Bud Collins was one of the most colorful sports writers of all time. I looked forward to reading his columns in the Boston Globe, not because I’m a big tennis fan but because I love to read a Prose Prima Donna. No one could consistently write more engaging hooks then sustain them through the whole story.
Cases in point: first paragraphs of four of my favorites.
NEW YORK – "Through one of his characters, Marcellus, a scribbler named Shakespeare said there was “something rotten in the state of Denmark.”
But if the Bard had been among 20,000-or-so ticket-holders at an open-air theatre called Arthur Ashe Stadium yesterday, he might have reconsidered that line from his ancient soap, “Hamlet.”"
and a few paragraphs later...
"To be or not to be a tennis player didn’t seem to come into play. Caroline, from a family of jocks, gravitated to a racket right away. If Shakespeare could have imagined a sweet young thing making more than $ 4 million in prize money for playing a simple game, he might have given Hamlet this line to Ophelia: “Get thee to a tennis court!” rather than a nunnery."
EN ROUTE TO PARIS -" the year’s second major, looms, along with a guy who may be more monumental than the Eiffel Tower. That would be Rafa Nadal of course, and here’s my advice to Messrs Federer, Murray, Djokovic, Roddick and anyone else who would hope to flatten him: Show up in a tank equipped with flame throwers."
"Rafa has become such a striking landmark in Paris, where he has won the last four French Opens, that he rivals one of Rodin’s statues – and is as tough to dislodge. They ought to give him a gold key to the city, and a rent-free apartment at the top of Notre Dame alongside Quasimodo. If Quasi is the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Roundhouse Rafa is the Punchback with those big, powerful swings."
NEW YORK – "Ever wonder how Billy the Kid would have done with a tennis racket instead of a shotgun? The Kid, known as a withdrawal artist to the bankers of Lincoln County, New Mexico, showed his quick, greedy hands to advantage in practicing his craft in the neighborhood of the Tombstone’s infamous OK Corral."
"Who knows? Maybe the Kid might have preferred serving aces through the rich folks on their plush grass courts at Newport, Rhode Island. Those well-coiffed lawns were easier on the feet than prairies, the food was better and the Kid could have been an earlier-day Bobby Riggs, hustling the robber barons for millions…"
LONDON – "Why does Sister Serena remind me of the Statue of Liberty? Well, both of them are famous Americans, recognizable heroines just about everywhere.
They stand out in their occupations, symbols of the fact that anything is possible in the USA. Lady Liberty is a one-woman welcoming committee in New York. Sister Serena travels the world as the best female tennis player in creation."
"Of course they have different ideas about fashion, the Lady in a somber robe, while Serena is somewhat more daring in her raiment, on and off the job.
Did I say somewhat? Do you think Liberty would be comfortable in the fire-engine-red drawers that accompany Serena’s pristine white ensemble? Or the silver fingernails speckled with tiny sparklers and seeming like claws?"
"Probably not. Still the thought of their similarities came to me yesterday during a soft summer afternoon at Wimbledon, glorious for everyone in the forest green ball park but the hustling though helpless Russian, Vera Zvonareva."
"Serena had just about completed her demolition derby, but one point remained. A lob rose above Serena, and she raised her racket to deal with it. It was just like Lady Liberty’s pose with her celebrated torch lifted to the sky."
"Serena’s racket was as fiery as the torch, scorching the tennis ball with a bang…."
read the rest at
I love this stuff, old-fashioned sports writing with flair, style and humor. You got the results of the match and a wonderful topspin lob of a story.
RIP, Mr. Collins.
Photo courtesy of AP