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This and
That
!
…World Open…Ted Walbutton … Cursing – which
language? … Palmer Page … more

Global Gallery, Nov
30, 2004

Martin Bronstein, writes this month from his
home in London.

© 2004 All rights
reserved.
JAmes Willstrop photo© 2004, Fritz Borchert


THE NOVEMBER – DECEMBER GALLERY

THE WORLD OPEN….REALLY OPEN
Since
I started writing on squash in 1979 the number one position has always
been dominated by one player. When I started it was the great Australian
Geoff Hunt. Then, in 1981 Jahangir took the crown and dominated for almost
ten years before Jansher stepped into keep it in the Khan family until
1997 when finally a Brit, Peter Nicol took over and , with the exception
of the few months that Jonathon Power occupied the top spot, ruled the
roost until last year. In the last twelve months by my count five players
have held the number one spot in the rankings: Nicol, David Palmer, John
White, Thierry Lincou and Lee Beachill. I can tell you without fear of
contradiction that has never happened in any twelve e month period since
1979.

As I write the
World Open is happening in Qatar and the usual question posed to me is
Who is going to win?. Having just come back from Toronto, where four players
were felled by injuries, I will forecast that the healthiest – not
the fittest, nor the best – but the healthiest player will win.
And who is that? Thierry Lincou.

WHY
PLAYERS SHOULD UTILISE THEIR NATIVE TONGUE WHEN CUSSING THE REF
The
only thing that could prevent Lincou getting the world champion tab is
his normally controlled temperament. In Toronto just when he seemed to
have Power trussed like a turkey, he argued a point with the ref,, blew
a minor fuse and lost the game, allowing Power to tie the match 2/2. In
Hong Kong he got penalized a point for an audible obscenity, an obscenity
that obviously took advantage of the earthiness of Anglo Saxon. Now why
would a tri-lingual Frenchman, (his mother is Chinese) swear in English?
He could accuse the referee of all types of obscene practices with pigs
in French and Chinese and as long as he said it with a smile on his face,
they would be none the wiser. Thierry, if you have three languages, use
them . (Caution: if the referee is Canadian, beware! They tend to be bilingual
and probably know more rude words in French than you do).

THE
POWER OF THE PRESS

The Toronto Classic
got more newspaper space this year than ever before. One of the reasons
is Toronto’s love affair with Jonathon Power. The other is that
the hockey players had gone on strike. Now you must know that ice hockey
is the religion of Canada in the same way that baseball is the religion
of the US and soccer is the religion of most of Europe. So for the players
to go on strike and rob the entire Canadian nation of their favourite
TV lprogram, Hockey Night in Canada, is dire indeed. But it is an ill
wind…. So the reporters and photographers from the Globe & Mail,
Toronto Star and National Post turned up regularly, the snappers getting
huge pictures in the sports pages….one photo took almost half a
page. There are no prizes in guessing who was front and center in every
photo.

The huge roar
that went up each night when Power was introduced was really quite fantastic.
Even though he narrowly lost the final 11-8 in the fifth to Lincou, Power
still came out a hero. One day, we shall all appreciate what Power has
done for Squash in North America.

NATALIE
RETURNS
I
was delighted when Natalie Grainger returned to the circuit a couple of
months back and reminded us all again what a sparkling, attacking player
she is. But I couldn’t help thinking back to the women’s world
team event in October, when the US finished 8th. When Grainger moved to
the US some years back there was every hope that by the time the 2004
world teams event came around, she would have been eligible to play for
the Yanks. She married an American, so that American citizenship ( US
rules require American citizenship for a player to represent the Stars
& Stripes) appeared to be imminent. However, she is now divorced from
her husband, which leaves her citizenship …..where?

If she does
get US citizenship before 2006, then she could lead a young and talented
team into an even better finish. Talk to me Natalie!

THE
MARKS OF RESPECT
The
gradual blossoming of US squash continues. Not at a rocketing pace, but
very slowly and surely. It will probably be a decade before the US produces
the equivalent of another Power. Latest development is a move to the West
coast by the great Mark Talbott. It takes guts to move from the East coast/Ivy
League stronghold to the sparseness of West coast squash, but Talbott
has taken that step after building the Yale women’s team up into
a winning force.

Mark will be
joining Englishmen Mark Allen. They will be down the coast from Seattle
where Yusef Khan pioneered softball squash and produced two fine squash
players in daughters Latasha and Shabana. Once that West coast/East coast
rivalry gets going, we can expect a fairly rapid rise in standards.

ARE
YOU OUT OF YOUR HEAD, TED?
In
a surprise announcement that almost knocked me off my chair, the PSA announced
that Ted Wallbutton, big cheese of the WSF who retires at the end of the
year, will be joining them as marketing man.

I thought Wallbutton, who worked in marketing for the
English SRA in the boom times of the eighties, and also the table tennis
association, had really had enough and was looking forward to golf, fishing,
sleeping and some gentle debauchery. (Not necessarily in that order).

Having spoken to almost every promoter, selling squash
is very hard and finding sponsorship takes a genius with a very thick
skin. I think you’re bonkers, Ted, but Good Luck.

[GRACE
NOTE
: When I heard the announcement, I must say I smiled
a little smile. Five years ago when Gawain Briars became the PSA chief
exec, one of the first conversations I had with him was at a dinner when
I advised him that the first thing he should do was to hire a marketing
man. Briars reply to me at that time was: “What exactly do you mean
by marketing?” Thankfully, I think he has found out.]

MY MISTAKE
In
my last Gallery I said that Canada has not had a world championships since
1979 – the Men’s world teams in Ottawa. Well Ted Walbutton
was quick to point out that the World Women’s Team Championship was played
in Vancouver in 1992. And then Graham Waters, the chief ref in Toronto,
told me that there were at least three others, including junior world
events. So, sorry Canada.

PALMER
PAGE PACKS IT IN

What the
hell is going on at the USSRA? Just when Palmer Page was in the middle
of bringing in some challenging marketing changes and new policies, he
leaves. He says he left to pursue other things, but the very strong rumours
are that he ruffled to many conservative feathers and he was fired. Naturally
nobody at the USSRA is uttering anything but the usual platitudes, but
can nobody tell us what really happened?

ELEVEN
LOOKS GOOD
Remember
all those gloom merchants who said the PSA move to reduce scoring to eleven
points would bring chaos and worthlessness to professional squash? That
matches would be over too quickly and squash was pandering to television?
They got it wrong. Sure there are some short matches, but we are still
seeing matches well over an hour and the tie break at 10-10 can get quite
exciting.