Over the last 11 years, I’ve had the privilege to work at the Family Circle Cup women’s professional tennis tournament in Charleston, South Carolina. For the last three years, the Cup has taken on Volvo as a new sponsor.
Volvo built its first United States vehicle assembly plant in the Charleston area and wanted to be more visible in the community, so it bought the rights to the Family Circle Cup, renaming it the Volvo Car Open. The event is housed at the same venue on Daniel Island.
Having the chance to work at a first-class tournament with some of the world’s best female tennis players has been a joy.
Imagine working at a venue involving your favorite sport. It would be like working at the Indy 500 or the Daytona 500 if you like motorsports. Or how about working at Yankee Stadium if baseball is your thing? Maybe you’re a big soap opera fan and you got the chance to work on the set of General Hospital.
You get the idea. I’ve been involved in the game of tennis since I was 19 years old when I would watch the Family Circle Cup Tournament on TV in the spring when it was held at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.
My first thoughts were it looked super warm and tropical there and, after each rough winter for me, that place looked like heaven. My second thought was about the game itself. Women like Chris Evert, Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Yvonne Goolagong and others were on top of their game playing on a clay court. A clay court? Only rich people played tennis on a clay court.
Little did a naïve 19-year-old know that one day he’d be working for that very same tennis tournament. Over the years, Venus and Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova have replaced Evert, King and Navratilova in the game. And the game is bigger than ever.
I’ve had the chance to work with, photograph, write about and hang out with some impressive people over the 11 years. One of my biggest thrills was to work side-by-side with legendary broadcaster and Pulitzer Prize writer, the late Bud Collins. I was assigned to work with him for an entire week. He was an amazing guy and I have had a long-standing friendship with his wife Anita.
The game is getting faster, the equipment is getting better, the women are getting stronger and gone are the days when a player retired or was considered over the hill by the age of 30. This past week, a doubles specialist who has been on the tour for more than half her life was playing competitive tennis at the age of 42.
It seems most players have a team of sorts. They have fitness coaches, dietitians, strength coaches, sports psychologists, hitting partners and, of course, a coach. All of this extends a career.
Even though tennis isn’t a big sport in Greater Pittston, it is around the world. The men’s and women’s pro tours have stops all around the globe and it’s big business.
If you’re not involved in a sport such as tennis, you’re missing the boat. You get great exercise, you’re out in the sun during the summer months and, if you can find a public park, it’s free to play and you can play for many, many years or as long as your body will allow.
What a week
The first week of April will always be tough for me. Losing both parents within two calendar dates 20 years apart is hard to shake off.
When my mom passed away two years ago April 2, I thought for the entire 10 days she was unconscious maybe she was waiting to die on April 4, the date my father passed away in 1996.
There’s a lot of folklore when it comes to death. For instance, my brother Frank and his wife Mary Ellen were trying to figure out when would be the “best” time to come east from Colorado when my mom was in hospice. There is never a best time but, realistically, there were a lot of logistics involved with flights, time off from work, etc.
My brother and his wife finally arrived two days before my mom passed away. A nurse at hospice told me maybe my mom was waiting for my brother to arrive.
Looking back, I recall watching her fading away over the 10 days as she slipped into the dark like a candle’s light flickering lower and lower until it finally ends in a small puff of smoke.
I’ve heard that someone lying in coma can actually hear. I have my doubts about that, but whether we believe that or not, we still talk to our loved ones, regardless. I was no different.
I recently read that, even though our heart might stop, our brain continues to live for another 2 to 10 minutes. Did you ever hear someone who actually died and was revived say their whole life flashed before their eyes?
Research tells us the last area of our brain that dies is the long-term memory. Apparently, the part of the brain that stores long-term memory isn’t supplied by blood, therefore sustains life for a few minutes longer after the heart stops.
That idea kind of blows my mind, so maybe it’s true that when we die, our whole life does pass before us.
This week that strated by celebrating Easter and ended in Charleston, SC for world-class tennis with a bit of somber moments in between stretching my emotions in every direction, has been trying … but I got through it.
What would life be without twists and turns?