Tennis For Dummy: 4 Things a Tennis-Idiot Learned at the U.S. Open


A little while ago, my good buddy Jeff brought me to the opening game of the U.S. Open. The U.S. Open is a big deal in sports, and it’s been in my backyard for as long as I remember but I’ve never been. Since his arm blew up, I’m trying to explore the non-contact sports.

These are a number of reflections for the night.

1. Women
I’ve never been to a sporting event that wasn’t dominated by middle class white men from 25-60. It was interesting to stand in line with women. Women! I don’t know if they’re the minority or majority, but that’s the point, isn’t it? There was parity amongst the genders.


Tennis is also one of the only sports I can think of where the women’s version of the sport rivals the popularity of the men’s side. I think ‘Regular Joe’ on the street can name a similar number of men’s and women’s players. I doubt that is true of any other sport.

2. Attire
People had some USTA or U.S. Open swag, but rarely anything specific to players. No jerseys. This was weird.

3. Knowledge
It was fun to be in a crowd that knew the game well. I’ve been in football crowds with people who have known their stuff, but I’ve been at Giants games where the home crowd is whooping it up while Eli is getting ready to take the snap. These U.S. Open fans knew every impressive and difficult play, and cheered well to honor them.

4. Focus
There was a lot that I learned about the sport of Tennis, but one of the things I appreciated most about it was how much of a mental game it is. Every single serve, you have to be completely honed into, because it comes in the blink of an eye. If your mind wanders for a moment, you’re late to the ball and digging a hole for yourself. Focus is paramount, and these people sustain it for hours.

All in all,
I like tennis. As a goofy critic of sports and sporting events, it was nice to go enjoy one that is perfect live. The pacing and speed of the game was great. The games aren’t too long. Every seat in the house had a pristine view. No complaints.

3 Sports That Need Me To Fix Them

In the vein of Grantland’s Half-Baked Ideas, I have a few proposals for fixing some of the issues in sports. Keep in mind, these are cockamamie ideas that have no appreciation for reality or respect for these games. I have no right to criticize or act like I can fix things, but this is the internet and unwarranted, unrequested, unqualified criticism is what the internet is for.

Sport: Soccer a.k.a. “the beautiful game” a.k.a. futbol a.k.a. the other football
Problem: Low-Scoring
In addition to being low-scoring, a chief complaint about soccer is that it lacks variation throughout the game. It’s 90 minutes of guys on the pitch trying to make something happen. This year, watching the World Cup, I gained an appreciation for the nuances, the tension of a team who keeps the pressure on, the thrill of the buildup to a shot on goal, but with if you’re in a bar watching a soccer game, there aren’t too many reasons to stop a conversation and tune in to watch. Unless it’s a corner, or free kick it’s easy to miss a goal if you’re not glued to the TV set.

Solution: Power Play
Whenever a player receives a yellow-card, they also have to sit out for a 5 minutes without replacement. Exactly like hockey, the team being penalized now plays short-handed for the next five minutes, fighting an uphill battle to survive. This opens up opportunities for scoring, as well as bringing a highlight to what otherwise might be a match without hills or valleys. This past World Cup, there was an average of 2.92 yellow cards given per game, so the Power Plays wouldn’t be too common an occurrence.

Sport: WNBA a.k.a. Lady NBA a.k.a. “who watches that?” (I watch that)

Problem: It’s the Lady Version of the NBA
The problem with the WNBA is that it is just another version of the NBA. There are similar rules and the same game, but it is proportionally less athletic and flashy. While the WNBA is home to a lot of great stars (call me Maya, call me Shoni), there are very few in-game dunks and the other exciting plays. There is a lot of fundamentally sound basketball, but the WNBA lacks the thrilling moments that make basketball the sport of choice for the Twitter Generation.

Solution: Sudden Death Overtime
Every overtime is Sudden Death. As in, next point wins. There is no way that this isn’t an awesome idea. Sudden death produces some of the most exciting sport you can ask for. (see: 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Atlanta Hawks vs. D. League Select). Every sudden death jumper or lay-up will automatically make it’s way onto the SportsCenter Top 10. Seimone Augustus will become known as “Sue-Ellen Death” when she holds the record for most overtime game winners. Kirk Goldsberry will have to create new graphics to show where games are won. This idea rocks.

Baseball a.k.a. America’s Pastime a.k.a. Your Grandpa’s NBA

Problem: It’s Boring
If you’ve ever watched a baseball game, you’re probably 60 years old you probably learned a few things. First, they’re long. The average length of a baseball game has increased in the past half-decade from 3 hours to 3.5 hours. Second, they’re uneventful. Don’t get me wrong, a Clayton Kershaw fastball is a sight to behold, but since the end (not really) of the steroid era, it’s a pitcher’s league and what that means is low scoring, low hitting, low energy games.

Solution: Couches
I was doing a lot of research on how to fix baseball, but with every idea, you run into an inevitable roadblack: tradition. Baseball is build on tradition, and you know what? I like it. I don’t want to introduce rules to force pitcher’s to pitch quickly. I don’t want to limit innings, bring the back walls in or expand the batter’s box. Replay doesn’t take up as much time as you think. So let’s roll with the punches, man. I say introduce better seating in MLB stadiums. For this 2014 season, only 3 teams (San Francisco, St. Louis, Boston) sold more than 90% of their seats on average. I say, if we’re going to have long games, low attendance by old people, and low energy, let’s expand the seats. Let’s put in bigger seats, couches, La-Z-Boy recliners and do it like the Jaguars are doing, embrace mediocrity in style. If people are going to be sitting around for hours, let’s keep them warm and comfortable.  

Next Week:
I’m going to post about my experience at my first U.S. Open game. Stay tuned and don’t forget to check out Haikummute and Seminaroot!

7 More Guys At The Park You Love To Play With

This week my buddy Jeff went down with an arm injury. This post is in honor of him. He’s the best teammate a guy can ask for, on and off the court. All of these characteristics describe his effort and skill on the court. Send him some love and prayers.

1. Hustler (Rondo on floor)
Rondo Dive
The Hustler has that perpetual motor. He lays himself out for loose balls, covers all of the team with help defense, is relentlessly active with screens, cuts, rebounds and the whole lot. What else is there to say, the dude hustles.

2. Magnetic Hands
magnet missle megaman power megaman 3 NES capcom artwork
As I play more pick-up basketball, I realize how important it is to pick up the guy with the magnetic hands — the guy who grabs all of the rebounds. For a lazy shooter like myself, I can appreciate how a rebounder gives me extra shot attempts on every possession and takes them away from the other team.

3. Cutter
Not Mo, actually. But you gotta love the guy who doesn’t hang out on the perimeter waiting for the ball. The Cutter makes moves towards the basket and makes everyone else look like Ricky Rubio. He can move without the ball and that’s awesome because I like having the ball.

4. Eyes Behind His Head
Some guys just know where you are all the time. Sometimes it’s a tipped outlet rebound, Tyson Chandler-style to you waiting on the free throw line for an open shot. Sometimes it’s a quick shovel pass out of a double team that he shouldn’t have been able to see. Either way, this guy has a knack for finding you at your spot.

5. Einstein
images (1)
It’s always a good idea to pick up the smartest guy in the park. A high basketball I.Q. means that you get a guy who is always setting screens, cutting to the basket and being disruptive on defense. He takes the right shots and makes the right passes. He spaces the floor where you need it and fills in the gaps.

6. The Monk

The team can’t all be made with egos, so it’s nice to have a skilled player on your team who isn’t going to take every shot. He isn’t cocky or arrogant, he’s just there to do work. He’ll knock down a couple of shots and instead of a heat-check, he’ll pass it to an open shooter. Humility without passivity makes for a good teammate.

7. Shutdown Corner
There’s always that dude on the other team that no one wants to guard. Maybe he’s a big man, a knock-down shooter or that skinny kid who runs like he’s on speed. Well, the shutdown corner guards him. Every time. He doesn’t mind taking the tough defensive assignments and your legs and ego thank him for it.

All these traits and more sum up the playing style of my buddy Jeff. I’m wishing you a speedy recovery and we’ll come back better (but safer) than ever next season.

NY & LA Pt.4 – The Venue

The Venue
If every city is a living breathing being, then every city finds it’s heart in it’s premier sports venue.

New York City – Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden’s esteem and greatness easily goes beyond New York and makes it one of the premier venues in the world. Ali fought Frazier there. Sinatra sang there. It’s the home of the Knicks, the Rangers, the Johnnies, the Big East Tournament and countless other world class events. When you can trace a venue’s history back to before the invention of television, not only has it stood the test of time, it has become an icon.

Best Moment: The Guarantee
Mark Messier promises to win the Stanley Cup despite the Rangers being down 2-3. Then, in a triumph that has made Messier a hockey god in New York, they do it. Best of all? They beat Jersey to do it.
Honorable Mention: Yankee Stadium

Los Angeles – Staples Center
Taking the Lakers from the Fabulous Forum, Staples Center has risen in recent years to be Los Angeles’ premier venue and somewhat interesting/not interesting night-life area. Home of the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, and Sparks, the Staples Center has made it’s way to become the center of L.A. sports. It’s history may not have been around long, but they have been winning. Despite being opened in 1999, Staples Center has been home to 4 NBA Championships and a Stanley Cup. Not too shabby for a youngblood. (Also, the Kings beat Jersey to win too)

Best Moment: The Alley-Oop
Despite the rumblings of the impending feud, Kobe and Shaq connect on a transcendent ally-oop that caps off a comeback to win the Western Conference Finals on route to their first championship together.
Honorable Mention: The Rose Bowl, The Coliseum

Madness Ensues: A Sunroot Guide to March In The NCAA

I’m a simple man. I don’t have all of the sabermetrics and fun stats for you. I don’t even know all of the teams playing this year. However, I’m the very guy you want advice from for your NCAA bracket. I’m not here to tell you who to pick. I’m here to tell you how to have a good time.

Here are Sunroot’s Simpleton DOs and DON’Ts

DO: Make a Bracket!
Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 1.11.36 AM
No one is above having a little fun in March with a bracket. Even if you’ve never done it before, even if you dont know the teams, fill it out. You can find it here.

DON’T: Read Too Much
The analyses can be maddening and the wealth of information will paralyze you. Make choices, be decisive, be bold.

DO: Bracket With Friends
You’re gonna need someone to gloat to or be gloated at. It’s a healthy gloating. One that fuels the competitive fire inside you that will help you have a stake in these games.

DON’T: Explain
You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you chose the teams you did. Maybe you like their names. Maybe you like their mascots. Maybe you know someone who once applied to Middle Tennessee and you hate their guts. Whatever the reason you have for choosing your team, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Tell them you closed your eyes and picked with this finger.

DO: Friendly Wager
It doesn’t have to be money. Maybe a chore or a meal. Having something on the line makes it more interesting for all parties. The key word is FRIENDLY.

DON’T: Judge
Nobody likes that guy by the water cooler who knows everything about all the teams and judges other peoples’ picks. THAT guy ruins this wonderful season. He is the grinch of March Madness.
Don’t be THAT guy. We all hate him.

DO: Follow Along
Half of the fun is having something to check on everyday. You want to know how your teams did and trust me, even if you didn’t care about the teams before, you will now. Here are some app’s to make it easy.

DON’T: Exclude Anyone
It might make you furious, but let those who don’t know anything about basketball to participate. They probably have a better chance to win than you.

Oscars Press Room
This will be her when she wins.

DON’T: Cheat
Make your bracket and keep it. Don’t make any adjustments or modifications to it after. You’ve made your bed, now lie in it. It’s called growing up. I’ve got Ohio St. and Michigan in the Finals. Bed’s don’t get scarier than that.

DO: Keep Score
The most common way of scoring is awarding points for wins based on rounds. For example
For picking winners in the 1st Round (64 Teams): 1 point each
For picking winners in the 2nd Round (32 Teams): 2 points each
For picking winners in the 3rd Round (Sweet Sixteen: 4 points each
For picking winners in the 4th Round (Elite Eight): 8 points each
For picking winners in the 5th Round (Final 4): 16 points each
For picking the winner of the 6th Round (Finals): 32 points each

DO: Get to Know Players
A lot of these kids have great stories and fantastic personalities. Get to know some of them and you might just find yourself hooked on college ball. It’s great to watch as your favorite college players become your favorite NBA players (see: John Wall – UK. Don’t See: Jimmer Freddette – BYU.)
This is Aaron Kraft. Don’t mind his rosy cheeks. He’s a veteran floor general and one of the best on-ball defenders in the country.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Mississippi vs Vanderbilt
This is Marshall Henderson. He’s got more than enough personality for the whole tournament.

DO: Root For Your Team
Don’t be ashamed to be a fan. Cheer and whoo and be part of the Madness that takes over our country for a few short weeks.

DO: Grieve on Facebook
Let it all out. You’re not too cool for mourning.

Ok. That’s it. Have Fun!

P.S. Enjoy the upsets.
P.P.S. Suck it Duke.

NY & LA Pt.3 – The Fans

The Fans

New York City – Meritocracy

The fans in the Big Apple ask for one thing: WIN. They don’t mind being the Evil Empire (see: Yankees) or the Underdog (see: Giants), as long as you get the job done. The old adage of “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” applies in to New York sports. If you can ball, you have the love of the masses. If you can’t, you can take the first flight out of JFK. Like New York weather, NY’s sports scene can be scorching one day and snowing the other. The fans are intensely passionate and fiercely loyal, but New York is also a cold, unforgiving place. Just ask Mark Sanchez and he will tell you the cold hard truth: that you’re only one butt-fumble away from being boo’ed in your home arena. Amare and Melo were once touted as New York’s white knights, the saving grace for a long-dead Knicks, and combined with Tyson Chandler, another Big Three. Now, whenever there’s an injury, there’s an endless barrage of  “Are the Knicks better without ____.” Except for Tyson Chandler—he’s great.

P.S. Remember when we loved A-Rod?

Los Angeles – Theocracy
If sports is a religion, for Angelino’s it’s not polytheistic. There is one god. And it is the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe is their Pope and Staples, their Sistine Chapel. Don’t get me wrong, LA loves their other teams, but the Kings won the Stanley Cup and all Los Angeles could talk about was what to do with Andrew Bynum. Clippers are making the best run in their franchise’s history but the Lakers fighting for 8th seed bumps them off the headlines. It’s not that Laker fans aren’t fickle and clamoring for revolution when the Lakers have their struggles (see: Mike Brown, soon-to-be Mike D’Antoni), it’s that they are single-minded in their love or hate of their Lakers. There are no cross-town rivalries. There is no subway series and except for the minority of die-hards and band-wagoners, Los Angeles is Laker-Nation.

P.S. What a wonderful pope he is.

The Knicks: A Conversation

Me: I’d be happy if they lost by 5 or 10.
Thomas: Does that mean they’re down?
Me: Only by four.

Thomas showers

Tom: What’s the score?
Me: Down by ten.
Thomas: What?!
Me: What did you expect? They’re playing the tenth seed in the west.
Thomas: …

Me: Let’s see, who can the Knicks beat?
Thomas: Hmm…
Me: The Cavs maybe. Minus Kyrie Irving.
Thomas: Only if Kyrie is out.


Thomas: The Wizards!
Me: Yes! The Wizards!


Me: The Sixers?
Thomas: I don’t know about that.
Me: Maybe if Jrue Holliday is having an off day.
Thomas: Sacramento?
Me: They just beat Chicago by forty points.
Thomas: Oh.


Booing ‘Melo: How ‘Melo Stacks Up Against The NBA’s Other Prodigal Sons

Today the Knicks went back to Denver and got utterly spanked by the Nuggets. Melo went out with knee problems and Tyson Chandler went down with a “knee contusion” that for me, felt like this:
Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 1.13.19 AM

The Knicks’ playoff chances will come or go with Chandler’s health. He’s the foundation of the team and I don’t care how good ‘Melo or Stat might be, the Knicks don’t win a playoff series without Tyson Chandler. They don’t win the Atlantic Division either. Anyway, in other news, ‘Melo returns to Denver!

To an expected amount of boos. Let me tell you how this is similar and different than other recent All-Star exoduses. So how does ‘Melo stack up?

3. The Melo-Drama
Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks

What The Nuggets got for Melo: Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, 2014 1st Round Pick
Nuggets Record With Melo: 38 – 28 (.567 pct)
Nuggets Record After Melo: 44 -22 (.667 pct)
Melo’s Return Game: DEN 117 – NY 94

‘Melo might have complained about being in Denver a lot, but he sure got them some important pieces to build around. Without his fat contract, the Nuggets have also been able to accquire some other stars like Andre Iguodala. Denver can be mad at ‘Melo for leaving them or dissing their town, but they can’t say that he screwed over the franchise. Especially now that it’s obvious that Denver is a better team now without him.

2. The Dwightmare
What The Magic got for Dwight: Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo and three future first-round picks.
Magic Record With Dwight : 37 – 29 (.561 pct)
Magic Record After Dwight: 18 – 47 (.277 pct)
Dwight’s Return Game: ORL 97 – LA 106

The Dwightmare seemed to drag on forever as the Magic locker-room was constantly bombarded with questions about Dwight’s future. Stan Van Gundy lost a job but Hedo Turkoglu kept his. Despite the criticism, Orlando got a fair amount of value in exchange for Dwight, including future picks that we’ve yet to see. On top of that, they dropped Jason Richardson’s ugly contract. However, the Magic are clearly at a disadvantage without the NBA’s best center and have fallen far from the perennial playoff contender they once were.

1. The Decision

What Cleveland got for Lebron: Two 1st-round draft picks, two 2nd-round picks, Trade Exception
Cavs Record With Lebron: 61 – 21 (.744 pct)
Cavs Record After Lebron: 19 – 63 (.232 pct)
Lebron’s Return Game: CLE 90 – MIA 118

Of course The Decision is number one. This departure left the NBA with the most visceral reaction, because not only were jerseys burned in Cleveland, Lebron was booed in arenas all across the league for at least a year after the decision. He left his hometown team in a one-hour special that will live in infamy. In his defense, Cleveland management really did fail to put a winning team around Lebron. His absence took the Cav’s from the best record in the NBA to the worst, including a history streak of sucking. I remember when the Cav’s were like, “oh. Here’s Antawn Jamison. That will make it ok, right? Right?” He had his reasons for leaving, and he did raise a million dollars for kids, and he does seem like a genuinely good person, and he does have the best chance of catching Michael, but I think I’ll boo him for the rest of my life. When he won his first ring, I remember joking that now Lebron can go back to Cleveland and win one without the pressure. Now it looks like it could have a chance.

BTW: The pick used to acquire Kyrie Irving wasn’t even from Lebron’s trade. It was the Clipper’s pick that they traded for Baron Davis.

Brains Over Brawns: Why The NFL Is The Smartest League Around

Today was the start of the NFL’s Free Agency and right off the bat, the League reminds you that it is quickly becoming the smart man’s game.

First off, some of the league’s best wide receivers made their way from good teams to amazing teams, in a sequence of events that should have you saying, “wait…what?”

1. Anquan Boldin
Boldin’s trade today was as much a surprise to us as it was to him. The star Ravens receiver helped the Baltimore lift the Lombardi trophy with 104 yards and a touchdown in their victory over the 49’ers. At 32, he’s not quite a young buck, but Boldin makes his living with smart plays a great football IQ, not necessarily with speed and athleticism.

His trade destination?
That’s right. The Raven’s just traded one of their star receiver’s to the team they just faced in the Super Bowl.

I know what you’re thinking. Well, if they traded him, the Ravens must have gotten deal they couldn’t refuse. Right? Well, let’s see. Pull back the curtain, let’s see what the Raven’s got for one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets?

Drumroll please…

That’s right! A 6th Round Draft Pick!

Wait, What?
Like “Q”, you’re probably asking what happened. What happened was that the Raven’s owed $6 million for 2013 and after failing to work out a different deal, the Ravens decided to trade Boldin in favor of just cutting him from the team.

It goes to show how an expensive defense and a fat QB contract for the Ravens can tie up the purse strings. Chalk it up to the 49er’s for having the great management in place to reserve cap space despite having the deepest roster in the NFl and collecting a veritable “gold mine” of draft picks.

2. Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin, unlike Anquan Boldin, is a true young stud. At 24, Harvin is a superstar receiver with ton’s of upside and has proven to be one of the best receivers in the league at gaining yards after catches. Adrian Peterson, (yes, THAT Adrian Peterson), calls Harvin the “best all-around player [he has] ever seen.” But no one is safe in the business of football, and Percy Harvin is packing his bags (not that he minds).

Where’s that, you ask?
Yup. Harvin is going to Seattle (not unlike the Sacramento Kings. Womp Womp). Percy Harvin goes from a team looming on the outskirts of the playoffs (Minnesota) to a team that looks poised to be a contender for years to come.

Wait, what?
Why would the Vikes trade away one of their best players to a team that is already dangerously close to winning it all? Well, there are 67 million reason why. Harvin’s new contract will bring him $67 million including over $25 million in guarantees. Quite a chunk of change for Seattle. On top of that, Seattle gives up a 1st round pick and a 7th round pick this year as well as a mid round pick next year. Not a bargain like Anquan Boldin, but Harvin’s career has barely started.

Seattle has put itself in this position by assembling a talented roster while avoiding big contracts. I mean, look at Russell Wilson. The kid is a poster child for under-rated talent.

Why This Makes The NFL Smart
It makes the NFL smart because more and more, people are realizing that under the current salary cap and CBA, the best managed teams are the winningest ones. Football is the embodiment of a team sport, and a sport where no one man can carry a team. That’s why it’s important to understand how to build a good, deep roster on a budget. The 49er’s are one of the best teams at it, and it’s paying off big time.

What This Means For The Future
It means Victor Cruz is going to be salsa’ing somewhere else unless he’s willing to take a pay cut. The Giants have too many holes to fill to pay Victor Cruz the top dollar he’s asking for (even though he’s earned it). Something will have to give. Sorry, ladies.

NY & LA Pt.2 – The Coach

The Coach
Coaches set the tone of a team and occasionally, when they are transcendant, the tone of a city.

NY – Joe Torre
This Yankees skipper took New York baseball (not you, Mets) from the dark ages into the age of the Dark Side. He built a team that people either see as a dynasty or an “Evil Empire.” Aside from countless accolades and championships, it’s his cool demeanor and his ability to bring together star personalities that he shares with LA’s iconic coach.

Honorable Mention: Tom Coughlin
Dishonorable Mention: Isiah Thomas

LA – Phil Jackson
The Zen Master has coached some of the greatest talents and best teams to ever play basketball, but if you ask anyone if another coach would have had the same success, they’d laugh at you. Phil has had the honor of coaching two of the best shooting guards to have ever played basketball, but he’s also handled the egos that come with them. Not to mention two of the strangest men in the NBA in Dennis Rodman and Metta World Peace. His eastern philosophies and ability to mellow out the most volatile of personalities typifies Los Angeles, and they love him for it.

Honorable Mention: John Wooden
Dishonorable Mention: Mike D’Antoni

Bonus: Phil Jackson on Kobe vs. Jordan