Sunday, February 26, 2012

PSA's Squash TV Is a Fantastic Accomplishment

I sat down with Alex Gough, the CEO of the Professional Squash Association, during the recent Tournament of Champions to interview him about the latest doings at the PSA, and also get from him his take on how Squash TV is faring. Alex was generous with his time and I came away very impressed with both him and his plans for the PSA.

The PSA is the face of men's pro squash on this planet. It is important for our sport that those at the PSA be innovative and responsive to their various constituents, and in my estimation they have been, and then some.

Without a doubt, the PSA's Squash TV is their greatest success story. Encumbered by a difficult financial climate -- to say the least -- they have nonetheless created a means through which squash fans the world over can see high-quality, crystal clear, riveting squash from the world's best, filmed by an excellent crew in locations all over the world, with interesting and informed commentary besides. It's a fantastic accomplishment. 

I was all set to sing Alex's and the PSA's praises when Kevin Klipstein, capo di tutti capo of US Squash, beat me to it. So instead of prattling on, click here and read his review of the PSA and Squash TV. I concur completely. 

And the best way for you the fan to support the PSA is to pay the very reasonable sum of $80 for an entire year of access. An entire year! It's time to join the 50,000 unique visitors to the site each month and watch the greatest squash players on earth -- and yeah, James Willstrop is right up there at the top of the list.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

James Willstrop Is a Putz

The very informative (and getting better all the time) squash site Daily Squash Report published an excerpt from James Willstrop's book, and the excerpt, available here, exposes this gentleman as a putz.

I'm sorry about that, because not long ago I was all for his ascendancy to the #1 spot in squash. Now I would like all US players and fans to give him one long unending boo every time they see him play. 

A putz is a great Yiddish word that means either an uninformed fool or a penis. You be the judge.

In Willstrop's book, which I urge you not to buy, he rambles on about American squash in general and the World Squash Federation's 2010 World Squash Awards event, held at the Tournament of Champions. 

Mr. Willstrop it appears was very disconcerted by a few hardball and hardball doubles awards that were given out at this event, apparently feeling that this is not really squash in the true sense and that Americans are always fooling with things better left unaltered. (This is why England is still a monarchy, even though most Brits can't figure out what it is the royals do...)

He goes on to complain about the stupid Americans coming up with different terms for shots (Rails? It's a drive!) and heaven forfend, those Yanks have even dispensed with lets! Pshaw!

He mocks our sports -- baseball, American football -- as being not truly world sports. This from a representative of a country that is still enamored with cricket. Isn't that a bug?

In his myopia he has failed to understand that squash has been an American sport for nearly as long as it has been an English sport, but it developed along different lines. I suggest he read James Zug's history of the American game, which is a great book. (Buy it here, Mr. Willstrop.) We have our traditions too, although we, unlike the British squash establishment, are prepared to innovate.

The North American Open is going on as I write this. Give Willstrop a hearty boo for me, thanks.

Friday, February 17, 2012

In Which Schumacher Orders Me Some Iceberg Lettuce …

I am not one to wager, other than the occasional $4 ticket for the Powerball lottery, whose prize recently went up to something like $350 million. If I were to ever win Powerball I would stare at the winning ticket and then collapse in a twitching heap of neurologic pandemonium, probably to die on the spot from over-happiness. Someone somewhere won that Powerball, and his or her face is probably sore from smiling so hard.

But the chances of actually winning Powerball are vanishingly thin. Beating Schumacher, on the other hand, is far more likely. Not guaranteed, by any means, but worth a shot. By prior agreement we and our wives are going out on Saturday to an expensive restaurant specializing in fish, so Schumacher, still smarting from his ignominious defeat the last time we played, offered a wager: whoever wins has to pay 65% of the overall bill for this dinner. I thought, fine, the bet is on.

After exchanging the obligatory trash talk during the week, we met this morning. I thought we both played pretty well. I won the first game quite quickly, but Schumacher did not seem to be phased in the least, indeed he seemed to expect it. The second game was tit-for-tat until we found ourselves at 10-all. A few rallies later, and some poor shot selection by yours truly, and Schumacher got the second game, 13-11. Ugh, I hate losing in overtime….

Third game, again close throughout. Physicians like Schumacher are used to taking charge and that might be why he is very much a shooter. I realized that he loves to volley drop my inaccurate crosscourt shots, particularly those coming from my backhand side. So I start telling myself that every shot must be down the wall: no cross-courts ever on the backhand side, and rarely on the forehand. The strategy keeps me in the game, until we end up at 10-all again. Uh oh…. Stupidly, I then changed tactics and went for a few ill-advised drops of my own. But Schumacher is much better at the front court than I, so every time I tried a drop shot he got there, held his shot nicely, and either ripped it up the wall or boasted around the corner. Not once did he choose the wrong way, always hitting the shot as far as possible away from me. Game 3 to Schumacher, 15-13. Ouch… 

Game 4 started badly, with me quickly going down 6-0 as I tried to shoot my way out of trouble with drops and odd angles that Schumacher quickly chased down. Like a lot of players, I have a grab-bag of unexpected shots that will work against a lesser-skilled player, or maybe earlier in a match against a player like Schumacher, but when he’s warmed up and has his eye ready for the ball, it’s just a waste of time, and all I’m doing is giving him easy points. I realized I had to go back to the original plan, only hitting rail shots as much as possible, and indeed got a bit back in the game, but the deficit was too much, and I went down ignominiously at 11-6. Wager won by Schumacher, 3-1.

Schumacher left the court talking about how he and his wife were going to order the most expensive item on the menu, lobster thermidor, and that we had better stick to salad so that we could afford the expensive meal.

“Lobster thermidor for two please,” said Schumacher, “and they’ll have some iceberg lettuce!”

Heh heh. Ugh…..