Given what I do with Squash Magazine, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for anyone to guess that I’m a squash junkie. And I’m confident that I can say the same about every reader of this publication—not to mention those squash players who are not members of U.S. SQUASH or subscribers of ours. But for those of you who know me well, you also know that I’m a sports junkie in general. Some of my family and friends don’t understand why that is, and often times they fight me for control of the television when I’m engrossed in another baseball or football game, or soccer, tennis, Indy races…you get the idea.
So what’s going on with my seemingly crazed fascination? It’s simple, really. Where else can “reality TV” be more, well, “real?” (Note that I am assuming games aren’t “fixed” …cough, cough—NBA basketball? And no, ever since the Seattle Sonics were stolen from our city, I have not watched NBA games).
Take ten seconds with any television remote control today, and you will find every kind of reality-TV program imaginable. I’m not sure what started it all. The Bachelor? Bachelorette? Survivor? Personally, those don’t capture my interest as they seem to contrived. Stealing the spotlight now are reality cooking shows: The Iron Chef (Even better, our own Ming Tsai has been in the running as the Next Iron Chef); Master Chef; and Hell’s Kitchen to name a few. Why are these shows hits? Because they aren’t “acted”; they’re “real.”
Anyway, you get the gist. Sports are the perfect platform for reality. The highs and lows, the ebbs and flows. These are what make sports the greatest entertaining drama on the planet.
Sometimes the sports drama is a bit too real, like when Joe Theisman’s leg was snapped in half when sacked by Lawrence Taylor on Monday Night Football. If you saw that, you will never forget it.
Sometimes it’s a feeling of disbelief, like when Greg Louganis smacked the division board with his head in the 1988 Olympics—the most beautiful, flawless, diver ever, and he did the unthinkable. Making that dramatic event even more memorable was the fact that he recovered from it and won Olympic Gold…again.
In the 1936, Jesse Owens captured four Gold Medals at the Berlin Olympics, right in front of Adolf Hitler. That was perfect and I wish I’d been here to see it.
In 1982, a group of 12-year-old boys from Kirkland, Washington, stunned the team from Taiwan in the Little League World Series. Taiwan had won five consecutive titles. I can still see Cody Webster jumping for joy—and ESPN recently did a “30 for 30” segment on that team, a story that is as much sad as it was euphoric.
And then there was late July in Boston. The American junior girls squash team of Amanda Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford, Sabrina Sobhy, and Haley Mendez (plus Olivia Fiechter and Maria Elena Ubina) were seeded No. 2 in the World Championships. Ahead of them were a group of Egyptians that were expected to run away with the title. During the first week, two Americans reached the individual quarterfinals, Amanda reached the semis, and Haley battled her way to the Round of 16.
For Amanda, losing in the semis was devastating. Everyone around Harvard’s glass court has been pulling for her (except, of course, for the Egyptian contingent). But with sports, the perfect reality opportunity presented itself just a few days later when Haley took the deciding match in the team’s semifinal over India. The US reached the finals to face Egypt. Down a match, Amanda took the court against the newly crowned world champion, Nour El Tayeb. Forty-four minutes later, the guttural scream from Amanda, after sealing her four-game win, was one of those moments we won’t forget. No, the US did not win the team title, but that moment from Amanda is precisely why I will stop to watch sports drama unfold, anytime, anywhere.
You will find the story of the World Juniors on Page 20. And there is a gallery of photos from the event that you can find by visiting SquashMagazine.com.