Why do I like Tennis and Basketball? Musing on Sports in General

The match that got me to want to really learn how to play tennis

For as long as I can remember, my favorite sports have been tennis and basketball.  I suppose that could be explained away by being from Kentucky with roots in the Appalachian mountains and by my dad being the ultimate weekend hacker for many years.  Undoubtedly, these things contributed to my preferences in sports.

College basketball may have originated in Kansas, but it was Perfected in Kentucky

I don’t think my sporting preference was simply determined by cultural factors.  For instance, I played Teeball, Coach Pitch, and baseball for my grade school and local Little League for many years.  I grew up in the city that produces Louisville Slugger Bats, and I never really enjoyed playing baseball.  In terms of watching baseball, there is a slice of Americana that I  really enjoy when watching baseball at major and minor league ballparks.  Yet, I can’t watch more than one or two at-bats of baseball on TV outside of a game 7 in the World Series.

Movement AND Frequent Scoring

I tried to think about what tennis and hoops have in common.  Tennis and basketball share the traits of being sports in which people have to do coordinated things while also running a lot (sorry Golf and Baseball).  Yet, unlike soccer, scoring happens fairly frequently in my two favorite sports.  NCAA and NFL football have a certain visceral appeal, but there is a lot of dead time between plays.  Boxing and MMA take the visceral aspect to greater levels, but things can be too visceral.*

Drawbacks

I think Krajicek had a good net game and nice backhand approach shot – still a serve fest here

To be fair, I think tennis in various eras can be too repetitive/homogenous.  Neither, Harold Solomon vs. Bjorn Borg nor Pete Sampras vs. Greg Rusedski were terrible for fans because one got to see at least a great exemplar of a certain style of play faceoff with someone similar.  However, Greg Rusedski vs. Wayne Arthurs might just be a serving contest with little else to see.  Today’s tennis is largely baseline centered due to court speeds and strings, but the length of rallies seems to be pretty ideal as athleticism is put on full display while fans get to see more tennis than the serve and volley if one must approach or a push fest.

I do miss big men who could dominate games 

Basketball has perhaps limited defenses too much at the NBA level.  NCAA hoops lack a lot of its former continuity as players turn pro quickly (but I can hardly blame the players as they generate massive revenue while risking career-ending injuries – getting paid to play makes much more sense).  Certain positions such as a back to the basket center seem to be fading into memory at the NBA level.  I am not familiar with European leagues, but undoubtedly, like with any sport, there are drawbacks one could look at.

Pluses

Tennis offers the intrigue of one-on-one competition.  This is a big deal.  Seeing two elite athletes with great skill sets attempt to figure one another out while also keeping their nerve is something to enjoy in my view.  Sometimes we see one of these players simply lose their edge mid-match.  Sometimes they battle deep into a fifth set.  Sometimes one player’s excellence gives no oxygen to the other.  It is always fascinating to see how the many competing factors play out.

Basketball, when an offense is running smoothly, the motion and flow of the game are something to see.  This is especially true in person.  I was at a high school game two years ago and watched a team run a nice baseline screen to free up a player who soared toward the rim and dunked an alley-oop pass perfectly thrown by a point guard.  The play came together perfectly and the display of agility and athleticism put on by the dunker matched by the perfect pass was just something to see.


*Watching someone get knocked silly is something I’ve enjoyed in the past, but quite frequently I can also have moments of self-awareness in which I think it is messed up that I found it to be entertaining (watching replays of George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle comes to mind).

My 5 Favorite Sports to Watch:

  1. Tennis
  2. Basketball
  3. Track and Field
  4. Football (Australian Rules included)
  5. Volleyball

My 5 Favorite Sports to Play:

  1. Tennis
  2. Basketball
  3. Table Tennis
  4. Volleyball
  5. Badminton

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