Tennis with the Ultimate Fan: by Kellie MacDonald
Andrew likes sports. All sports. Any sports. And as I live in the bellybutton of LA’s sports body (exactly between Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center), I have been invited to and attended a large number of sporting events with Andrew. One such event, which almost became my last, was a tennis match. I’m sure Andrew can tell you the name, date, and exact weather, but all that matters is that Maria Sharapova was playing.
If you don’t follow ladies tennis or you don’t frequent the men’s websites that rank the hotness of female celebrities, Maria Sharapova is a pretty Russian who at the time, was barely legal and ranked #1 in the world. This tennis match was part of a tournament that pitted 8 of the top 10 players in a battle royale for a $1,000,000 top prize. Scott, my husband, and Andrew were looking forward to the hypnotic motions of Maria’s skirt and I was excited to see an earlier match featuring Lindsay Davenport, a super-talented American player whose commercial success has been hindered because she looks like most of the girls living on Chicago’s South Side. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you’re looking to sell Tag Hauer watches or Cannon Cameras, it’s a lot better if your spokesperson looks like a mail-order bride than a tall girl with a potato-shaped head.
Back to tennis. It was a long night of tennis. The type of night that makes you fearful of 3-set games and curse that it was a “school night.” Lindsay’s match had already been of epic length and by the time Maria took the court against whomever she was playing that night (maybe then #8 Amelie Mauresmo,) the clock had struck 11. Most of the families were shuffling to the exits, carrying children sleeping soundlessly and soundly on permanently tanned shoulders, children whose peaceful sleep was filled not with concerns over money, or world peace, or traffic, or crime, but of wonderful Tennistown, where every shots lands in. Good night sweet princes and princesses; parting is no sorrow at all.
We bought the cheap seats so teetered high above the tennis die-hards who weren’t going to miss a minute of tennis. No!-- They in their white pressed linen pants, with jauntily tied sweaters around their shoulders. No!-- They with the oversized novelty tennis ball suitable for autographs. No!-- They who had bragged at “the club” about prime seats purchased months beforehand. They wouldn’t miss a shot and neither would Andrew.
So it’s us and the tennis freaks. And if you’ve ever played tennis, or watched tennis, or pre-conceived a notion of the sport, you know tennis is a proper sport. Sure, it’s a sport with its rebels, Andre Agassi and the Williams sisters, but in general it’s a sport for the genteel, along the lines of golf, fencing, and fox hunts. So it’s quiet. Deathly quiet. The quiet is interrupted intermittently by polite applause and then the quiet’s fog returns, smothering all it touches. I almost expect to hear a British-accented cheer of “Bravo!” after a particularly splendid play. Although splendid plays are few and far between and Maria’s “A” game has obviously taken a glance at the clock and had decided to make it an early night. This was the type of tennis that makes me look at my own tennis career which consisted of 5 lessons, and think, “I could beat her.” And on that night, I probably could have. Bobby Riggs had a chance.
I look at Andrew and I can almost read his thoughts, “It’s TOO quiet.” And if three people can lock eyes simultaneously, Scott, Andrew, and I, did. After the next point, where Maria muffed another easy shot, another in a chain of easy shots that should have put this match to bed hours ago, the loudest bellow in the history of bellows fills the Staples Center, “CONCENTRATE MARIA!!!” I can’t believe it, and if my left ear wasn’t ringing, I wouldn’t have believed that the bellow had come from the man on my left. Andrew. The 200 pairs of eyes bleary from an endless stream of following a small yellow ball back-and-forth scan the sparse crowd for the bellower. “Andrew,” I hiss, “Shut Up!” Andrew only smiles. Scott laughs.
A few points later, Ms. Sharapova barely raises her arm and an easy point is scored by her competitor. “DISSAPOINTING!!!” is the bellow. The referee, or whatever they’re called as they sit on their elevated lifeguard chair in silent majesty speaks low into her microphone. “Quiet please. Thank you.” Biggest…tennis…insult…ever. “Thank You.” When you know what she’s really thinking: a phrase that ends in “you,” but the first word is similar to “thank” only because they both end in a “k.”
Now the crowd has triangulated the disruption and freshly manicured hands point in our direction. Hands point at three offenders sitting far from the expensive seats and expensive lifestyles of the tennis elite. I imagine mothers shielding their children’s eyes from our commonness. Andrew giggles with glee. They are looking at him, but I think they are looking at me. Me. The one sitting next to The Bellower. I can hear their tongues clicking. I am insolent. Don’t they know who I am sitting with? The Ultimate Sports Fan. Haven’t they checked out his website? Don’t they know I am NOT the Ultimate Sports Fan’s wife? I have no control over this man, but just to be sure, my eyes shoot lasers into Andrew, “SHUT UP!” Scott is still laughing, and I turn to him and my laser gaze burns into him. I telepathically send the message “You will not contribute to this fiasco or you will never touch my naked body again!” into Scott’s brain. But he is busy creating other things for Andrew to bellow.
“Hey Andrew, the next time they say “deuce,” you should yell “McAllister!”
“Yeah!!!!” whispers Andrew.
“You will NOT,” I hiss. And I look to Scott. “You are not helping.” But secretly, I am thinking that “Bigelow” would be much funnier to yell.
Deuce. One of the words in the tennis lexicon that adds to its elitist feel. I wonder if the Williams sisters feel as stupid as I do whenever I say “Deuce” and what I really want to say is, “it’s a tie.” Why do I have to change who I am for tennis? Love-Love? Why bother? Because I don’t heart tennis, to me it means Zero.
And suddenly, I don’t care. I don’t care if Andrew yells a hundred times more. I don’t care if those closest to the action finally realize where the real action of the match is. It’s up here. The cheap seats, the Bob Uecker seats, immortalized in old-school Miller Lite commercials about real sports fans and really crappy seats. Where the love of the sport is larger than the bank account. Because we can get close to the action too, by becoming the action.
Deuce. Another terrible shot by Maria and the announcer makes her call. “Deuce.” “MCALLISTER!!!”” Yells Andrew with so much jubilation that his outburst can only be described as ejaculatory. McAllister indeed. The close-court sitters scratch their heads. What does this mean, McAllister? Is it some kind of protest? The Bellower’s name? I see a cameraman’s shoulders shake in silent laughter. Who else would know about a football player at a tennis match? A cameraman? Of course, Andrew’s antics have to be televised. I can only imagine what the announcers are saying in their protected bubble of a broadcasting booth,
“Uh, Jimmy Connors, it seems we have a heckler on our hands.”
Cue a shot of the camera searching the stands for the heckler and snap zoom to an extreme close-up of Andrew laughing. Now pull back to reveal me, with my hands up in mock resignation.
“Andrew…” I coolly, oh so coolly, start. “This…will…be…the…LAST…sporting event…I ever attend…without…Nicole.” The tremble in my voice sounds like suppressed rage, but really, it’s laughter. I’d like to thank the Academy…
Andrew looks hurt. “What? Really?”
Scott and Andrew immediately stop plotting more things to yell and work on Kellie damage control. I have distracted them just enough so that “Let’s yell more” doesn’t become “ Let’s get kicked out.” Because although I’m sure it would have made for a better story, it would have been too embarrassing to be kicked out of a tennis match. To be pulled by the nape and fanny by some large man who doesn’t care about tennis and only works at the Staples Center so he can watch basketball and maybe the Grammys. To hear the “It’s about time” clap of high maintenance bitches (female and male) at our cruel, cruel ouster. It would all be too much to bear, and I would swear and I would struggle and I would get arrested and I am too pretty to go to jail. So I end it for once and for all.
I play the silent game which, as Scott knows, means I’m pissed. I will not speak when spoken to. I will pretend to shake with fury which is really me tapping my foot until the match is over. And then it is. And we stand up. And the clock says it is morning. And I half-expect that outside it will be light, even though I know it is not morning, it is the middle of the night. And the victor of the match is being interviewed by a tired looking courtside TV reporter. And I notice that her mic flag says ESPN2. The Deuce. How fitting.
I have yet to attend another sporting event with Andrew, not because of my verbal embargo, but because my sports watching motto is not “Any game, Anywhere,” but rather “Some games, Sometimes.” I promise that the next sporting event I attend with Andrew will include lots of yelling. Perhaps the X Games. Gnarly.
Games Attended with Kellie MacDonald
02-24-2001 Hitmen at Enforcers
03-04-2001 Outlaws at Enforcers
03-30-2002 Blue Jackets at Sharks
12-08-2004 Mexico at USA
06-15-2005 Comets at Sparks
07-12-2005 Sting at Sparks
07-30-2005 Cardinals at Dodgers
09-04-2005 Sony 500
11-08-2005 WTA Tour Championship
04-29-2006 Sabercats at Avengers