A lot can be said about Bud Collins and his contributions to tennis. The best way I can put it is that Bud Collins promoted tennis with enthusiasm and joy in an authentic manner. I was fortunate enough to meet Bud Collins at the Hall of Fame Classic in Newport, RI. I was living in Providence at the time and took a bus to Newport for the championship match. The final took place one week after Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi to win his 6th Wimbledon title and tie Roy Emerson’s 12 major singles titles. I was taken with the picturesque grass courts and did a tour of the museum after the final round ended. Bud Collins was one of the stories of the championship match itself.
I had grown up seeing Bud Collins on television. It was awesome to hear him lead the post match ceremonies. His energy level for awarding the trophy for a match between Chris Woodruff and Kenneth Carlson was as high as I would expect it to have been for Sampras and Agassi’s clash at Wimbledon one week earlier. I was thrilled to hear that Bud Collins would be selling one of his books on tennis history because my father’s birthday was coming soon in August. My father had introduced me to tennis many years earlier so I thought this would be a meaningful gift.
I waited in line and bought the book. I expected Bud to simply ask who he was inscribing the book to. Bud greeted me and was happy to inscribe the book. He took the time to ask if my father played tennis and where he lived. His inscription read, “To Ed, Number One in Louisville! Bud Collins.” The fact that he was enthusiastic in a non-phony manner for presenting a runner-up and championship trophy was impressive. The fact that Bud had the same enthusiasm and kindness for my father’s weekly singles and doubles exploits at public parks and small tennis clubs in Louisville after speaking to and inscribing books for over 50 other fans before I arrived was amazing.
In my own tennis work I have tried to create a context of history for present events. I do that because I love Bud Collins’ grasp of and love for tennis history. No one will intertwine tennis history with a joyful enthusiasm for the present as well as Bud Collins did. I am certain Bud’s humility would not allow him to acknowledge this fact, but we certainly can and should. We also should find ways to promote tennis in a manner that is authentic to our own personalities.