Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I read the article Bryan Patterson wrote about the poor attendance at the recently completed US Open Squash Tournament held in Philadelphia. “Shame on you Philadelphia” was his mantra. I thought about this and thought about this and couldn't’t figure out why it really bothered me. What bothered me about it as I realized later, was his mantra castigating people as if they weren't supporting a worthy charity! This is ironic because here US squash has been treating squash as a business with a board, CEO, profiting, and they sponsored/promoted this tournament. Yet when no one wants to be part of it probably for a number of reasons, which I can only guess, not having attended but having attended other US Open tournaments over the years, it’s not the fault of the tournament but the people not attending. So if no one attended this great event, it must not have been such a great event? Squash in my mind sells itself, and Paterson’s remark about players like playing and not watching isn’t true. Squash players, at all levels want to watch squash, they couldn't’t care less about the squash zones, the video games, the food, the alcohol, the technology…they care about squash at a level that transcends all that marketing crap and it is crap, crap used to try and market a sport that will never ever have mass appeal. Stop trying to copy professional tennis! I think back on the US Open that was run out of the Roseland Ballroom a few years back by Sean Gibbons from the Printing House, I was at the finals ( I think) and a great finals it was, which Nick Mathew, my squash hero at the time won. The venue was great but it was simple, it was squash with a few booths promoting Prince equipment, located in the heart of New York City at a wonderful venue. Financially it was ruinous ( I believe the US Open lacked sponsorship the following year), but you didn’t hear Shawn saying ”Shame on you New York”. I go back to the attempts to market squash as a glitzy, mass appealing sport by the same Roseland Ballroom US Open promoters when they hosted the first and only Village Open. I never forgot the big black suited thug body guards preventing people from going to their seats during points…hmm, I thought, Beth Rasin TOC Tournament Director seemed sufficient enforcement. Anyways, the TOC is the greatest squash event I’ve ever attended…Nimick really puts on a great show and it doesn’t have all the marketing crap, the feeling you get when attending is squash really sells itself. Again, I’m not pretending to know why the US Open failed in attracting attendance and I would have felt badly about it except for Patterson’s remarks. Live by the sword die by the sword. What I would have loved to have heard from him was some ideas about funding all the street squash kids to come from nearby cities to be in a attendance on kids day, to which I would have gladly contributed some money ( I’m sure it would have been a great time for them and anyone contributing) rather than hear the remarks of a bad-hip-and-knee curmudgeon sitting in an elite box shaming people for not attending. US Squash puts on some great amateur events, no doubt, and their support of urban squash initiatives and women’s squash is quite admirable. But, personally, I’d like the Pro US Open left to the likes of Joe McManus and John Nimick, the real entrepreneurs of professional squash in the US.