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A Tour
of Tourney
Venues

…Liverpool … The Theatre in Toronto … Stained
Glass in Chicago …

Global Gallery,
February 8, 2006

Martin Bronstein, writes this month from his
home in London

© 2006 All
rights reserved.
all photos© 2006, Debra Tessier and Fritz Borchert

BEATLES
VS STONES?

Alan
Thatcher’s Liverpool 08 tournament will be a first
in many respects. To my memory it is the first major tournament to
take place in the Liverpool, a city I got to know 50 years ago when
I was doing my national service in Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force
in Lancashire. (Memories? I lost my virginity on the East Lancs Road.
Please don’t ask for details.

In
  Britain you cannot mention Liverpool without   mentioning
the
  Beatles.  Anytime Liverpool comes up in the news,
out trots Paul McCartny to issue some more anodyne platitudes (is that
tautology?). So I thought that Thatcher could cash in on this by staging
an exhibition match on finals day between McCartney and  Mick
Jagger, a sort of Beatles vs Stones Rock/Sport presentation. I know
that Jagger can wield a squash racket because when Gordy Anderson (now
known as one of North America’s foremost squash court builders)
ran the Bay Street Club in Toronto, Jagger used to visit to have a
hit.
 

The
Liverpool Squash Venue
graphic © 2006, Simon Scott

THE
THREE-WEEK ROAD TRIP

I’m
just about recovering from the three weeks on the road, covering
the Canadian Classic and the Windy City Open in Chicago.  Airline
flying ain’t what it used to be and, glad to be back in my
own bed, I have decided to give the Tournament of Champions in New
York a miss this year, the first year I have missed since it returned
to Grand Central Station. 

One
of the pleasanter things that came out of the trip was the number
of Squashtalk readers from all over North America who came up to
me and said how much they enjoyed my tournament reports. Obviously
this does my ego no harm at all. It also reminds me that so many
squash fans rely on Squashtalk as their only source of reliable and
independent reporting.

These
very pleasant meetings also reassure me that  people
actually read the stuff; since the disappearance of typewriters
and paper in favour of the electronic keyboard and the internet,  I
am never totally sure that all these words are not just disappearing
into the ether, never to be read.

COMING
TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU
When
I heard that John Nimick was presenting the Canadian Classic in a
theatre with the glass court on the stage and the back wall to the
audience, my heart sank. This was not going to work, I thought, what
a waste of three glass walls.
 

Wrong
again Bronstein.  It worked a treat and was quite
a different experience from other venues.  Very theatrical, great
seating and 750 full seats for at least three nights. (Which is a helluva
lot more  seats than Nimick used to sell at the old BCE Place).
Strangely, all the seating is in the stalls, but I lost my way on my
first visit and found myself in the first balcony. The view is much
better from above. Next year, Nimick should reduce the cost of the
seats for the stalls (people were paying up to C$150) and open up the
balcony for the higher priced seats. I shall be back there next year,
wearing my top hat and tails, my cape slung around my shoulders and
my opera glasses around my neck.

 

LUCKY
WINDY CITY
In
  contrast, the Windy City Open in Chicago played to
very small
  audiences….250 at most. The fire marshal had decreed  a
smaller number than John Flanigan had anticipated. So despite being
billed as the biggest tournament in North America  boasting $100,000
prize money, there was uneven press coverage (impressive feature articles
and TV spots, but no daily coverage) and often empty seats.  This
tournament is played in the classy University Club and still has whiffs
of the old WPSA hardball circuit where the tournaments were held in
private club for the amusement of the well-heeled members. All tickets
for the last three rounds were sold, and people were being turned away,
but sadly empty seats showed that many members were not too interested.  Lucky
Chicago got two of the best semi-finals for a long time and the final….well,
a nail-biting  cliff-hanger is an understatement. It will take
a long time to wipe the smile off David Palmer’s face: he saved
four match balls and went on to win the tie break against a mortified
Jonathon Power.

There
  was a smile on my face: I was residing in the University
Club
four floors below the squash action. My room was
splendid: 31” television, a Denon CD player so I could play my
new jazz CDs, a seven foot bed that could have accommodated half of
Ethiopia and  vast closet complete with iron and ironing board.

 I
can’t tell you how good it is to be that close to the action.
Some tournaments  put you miles and miles away from the court
and there is the dreary  routine of waiting for the buses, which
never seem to run on time.  Thanks John.
 

SUPERBOWL
AND THE LESSONS SQUASH CAN LEARN

Yes,
we had the Superbowl live in England and I sat up to watch it.  It
was the usual mixture of hype, spectacle  and sport and it works
every time.

The  Superbowl, like the world series of baseball   and
possibly England’s FA Cup final, all achieve their status and
importance, not as a one-off event, but as the climax to a season.  The
World Series start s as early as spring training in Florida and then
through a huge league season (each team plays about 180 games), followed
by divisional playoffs  and then the final two playoff series,
with each of the four teams and their  fans knowing that the
winners get to the World Series. And then the seven-game finale itself.
By that point every American, sports fan or not, is totally involved
and even though they may live thousands of miles from either of the
teams, they still are hysterically committed. I maintain without the
preceding season and playoffs the World Series would never be as huge
as it is.

The
same is true of the Superbowl: the leagues,   followed
by the
  playoffs climaxing in the event itself. 
 

Now
  at one point in squash’s history – the 80’s
come to mind – the squash season started in September and came to an
unofficial end in April with the British Open at the Wembley Conference
Centre. Sadly this no longer is true and the neither the PSA nor WISPA  seasons
seem to have a beginning, end or climax. The World Opens  are
placed at the end of the year, which is absolutely right because these
major events should now be the climax of the squash season, with every
major tournament  in the year being part of the big build up.

Sorry,
  that ain’t happening. 
 

One
  promoter, in discussing providing rooms for   journalists
said
  that he would rather not have to provide rooms   for
journalists.
  What he was saying was ‘we’ll do our own
thing and to hell with the big picture.’ His attitude is not
rare.  The image I have now of the squash season is one of  disjointed,
piecemeal events, none of which  impacts on events that follow.
What this means is that the World Open, instead of being the climax
of the season is just another tournament, but with bigger prize money.

This
is a subject that WSF, WISPA and PSA should studying and discussing
on a monthly basis.  I really don’t  think that
the amount of time spent  talking to Jacques Rogge and campaigning
for Olympic inclusion  will help  squash to achieve the
year-long cohesion. Frankly my feeling is that we will not see
squash in the Olympics in the next 25 years. And what do we do
until then? Hope and pray?
No,
get yourselves down to earth WSF, WISPA and PSA and get some cohesion.