Open the past couple of weeks, this tournament brought the retirement of two champions of the game - Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick. 

First Kim - who is definitely one of the most loved champions the game has ever seen. She will of course be remembered for her game - the power, the splits. But even more so, she will be remembered and will continue to be loved for who she is. She has always been a talented and fierce competitor, but in an age when especially the women's game has seen its fair share of bad behavior, she is just so...NICE! She has been unfailingly gracious and kind, and friendly. 

There have been many examples but another one came just last week in her first round match against 16-year-old Victoria Duval. When the cameras cut into the tunnel for the Pre-match interview, the two were standing together conversing as if they were old friends. Now, this may not seem that odd, but if you watch a lot of tennis you know that most players retreat to their corners and focus solely on their game in preparation. Not a thing wrong with that, and you can argue that her retirement may have taken some pressure off, but still this was it for her and you know she wanted to make as deep a run as possible.

After the match, when the commentators asked Victoria what they were talking about, she said that Kim was giving her advice on how to handle such a big moment and sharing her own experiences. Wow! Incidentally, Kim won the match handily, but after a shaky start Victoria played well and I think acquitted herself nicely in her first appearance on such a big stage. (Keep an eye on her, I hope to hear a lot more from Duval as part of a whole crop of very promising young Americans). 

And it gets better. The ESPN crew interviewed Victoria after the match. When asked about the experience she of course said it was incredible and one she will never forget - I've never seen someone smile so big after a loss. She said that after the match, Kim (who hugged her at the net, by the way) asked her if she could have a picture for her memories. Victoria's response was classic "YOUR memories!?! Can I have one for MY memories?"

So classy and again, just so NICE! I truly hope that the young players coming along will look up to Kim, not only for her example on court, but for how a true champion ought to behave. 

Just one more story about Kim. I was fortunate to attend two days of the US Open last weekend and I had the privilege of watching her last two professional matches - both mixed doubles with Bob Bryan (of the Bryan brothers). I can honestly say I have never seen so much smiling and such a great spirit on a tennis court - it was so much fun to watch. Here's a shot of Kim and Bob, yes, doing the chest bump after their first round win. 

And the other of their interview after they lost in the second...still smiling, and why not, what a wonderful career!

It is appropriate that the 3 time US Open champion end here. And as much as some of us love tennis, and sport in general, Kim reminds us ever so gracefully and cheerfully that there is more to life. I for one wish her the best in the next chapter...and I know I'm not alone.

Andy Roddick is a different sort of character, but he has also left an indelible mark on the sport. While many might say that he never lived up to his full potential, there is no question of his influence, especially on American men's tennis. 

His (sometimes biting) wit and sarcasm often made me snicker, and I have to say despite many dissappointments, he never stopped working and fighting. People say it is too bad that he played in the era he did when the 3 at the top had such a stranglehold, but despite that fact, his impact on the game was bigger than his one major (2003 US Open). Certainly in the US, he has been a friend and mentor to up and coming US players, a stalwart of the US Davis cup team, and one of the top men in tennis for a decade. I remember hearing John Isner - after his epic 70-68 in the fifth win at Wimbledon a few years ago - talk about how as soon as he got back to his hotel, Andy was there with food and drink to try to keep him going. Andy had his own matches to prepare for, but he took time out to look after his teammate.

He may have only won one slam, but he was in the top 10 continuously for 9 years, with 825 ATP tour wins and 32 titles - that kind of consistency in a tough, demanding sport deserves recognition. And I'm sure he'll get it - many think he's a first ballot hall-of-famer when his turn comes up in 5 years. I would love to have seen him win more, but regardless I for one will miss his funny wind-up serve, miss cheering for another 140 mile bomber on the serve, and miss his witty reparte with the commentators and the press. I wonder if they would dare put him in the commentator's box? Hmm?

And appropriate that he end here as well, at the site of his greatest triumph and so many memorable moments. Best of luck, Andy.

I can't leave that topic, however without commenting on the class and grace of the opponent who sent Andy Roddick into retirement - Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro. DelPo has always seemed like a really nice guy, but he showed uncommon class that night last week. When he was recognized after the win, instead of taking his bows with the crowd, he instead turned and acknowledged Andy. And when they tried to interview him, he said it was Andy's night and he should talk - and then sat down to let Andy have his final moment with the NY crowd. I've always liked the lanky Argentine, but he made a real fan that night - not against Fed, of course :), but I'd like to see him do well. Ironically DelPo has now sent two champions into retirement - Roddick and Marat Safin, at the 2009 BNP Paribas Masters Tournament.

And finally, yes - the drought is over! After 76 years, the Brits once again have a grand slam champion! Hats off to Andy Murray! I'm guessing Henman Hill is officially now Murray's Mount. :)

Shot of Andy Murray warming up with coach, Ivan Lendl before his match against Feliciano Lopez last weekend.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Escape the city and Pick Blackberries!

Friends heading out into the
Blackberry Patch
I love living in the city, but I also love the occasional escape.

What better way than escaping to the country to pick my own fresh produce? Today it was blackberries and peaches. Thanks to my friend Kathleen for organizing.

It's one of the things that I love most about living in the DC area - you can drive 45 minutes and be on a farm in the country. Homestead Farms in Maryland this time - I highly recommend it. You can pick your own produce in season, or buy from local farmers. Actually it was funny, I caught my friend eating some blackberries straight from the box when we got to the car. Astounded, I said "they haven't been washed!" She reminded me that these farmers don't use any pesticides. Ah, how nice. I actually snatched one myself a little later - gasp, unwashed - and it was delicious!
Look at all of that fresh produce!

Of course they also have a wonderful selection of jams, preserves and PUMPKIN BUTTER! Woohoo! Can't wait to try that one!

And for those of you who remember the old dime store assortment of peppermint and other striped hard candy sticks - they have those too!

All of this in a beautiful setting. If you're local, get out there if you can! If not, find a local grower in your area and take a delicious break from the city bustle.

Monday, July 9, 2012

#1 AGAIN!!!!

So not to belabor the subject, but this is just so exciting.

Although he never left the top spot in the hearts of his fans, now it's official again...for the 286th week in his career...Roger Federer is #1 again!!! Yes, tying the great Pete Sampras for yet another record.

As one of my favorite signs from yesterday's Wimbledon final said, it's the "Return of the King!"

It's just such a beautiful thing, I had to post:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Finesse is not dead!

The quality in men’s tennis today is undeniable – especially at the top. And even though the top 3 have now captured 29 of the last 30 majors, you can argue that they have pushed the rest of the field to raise its level. It has been invigorating and entertaining to watch.

That said, many of us have mourned the seeming passing of the age of finesse for the age of power. The serve and volley has largely fallen out of fashion in favor of the baseline bludgeoning. In fact, one of my friends commented today as we watched the Wimbledon final that the worn spot on the court is purely at the baseline now – while in years past the venerable grass court wore down in a t-shaped path that also marked repeated approaches to the net – no more.

Federer's backhand in "full flight"
- a thing of beauty!
Well – not so fast! Today’s Wimbledon final was a much-welcome return to what many of us miss as a more varied and interesting game. There were long rallies, for sure – but today featured more guile, disguise and cunning than pure displays of power. 

Don’t get me wrong, both Murray and Federer are powerful competitors - check out the 20 minute (10 deuce) game at 2-3 in the third if you doubt. But today the power came from the misdirection, from holding the ball just a fraction of a second longer on the racket to outsmart the opponent, from foot-speed and pin-point accuracy. Tennis is a game of inches, and never more than today.

And of course, as much as I respect Murray and hope he does get a major someday, I was thrilled with the outcome. As a die-hard Federer fan for so many years, I just don’t think there is anything more beautiful on a tennis court than Roger Federer free-flowing and in full flight. It was a vintage performance on a venerable stage – and one I will long remember as one of my hero’s best, even at the “ripe old age” of 30 (exactly one month shy of 31!).

Federer's twin girls with Mom and
Grandma - cheering daddy on!
Hats off to one of the greatest ever – and if you watched today you know he’s far from done! Roger Federer: 7th Wimbledon title (ties Sampras for all-time record), 17th major title (extends his record for most in the open era), and here’s the one that no one (I admit even I) never expected – a return to the #1 ranking which will tie him with Pete Sampras for all time number of weeks ranked #1 at 286! Yet another amazing achievement in an amazing career – and one that he was determined to reach against the odds. 30 is definitely the new 20 when this guy is around - count Roger out at your peril!

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention yesterday’s women’s and doubles finals. Although Serena did win the Women’s championship (and the women’s doubles with sister Venus for that matter) with what is more typical of today’s “power game,” Aga Radwanska of Poland did put up more of a fight – with the same type of cunning and guile – than anyone thought she could have. Next time I wouldn’t count her out!

Doubles team of Britain's Jonathan Marray
and Denmark's Frederik Nielsen accepting
the Gentleman's Doubles trophy on Saturday
And as disappointed as the Brits are over Murray’s near miss, they did actually end the 76-year drought since having a Gentleman’s champion at Wimbledon. Talk about against all odds, the men’s doubles team of Jonathan Marray (Great Britain) and Frederik Nielsen (Denmark) needed a Wildcard to even get into the tournament. But apparently the improbability didn’t concern them much as they took out higher-ranked teams right and left (including the US’s Bryan brothers) en route to their first major title as a doubles team. Not bad for a first time out! Brits – don’t forget you did have a monumental win!

I’m just excited that we get to come back to this hallowed tennis ground for the Olympics in a few weeks. Let’s hope for more artistry on Centre Court! As for the rest of the season, I realize it may be more of a tall order on the hard courts to come, but…More finesse, please!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


So if you haven’t been following Wimbledon, today was one of those days that makes you go, “Huh?”

Now, the women’s top 10 (save the top 3) has been decimated all week, but no one expected a top man to go out – but sometimes, the unexpected happens. Let me set the stage:

Rafael Nadal
  • 11 time Grand Slam Champion
  • 2 time Wimbledon Champion
  • Rank: #2 in the world
  • Undoubtedly in the conversation for greatest tennis player of all time (as much as I hate to say it as a devoted Roger fan, this is a fact)
  • Last win – 7th French Open Championship – all-time record

- his opponent – 

Lukas Rosal
  • 26 year-old Czech (I have to tell you this because who would know? Everyone knows Rafa’s progeny)
  • Rank: #100 in the world
  • Career singles titles – 0
  • Career Wimbledon main draw appearances – 0
  • Turns out, he’s never even won a SET in QUALIFYING! At Wimbledon

So, I don’t know, who would your money be on? Yeah, mine too – and we would be WRONG!!!

I’ve been traveling all week so I’ve been following but not actually getting to watch much, but I got home tonight and turned on Wimbledon Primetime - of course they were showing THE match of the day, so I get to see the last 2 sets. 

And I have to say, he flat out-played Rafa from what I saw. He was hitting 90+ mph winners off Rafa's serve - consistently.

And nerves of the moment? I don't think so - he closed it out on serve and won 3/4 points in that last game with ACES! (22 on the match) The guy must have ice water in his veins!

So I obviously didn't see the whole thing and they said that Nadal didn't play well in the first 3. But Martina Navratilova also said that during that 5th set, he could have beaten anyone - 20 winners to 2 unforced errors! 

Apparently Rosal had never SEEN Center Court before! He came out a few hours early just to see it before he had to take the court against a legend. He said he just wanted to play 3 good sets! Ha!

Wow, wow, wow!!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Australian Pinot Noir! Yes!!!

So I just had to share. I was flipping through old Food & Wine magazines tonight looking for inspiration for a picnic tomorrow when I came across this old article in the August 2010 issue...


Photo taken on my visit to Mornington - don't
you just want to while away an afternoon here?
This is about the Mornington Peninsula just south of Melbourne, Australia. I was there in January and actually tasted wine at "10 Minutes by Tractor" - one of the wineries they profile in this article! This one was a particular favorite - for one, it's got to be the coolest name of a winery ever. Second, their Pinot Noir (called 10x) was excellent. And third, the entire region was beautiful - rolling hills, covered in grape vines, dotted with gourmet winery restaurants - and what more could you ask for?

Anyway, I was so excited to see it again I just had to share.

Also, I hear they are starting to import wines from this region to the US - so watch for them. They are known for Pinot grapes - so either Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio.