Tennis takes quick hands, incredible anticipation and coordination, flexibility and the willingness to be humiliated over and over again while retaining your focus and determination.
And that's just what it takes to be a fan trying to follow the game from home.
It takes a gymnast to be a tennis fan.
What does it say about a sport when its staple event in this country, the U.S. Open men's final, is treated like a hot potato by the networks? Over two days and three networks, no one would commit to the match.
CBS: I don't want it, you take it. ESPN2: No way, you take it. ESPNClassic: But we have celebrity bowling!
Rafael Nadal was on the verge of making history, as the networks kept telling us for two weeks. He was winning his first U.S. Open, completing a career Grand Slam.
But in the second set Monday, it started raining. And CBS decided it was done with tennis for the night, chucking history over to ESPN2, which was willing to show the match for a while.
Nadal-Djokovic almost gave new meaning to Instant Classic, as ESPN2 was minutes from dumping the match off on ESPNClassic, if Nadal hadn't finished up in the fourth set.
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Agile tennis fanatics likely made the jump, while suffering the clear message that their big moment meant nothing.
And when Nadal won, he was rushed through his victory speech. He was handed the trophy, and Nadal raised it over his head and, poof, we were outside a football stadium, the ceremony unceremoniously cut off. ESPN2 had clicked a switch on tennis' emotions and gone to pre-game for San Diego-Kansas City Monday Night Football.
Fans had been warned that things might finish up on Classic, and for the lucky few who knew how to get there, they rushed over to see the rest of the ceremony, only to find ...
What an embarrassing moment for tennis. If tennis wants to be taken seriously, it just has to stop this stuff from happening.
Sad thing is, tennis fans know this is hardly shocking. Last year, Andy Roddick was in the Wimbledon semifinals against Andy Murray.
It was a huge match, as an American man hadn't won a major in, roughly, forever.
But NBC had Martha Stewart on. Tennis would come on later, on tape-delay.
And this is where gymnastics comes in for tennis fans. One friend that day answered his phone not with "Hello," but with "Don't tell me what the score in the Roddick match is, please."
Tennis fans have to hide under a desk, put fingers in their ears and yell "LaLaLaLa" all day long, not to mention avoiding the web, radio, TV and friends, so their matches won't be ruined.
CBS seems to be the big villain in this. ESPN, only a little. The United States Tennis Association? It might be a patsy in this.
"These contingencies are put in place all in advance," said LeslieAnne Wade, Senior VP of communication for CBS Sports. "These things don't just happen on somebody's whim."
Interesting. And maybe CBS was driving the bus on this, but Wade makes a good point: surely ESPN and the USTA had signed off on it. And if this was all mapped out, then why weren't tennis fans told in advance?
Well, shortly after the match had gone to ESPN2, fans were told it would go to Classic at 10:15 p.m. That's when I called a friend -- the guy who had answered his phone by pleading for silence on Roddick's score -- to tell him to be ready to switch channels again.
"I don't get ESPN Classic," he said. "What do I do?"
You be a gymnast.
Wade said that when the rain started Monday, there was no way of knowing when, or if, the tennis would start again. Meanwhile, the affiliates weren't planning on having tennis, or any other sport.
So to preserve the commitment, and ad dollars, for prime time shows Monday night, CBS just bailed.
Heaven forbid tennis history get in the way of "How I Met Your Mother."
But let's back up. The men's final was supposed to be on Sunday, but the start of the match was delayed because of rain. Then, around 6 p.m. (ET), it was postponed till Monday, even though the forecast said it wouldn't rain much longer.
Why did they give up so soon? I can only theorize: CBS didn't want to mess with the primetime schedule that night, either.
So the match was rescheduled for 4 p.m. on Monday, an odd time, considering that rain was in the forecast for the afternoon and CBS didn't want to go past 8 p.m.
Why not start at 11 a.m.? Or even 3 p.m.?
Or is Judge Judy more important, too?
CBS said it was the USTA's call.
Hmm. Not sure I can imagine the USTA making a call without its network's permission. I'm not sure USTA officials tie their shoes without network permission.
Well, Wade said that if it hadn't been for the rain delay on Monday, CBS would have stuck with Nadal-Djokovic. She also said that if Nadal's opponent had been Roger Federer, the dream matchup, it wouldn't have changed a thing.
Was the USTA upset with CBS?
"Obviously, it was not an ideal situation," USTA spokesperson Chris Widmaier said. "We were in discussions with ESPN over the course of the entire finals weekend to build contingency plans."
But the contingency plan always called for ESPN2 to dump the match, too.
Just a new twist on the same old treatment for tennis fans. They're already limbering up for the Australian Open.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter@gregcouch