One of the oft-repeated laments of those observing the ATP’s golden age is that it lacks the intensity of the McEnroe-Connors era. It’s true – the quartet that has led the men’s game over the past decade is known as much for their niceness as for their shotmaking. The primary rivalry in the game over the past decade has been between two guys who spent 15 minutes giggling next to each other, and the closest thing to fireworks at the top of the game is when someone knocks over Rafa’s water bottles.
Anyone who is tired of the smiles, stomach pats, and good natured ribbing of the ATP tour need only take in a few WTA matches to find the intensity they’re missing. This isn’t about the played up, stereotypical “catfights” that have come out of the media coverage of the sport. Rather, it is the ferocity of competitors who are less concerned with popularity than with victory.
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Attending the Rogers Cup in person for the first time, it was interesting to see tennis on its relative front lines. As a transplanted New Yorker, I am fortunate enough to be a subway ride away from the U.S. Open, whose rhythms and geography are now second nature. (Tips: have Chinese food in Flushing rather than eating at the grounds, buy your souvenirs as early as possible – the good stuff sells out.)
As with many things in New York, the U.S. Open is attended by many New Yorkers so accustomed to witnessing the extraordinary and expecting it to occur in their city that it’s not uncommon to see them texting while sitting in their thousand-dollar court-side seats rather than watching the goings-on below, a scene is repeated at many ultra-elite sporting events, including the Slams, whose court-side attendees include, well, the ultra-elite, whether or not they are tennis fans, per se.
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Mention Stevie Nicks and the image of a waifish, witchy singer twirling on stage is sure to come to mind. However, beyond the crepe shawls, Nicks has always been a distinctive songwriter, whose songs display a weathered wisdom and a unique sense of melody that have made her an enduring favorite. That isn’t to say that Nicks is a perfect songwriter. At times, her repeated invocation of dreams, chains, angels, and her other personal talismans can be too self-referential. Similarly, some of her songs can be so specifically autobiographical that it is hard for the listener to identify with the larger themes that shine through in her best work.
That said, there is no doubt that Nicks made good use of her tumultuous 20s and 30s. For her upcoming album, 24 Karat Gold, Nicks has mined her considerable archives to officially record some of the leaked demo tapes that have been circulating among her fans for over 20 years. The first single from 24 Karat Gold is “The Dealer,” a song that appeared first as a demo from the 1978 Fleetwood Mac Tusk Sessions, but was subsequently re-recorded for possible inclusion on her first solo album, Bella Donna, but didn’t make the final cut either time.
“Ugh, can you change the station? It’s Bon Jovi.”
So began my pilgrimage to see the induction of Andre Reed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Flanked by my Bills’ game cohort of friends and fellow fans, I was ready to spend the weekend reliving the glory days when the Buffalo Bills reached four consecutive Super Bowls from 1991 to 1994. More than 20 years after the last of four straight Super Bowl defeats, the heartache, the post-game tears, the awkward endings to four straight Super Bowl parties (where guests were convinced that the host was perhaps the jinx), most Buffalo Bills fans would be thrilled to lose a fifth Super Bowl. The past 20 years have been difficult — after the last Super Bowl run, the team started to peter out, with the staggered retirements and trades of the stars of the glory days, culminating in a 14 year absence from the playoffs — the longest active playoff drought in the NFL.
Just as the Bills’ fortunes waned over the past twenty years, the city of Buffalo has seen steady growth. Recent years have brought significant urban revitilization projects to the long-neglected waterfront, and an influx of young people to the trendy downtown lofts springing up in industrial buildings that had been abandoned for decades. The Canalside development has helped Buffalo reclaim its one-time meal ticket — the Erie Canal, and the emergence of food trucks and numerous articles about Buffalo’s revitalization showed that Buffalo was, indeed looking good (and maybe even talking proud).
But, for many sports-loving Buffalonians, the true crowning achievement of Buffalo’s comeback would be a Super Bowl win, or, at least, a playoff appearance to start. But, most agree that Jon Bon Jovi is determined to take away Buffalo’s dearest possession — its Buffalo Bills. Needless to say, Bon Jovi’s alliance with a Toronto-based group of businessmen to bid for the Buffalo Bills has not sat well with the blue collar fans who identified with his songs. For months, Jon Bon Jovi has become a persona non grata in Western New York, with local radio stations banning Bon Jovi songs, and a spike in sales of anti-Bon Jovi shirts.