Thursday, April 26, 2012

Time To Can It

I found myself wondering today whether the PST's commissioner and CEO, Joseph M. McManus, may have adult-onset oppositional defiant disorder. This disability is usually diagnosed in little kids, and its symptoms include hostility and open defiance of authority figures. 

Maybe this McManus dude just got his case later than most? 

The idea of No-Let squash is good; the idea of No-Letting-Up criticism of anyone and everyone in the overall squash community is bad. No one likes to hear a crybaby.

The PST sends out a little weekly squash e-zine that I receive, which has featured a few pointed criticisms of squash luminaries in the past, and the animosity seems to be ratcheting up. Not long ago McManus' e-zine poked fun at Alex Gough, CEO of the Professional Squash Association, belittling his financial smarts. The criticism was harshly delivered, I thought, and the reason was obvious: the PSA's ongoing feud with the PST over letting the former's players play in the latter's events. Concern over financial matters is not a one-way street, however, and after this little diatribe I found myself wondering about the PST's finances. I remember something about offering $100,000 to the first top ten PSA player to bolt and join the PST. But when David Palmer did just that there was no mention of his winning the promised windfall. What's the story with that? And if he didn't get the 100K, what did he get? And what do the players earn at these PST tournaments, anyway? There is never any mention of financial prizes at these events, so out of curiosity, how much do they get? Are there appearance fees given for the stars, and what are they? Which players qualify, and how might other players earn qualification? What do the lower-ranked losers get for their efforts? How sound are the PST's finances? Dunno, but I found myself wishing I had more information. 

Then, more recently, the McManus e-zine thought it would be funny (I guess) to refer to Kevin Klipstein, CEO of US Squash, as "napoleonic" and the association's "little general," apparently in reference to Klipstein's height. While no giant, I've met the man and he doesn't qualify as notably diminutive either. Again, McManus is upset with a CEO in the squash world and has decided to take it out in petty, defiant, bullying ways. Apparently US Squash has some legal action against PST over wording of one of their tournaments. I am actually the one tasked with overseeing copyright legal matters at the publishing house where I work, and believe me, companies everywhere are concerned, often rightly, when another company in their industry starts using, and branding, language similar to their own. I don't know the facts behind this legal skirmish, but wouldn't it have been better to argue this away from the public eye instead of embarrassing yourself and your organization with childish name-calling? 

I don't get it.

Mr. McManus, I think the no-let concept is a good one, but advertising yourself as a crybaby who lashes out at other squash organizations, and the people behind them, does nothing for your product, and may even provoke antipathy towards the PST in general. Focus on your product; it's a good one, make it better! The other stuff: It's time to can it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Very unsatisfactory. Terribly disappointing. Hugely frustrating."

James Willstrop, #1 in the world, did not behave like a champ by forfeiting the remainder of the match in his final against Ramy Ashour in the El Gouna International Squash Open. He is quoted on SquashSite as saying, as the title of this blog indicates, that his experience in the final was unsatisfactory, disappointing and frustrating. The reason was the court was slippery. 

Well, it was slippery for Ramy too, but he played on to the best of his ability, and guess what, Ramy was about to win. Ramy had won the first two games and was up 5-2 when Willstrop shook Ramy's hand and walked off the court. 

Willstrop managed to deny Ramy a natural victory by wimping out and blaming the conditions. The conditions may have been suspect, but this is a FINAL man! People are paying good money to see you play. If you are going to lose because the conditions don't suit you then buck up and play anyway, that's what champions do, they continue on unless they can't possibly continue, not because they are worried about getting turf toe from slipping on the court surface! 

Willstrop's experience was unsatisfactory, disappointing and frustrating, but not quite in the way he meant in the quote.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Squashing Down in the Deep South

I've been quiet on this blog lately because I've been working pretty damn hard and, when available, squashing pretty damn hard. Not a ton of time available beyond those two polar opposites, the dual lodestars of my existence. 

However, I recently got back from 5 days in the deep south where, among other things, I was able to play squash. Imagine that. 

I visited Sewanee, Tenn, not far from the Alabama border, where The University of The South is headquartered.  My in-laws are happily retired from teaching at the school and have stayed in the community. The college itself is well regarded, ranking #33 on US News' lists of National Liberal Arts Colleges. It's also relatively moderate in price: tuition and other fees total $32,292. In addition to the college there is also a well-regarded school of theology, which follows the Episcopalian tradition.

I viewed this visit as a wonderful opportunity to do some serious working out every day in their well-appointed gym and then to get on the school's one squash court and do some solo practice. 

I had been on this court before and so came prepared with my squash kit. Last time I visited I had pestered my in-laws to get me a game, so they asked around and gave me the name of a professor, purported to be the best squash player on campus. I was so wound up and ready to play, however, the poor man never had a chance. This time around I thought my time would be better spent with solo work, so that's what I did. Each day went like this: 45 minutes or so working out on the weights and exercise machines and another 45 minutes on the court practicing shots, working on my backhand, and going over footwork. It was great to take the time to do all that, particularly when it is so rare to find such time in my normal life. 

The court itself is interesting. It was clearly installed by a racquetball installer, which I say because of two quirks. First, racquetball courts often have a little plexiglass compartment located in one of the back corners in which one can put keys, valuables, wallet, etc. They are never found on squash courts, however, because the back corners are way too important to put anything other than smooth wall there. But lo and behold, this court has such a compartment. Another quirk is the floor, which like many racquetball courts is oddly shellacked, making the surface slipperier than a standard squash court.

Despite the funkiness of the court, The University of the South has managed to field a squash team for College Squash Association competition, and ranked #51 last year; among club teams, it ranked #21 (of a total 32).

I was working out and playing squash right in the middle of the school day, so wasn't surprised that I didn't see any other squash players hanging around. However, on my last day, after I had finished my session and emerged from the men's locker room on the way home, I saw a female student, who couldn't have been more than about 5' tall, walking quickly towards the court with a racket that seemed about half her height. She had a big smile on her face. 

I know that look. She's got the addiction....