Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tennis Needs Yakov Smirnoff to Save the Sport

An Open Letter to Yakov Smirnoff:

Dear Mr. Smirnoff,

You probably didn’t notice my plea in a previous article, begging you to attend the Springfield Lasers’ wildcard match against the Newport Beach Breakers. And you probably didn’t notice the disappointment expressed in a subsequent piece when you didn’t go to the match. That’s ok. You can make up for it now and next season. I need you to save tennis. Tennis needs you to save tennis. We all need you to save tennis.

The popularity of the sport is waning. There are fewer big names and it receives less and less attention from center media. It is in danger of becoming an elitist fringe sport, the worst kind of fringe sport. Fringe sports should be populist so that the fan base can be inclusive as well as passionate. It’s important to the wellbeing of the fan community.

Tennis, though, if it sinks beneath the SportsCenter/Sports Illustrated radar, will have none of that. It will have a high entrance fee and few opportunities to grow. We could some day look at tennis the way we look at crocket – pretty ridiculous and rich people like it. Tennis deserves better than that. The last thing we need is a generation of sports fans pointing at tennis players and exclaiming (possibly in a thick Russian accent) “What a country club sport! HAHAHAHA!”

This is where you come in. World Team Tennis has the potential to be hugely popular in this country and the world. It combines team sports elements with the individual matchups that make tennis narratives so compelling. But World Team Tennis has a hard time marketing itself. I don’t know why, but after 26 years of continual existence it has yet to make an impact in the US. And there’s a team down the road from your adopted hometown of Branson, Missouri.

Become a season ticket holder for the Springfield Lasers. Be vocal about your support of the team. Go to all their games, be front and center court. I guarantee TV cameras will find you and the WTT. Local news stations across the country will pick up on the fact that Yakov Smirnoff has adopted a team in this quirky league and will start to explore why he likes it so much. Sure there will be the inevitable lines like “In America, TV cameras film stars watching tennis matches. In Soviet Russia, TV cameras film everyone getting interrogated by KGB. HAHAHAHA!” But they’ll ask you about the league, and you can spread the good word about tennis. You can be its ambassador.

As your paintings demonstrate, you have thoroughly embraced America and Americana. Your Branson show and theater are testaments to that. But take the next step – become a ridiculously dedicated American sports fan… even better – a ridiculously dedicated celebrity American sports fan. Like Jack Nicholson to the Lakers and Ashley Judd to the University of Kentucky, be the celebrity fan to the Lasers. Save the world, Mr. Smirnoff. Save tennis. I am available to consult on this important project.

Fondest wishes,
John Weaver
Fringe Sports Central


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2:33 PM  

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