Now that the season has slowed down to a dull, rat-a-tat-tat roar, here is the vaunted, valuable and sometimes venomous list of The Direct’s Top Ten Media Watch™ citings for American squash this winter. Let’s get snarky and sassy.
10. Two articles on the urban squash movement: one in the Philadelphia Inquirer on SquashSmarts—13 April 2008. No snark here. This was a nice, feel-good piece on the front page of the Sunday paper’s Local News section about Philadelphia’s urban after-school youth-enrichment program. It has a nice description of Chase Lenfest showing up at one of SquashSmarts’ partner schools “in bombed-out sneaks.”
The other was in the Village Voice on 8 January 2008. It is a long and thoughtful piece on CitySquash and its successes in placing students in boarding schools.
9. A piece on YouTube that is the best squash trick shot I’ve seen in a while—29 March 2008. Mark Vocetti, an Australian teaching pro, performs this on German television, with Paris Hilton commenting live. We’ve got to get both to come to Grand Central….
9a. Another YouTube on some live JP trick shots from days gone by. Not really news, but it was nice to see again.
8. A radio piece on Trinity squash that ran nationally on The World and also locally on Connecticut public radio by Catie Talarski—15 February 2008.
7. Article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Fairmount Athletic Club—20 January 2008. This was another positive piece from the Inquirer, this time on the front-page of the Image section of the Sunday paper. It focused on Demer “genial, can-do” Holleran, her more than thirty national titles and her new 46,000 square foot (!) health club. There were a couple of brilliant quotations from me about her legendary mental toughness and a shot of Caroline Swain, 15, who must be Joe Swain’s daughter?
6. Article in the Boston Globe on the Players Cup—6 February 2008. The piece, by squash mandarian Alex Beam, was in Beam’s Lifestyle column. Beam, a good, veteran writer, said that Nimick was “euchered.” That was the first time I have seen that game used that way—brillliant. Beam was alternatively feel-good on squash (”backgammon with racquets”) and not: “It’s like a clay-court tennis tournament with endless rallies….the stars are boring automatons.” But he inserts a great quote from John Nimick, the king of witty media soundbites: “[Ashour v. Shabana] is like a cobra and a mongoose. It’s all about offense.” Well, some cobras have good defenses too, right?
5. Article in the New Yorker on the Tournament of Champions—21 January 2008. In the Talk of the Town section, it was a solid piece by Nick Paumgarten. Nick went to the school where the game was first played in the U.S.—St. Paul’s—so he knows a little of the history, but he chose to talk about two relatively obscure players in the ToC qualies. They were two young Egyptians, Mohamed Ali Anwar Reda (former Egyptian national junior champion) and Badr Abdel Aziz. Reda was eighteen at the time and one of the callow Cairene upstarts picked to topple the upstart Ramy Ashour who is picked to topple world champion Amr Shabana. (There are twelve Egyptians in the top fifty, including three named Omar.) Aziz’s parents are both Egyptian, so although he grew up in Sweden and plays for Sweden, the twenty-seven year-old can argue in Arabic, so he can also possibly be classified as a part of the Egyptian juggernaut.
The piece starts out with a classic statement: “A good professional squash match is like a divorce.” Their match at the New York Athletic Club was viewed by about a dozen people, again pointing to the fact that New Yorkers really don’t know their squash, for a free match between two players who will probably crack the top twenty is always a good value. Nick also got the scoop on the player’s billeting in Bronxville (that should be a movie: Billeting in Bronxville). Nick makes it seem like Aziz quit at 5-5 in the fifth game of their seventy-four minute match, stalking off the court but the official score read 11-5 so it appears that he tanked rather than exited.
Notable fact: Reda and Aziz can text seventy words a minute. Can you?
4. Article in Sports Illustrated on Trinity—5 February 2008. Michael Bamberger did a major, explosive piece on Trinity College’s squash team, “the longest winning streak in college sports history” and its “obsessive coach” Paul Assaiante. I spent a couple of hours chatting with Bamberger, so I know he knows the game (he sees it at the Philadelphia Cricket Club) although he had never heard of Trinity before he started working on the piece. He traveled with the team to their match at Penn and came to the Trinity v. Princeton dual match. He did capture the atmosphere of college squash (the kids’ nicknames, etc) but he did have some snarky references to “the cocktail party circuit” that supposedly dominates East Coast squash and “alumni in their grosgrain belts.” After the piece came out, Bamberger called me and I told him that the one bit I was mystified by was the mention of grosgrain belts. What was that? He told me. Turns out I own one.
3. Articles in Denver newspapers and television about good family fun at the old Rocky Mountain squash mecca—February 2008. Talk about a Mile High Club. Don’t touch my robe.
2. Article in the New York Times on college admissions—9 December 2007. This piece, well reported, was about how squash can help you get into college. It deflated that myth a bit but perhaps not enough. Squash is not a back door into elite colleges, Alex Williams wrote, but it “is so esoteric…it might be a pet door….squash conveys an aristocratic quirkinnes, a bit like a taste for Sanskrit poetry.”
Williams talked about how parents, normally voluable about their kids’ athletic achievements, are guarded when discussing how it might get them into Dartmouth. Williams gets a nice quote from Ramsay Vehslage, Jr., the Pingry coach and Robby Berner, former US Squash intern. But Williams quotes a Greenwich mom who said that her son leveraged his squash skills to get into Princeton, which is probably complete hogwash. Squash does, however, help kids get into prep schools, for what that is worth.
The real undiscovered sports, college admissions-wise, might be bowling, the article concludes. It turns out, that is no joke.
1. Article in the New York Times on Hashim—30 December 2007. A Denver reporter for the Associated Press, Pat J. Graham did a long story on Hashim that ran in the Sunday Timesjust before New Year’s Eve, as well as thirty-five other newspapers in the U.S. and all over Europe and Asia. The Times was a shorter version than what ran elsewhere. A nice piece on the ninety-three year-old, it had quotes from Diehl Mateer to filmmaker Josh Easdon, as well as one from me comparing Hashim to Ali and Jordan. “I was pretty good once,” ends the piece. That’s right.