Archive for the ‘tennis’ Tag

Tennis and Economic Development

How many promises are made about building an area when a new Major League Baseball team, a National Football League team or a National Basketball Association team wants the city to put in a ton of money for a new stadium or arena? Tons.

Authors like Andrew Zimbalast  conclude that sports teams and facilities are not a source of local economic growth and employment; second, the magnitude of the net subsidy exceeds the financial benefit of a new stadium to a team.

The Brookings Institution say the promises are usually not met.

Washington, DC tried this with the Nationals Park as a part of the office buildings and condominiums that sprang up all across the Navy Yard and parts of southeast.

Now the southwest waterfront is the next development area.

The city poured $200 million for infrastructure improvements and a developer began the process of building condominiums. The new tennis stadium is one of the drawing cards to this part of the city.

The team says on its website that the new location will enhance the viewing experience for fans who already consider the Kastles’ home one of the most intimate, exciting tennis venues in the country.

The developers PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette hope and think this 3,000-seat tennis stadium will jump-start a nearly $2 billion, 10-year redevelopment project. The stadium will serve to lure area residents to a waterfront development of hotels, restaurants, shops, a marina with 600 new boat slips and dockside apartments.

Batting for Gays

There are more provacative sportswriters out there than one would believe. Sports are also a great window into cultural and social attitudes.

Racial prejudice openly displayed itself during the early to mid-20th century in restrictions on players in major league baseball and football. In the late 20th century, it came in a more subtle rejection of a League, when baseketball television ratings dropped during the 1970s.

Attacks on gender and sexual difference usually included deriding words. Most players kept their behavior to their self, as we have seen with pro football player Dave Kopay, and Washington Redskins all-pro Jerry Smith in the 1970s and 1980s and Billy Bean among baseball players in the 1990s.  Magic Johnson faced gossip after contracting HIV- and Isiah Thomas raised eyebrows with his kissing.

While female tennis players like Martina Navatrola and Renae Stubbs,and  rugby player Gareth Thomas came out after years, most were finished playing. Ian Roberts of Australian Rules Football declared his sexuality but articles have recently asked why few have followed and Jason Akermanis was recently suspended for anti-gay comments.

I include below sportwriter Jason Whitlock’s recent piece on the travails of an openly gay umpire.

SAN DIEGO

Let’s start with transparency. The analogy comparing black people’s fight for equal rights and gay people’s makes me uncomfortable.

You can’t conceal skin color in a closet or anywhere else. Denying gay people the right to marry doesn’t equate to denying black people freedom, the right to vote, equal education, etc.

Umpire Billy Van Raaphorst 

Umpire Billy Van Raaphorst.

Edmonton Journal 

//
But I am not a fool. Discrimination is discrimination. Debating degrees of intolerance is pointless and counter-productive.

What happened to Billy Van Raaphorst inside a tiny independent league baseball stadium on July 31 was as despicable as anything Jackie Robinson endured breaking into the majors 60 years ago.

And the story of how Billy Van Raaphorst’s childhood dream of becoming a Major League umpire turned into his nightmare companion illustrates how little progress we’ve made in the super-macho sports world as it relates to tolerance of homosexuals.

On the last day of July, for the second straight game, Van Raaphorst tossed flamboyant Edmonton Capitals manager Brent Bowers in the first inning.

Bowers argued balls and strikes from the dugout on the 30th. A close play at first base set him off on the 31st. On both days, Bowers played to the crowd, rolling up his sleeves and mocking the 6-foot-4, 220-lb Van Raaphorst with a “gun show.”

On the 31st, Bowers took things a step further, launching into an anti-gay tirade that would make Mel Gibson blush.

“You know what I heard?” Bowers screamed. “I heard you are a f—ing (expletive). The rumor from several managers and people at the league is that you are a (expletive) … So what do you do you f—ing (expletive)? Do you take it up the f—ing (expletive), you (expletive)?”

As his verbal meltdown continued, Bowers, a second-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989, bent over and grabbed his ankles.

“Is that how you like it, you f—ing (expletive)?… I know he’s a (expletive),’’ Bowers ranted. “I was told by Garry Templeton (a manager in the league) and Kevin Outcalt (commissioner of the league) that he is a f—ing (expletive).”

Van Raaphorst, a former 290-pound center at San Diego State, resisted the urge to defend himself.

“I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t hit him,’” Van Raaphorst remembered. “I felt trapped. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.”

How appropriate. Van Raaphorst, 34, spent much of his early life trapped by his sexual orientation.

The middle son of former Ohio State and San Diego Chargers kicker Dick Van Raaphorst, Billy was born into the stereotypical, All-American family. His oldest brother, Jeff, starred at quarterback for Arizona State, winning the 1987 Rose Bowl MVP. Billy’s younger brother, Mike, served as Carson Palmer’s backup at USC.

The Van Raaphorst name carried and carries significant weight in Southern California. Billy was not coming out of any closet.
As a kid, he played football and fantasized about calling balls and strikes inside big league ballparks.

He was a good enough player to crack the two-deep and start a few games at San Diego State. He shared a locker room with Kyle Turley, Ephraim Salaam, La’Roi Glover, Az Hakim and several other future pros.

 
Billy never quite fit in.

“We all kind of assumed there was something different about Billy,” Turley said. “Billy was a good dude, a good teammate, a stand-up guy, but he was just a different cat. There was always something a little quirky about him. He was never the macho, alpha male.”

Van Raaphorst dislocated his right knee his fourth year at San Diego State, quit the team and immediately pursued his passion for umpiring. He enrolled at the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School, the Harvard of umpiring. He graduated No. 1 in his class. He joined the minor league system and began the arduous task of earning his way to the majors.

Things sailed along smoothly until he reached double-A ball in 2001. His ranking plummeted to No. 27. The next year he dropped to No. 45 out of 47 umpires and was released from the minors.

He said his dramatic fall coincided with his decision to live as a gay man.

“I knew I was gay pretty much all my life, but I’d never acted on it until 2001,” Billy told me on Monday. “I’d suppressed it so hard trying to fit in in college football and minor league baseball. I’d never been to a gay bar until 2001. I’d never had a boyfriend.”

He visited a gay bar in early 2001. He started dating a Tulsa man later that year. He began lying to his umpiring crew about his post-game activities and whereabouts instantly.

“I can’t prove that they found out, but it’s my belief they did,” Van Raaphorst said. “I started getting a lot of questions about who I was dating.”

He crashed in double A. An umpire isn’t on the major league radar until he reaches triple A.

“It’s a significant accomplishment and speaks to his talent that he reached the double A level,” said Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball. “There are only 68 major league umpires. It’s a select group.”

Billy wanted to complain and fight his 2002 release.

“There were certain family members and friends who didn’t want all of the attention that would’ve brought,” said Van Raaphorst, who is now regarded as a top-flight collegiate umpire. “The worst two decisions of my life were to not come out (as gay) and to end my (Tulsa) relationship because I was scared.

“I don’t make decisions out of fear anymore. I try to make fearless decisions now.”

Good for Billy. Bad for Brent Bowers.
The Golden Baseball League initially suspended Bowers for two games and fined him $500. The punishment did not satisfy Billy or common sense. Umpires across the GBL rallied in support of Billy and threatened a work stoppage. The league and the Edmonton Capitals forced Bowers to resign.

“I wish I had those 10 minutes back,” Bowers said from his home in Chicago. “It was just heat of the moment. I felt like (Van Raaphorst) hurt me and hurt my team, kicking me out of the game two days in a row. It doesn’t justify it. It was totally wrong. I apologize. I would apologize to anybody. I’ve grown up so much in the past week.”

The Edmonton Capitals announced they were making all of their employees go through diversity training. They might want to make room for a former employee.

“I didn’t care that (Van Raaphorst) was gay,” explained Bowers, who has yet to apologize directly to Van Raaphorst. “My mom works with a lot of gay hairdressers and I joke around with those guys all the time. My cousin, she’s a lesbian. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as people are happy.”

Let’s end with transparency.

I’ve been the neanderthal idiot in the locker room. I’ve been the neanderthal idiot employee suspended and banished to diversity training after a 1998 taunting exchange with New England Patriots fans.

Intolerance is a disease, whether sexual, religious or racial, that we all must fight on a daily basis. The cure is for each of us to realize we’re all capable of being just as stupid as Brent Bowers.

 

E-mail Jason or follow him on Twitter. Media requests for Mr. Whitlock should be directed to Fox Sports PR.

DC Tennis Summer 09

First Venus Williams came. Now it’s sister Serena’s turn.

The World Team Tennis Washington Kastles reconstructed their temporary stadium on the old Convention Center parking lot three weeks ago. Serena plays with her team tonight in her only DC appearance.

The sport is odd. The season lasts one month. Somesports have a playoff seasdon that lasts two months. With WTT you get to see the matches then before you kow it, your team’s in the playoffs and then the playoffs are over.

DC’s Tennis Stadium

The Washington Kastles stadium is a throwback stadium. No, it’s not retro a la Camden Yards and its many imitators that cost hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars.

It’s throw back because it is simply a playing surface and a few stands erected around that surface. The stadium stands on a small portion of the old Convention Center lot, on New York Avenue near 11th Street, NW. This is the way baseball was in Washington during the early 1880s when Capitol Park sat on the Capital Grounds or when the Nationals played at Florida Avenue and 7th Street in the 1890s.

The stadium is a temporary structure and goes up quickly and at a small cost. The location is near many offices and highly accessible to both the Metro and the buses. Spectators can grab dinner at any of the many nearby eateries after work then walk on over to see the tennis. Last night I saw many looking at the art exhibit that lined the walkway on the stadium’s east side. The pieces are photographs commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts. One critic’s favorite was The Memory of Tomorrow, by Ira Tattelman and Thomas Drymon, is another terrific mural — the photograph of a wedding explores the body, light, time, and space, and the active quality of the image makes you feel as though you’re a part of the wedding itself.

Kastles stadium, Washington DC

Kastles stadium, Washington DC

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.