Sunday, November 18, 2007

Television Coverage of the Tennis Masters Cup Final

It's a little past 3:00am Eastern Standard Time (when I started this blog entry). Being the tennis fan that I am, I stayed up late with the hopes of watching the Tennis Masters Cup final between Roger Federer and David Ferrer.

In theory, it was a great plan, until to my utter dismay, I realized there was no live television feed of this match on any Canadian channel. TSN and RDS had the rights to cover the Tennis Masters Cup final, but both channels were showing it on tape delay. Investigating further, the only US station that had this match live was ESPN Deportes, the Spanish version of ESPN. There was no live tennis on ESPN, ESPN2 (or any of its HD feeds) or even the Tennis Channel. With absolutely no offence to any Spanish viewers, surely there must have been other English and even French speaking tennis fans in North America who would have wanted to watch this match live!

What is more astonishing is to see what these stations were carrying instead of the Tennis Masters Cup final. Here's a list of what these stations, which had rights to carry singles action, ended up showing:

  • TSN - 2007 Montreal Supercross, an event that happened in late September 2007;
  • RDS - Sports 30, which is essentially the French version of SportsCentre;
  • ESPN - ESPN College Football Primetime, a repeat of the Saturday night college football game;
  • ESPN2 - Ford 300, a repeat of a NASCAR race that occured Saturday afternoon; and,
  • Tennis Channel (which didn't have the rights to the singles matches anyways) was showing infomercials.

Granted, with the Tennis Masters Cup being held in Shanghai, it is not the most ideal location in terms of time difference to match up with the North American TV viewing schedule. That said, surely the ATP's prestigious year-end event, which is suppose to showcase the best in men's singles tennis (I promise I'm not forgetting about doubles either), deserves to be shown live on at least one English speaking channel. Instead, all these North American channels (with the exception of ESPND) showed repeats and highlight shows. Yes, repeats and highlight shows!

To me, this is a clear demonstration of what is wrong with television coverage of tennis. When repeats and highlight shows are deemed to be more important than the Tennis Masters Cup finals, what hope does tennis being a 'must-see' live sporting event? Don't get me started on the US Open Men's final, which doesn't start at a specific time (e.g. 4:15 pm), but rather, starts when the television coverage of the NFL game ends (such that CBS can then switch over to tennis). If that NFL game goes to overtime, guess what event has to wait? It is really a shame that there is great coverage of tennis tournaments in the US Open Series over the summer, which is then followed up by tape delayed coverage of what is suppose to be the big year-end event.

Perhaps when the Tennis Masters Cup (to be renamed to the ATP World Tour Final) tournament moves to London in 2009, the live coverage situation for North American viewers will be more ideal. Surely, the ATP must have had this consideration in mind with this move.

Some will say that my rant is irrelevant because you could watch this match on ATP Masters Series TV, a site that streams some ATP tennis matches live for a fee. To me, while with TV broadcasting of live sports being in its infancy, it cannot be considered a replacement for what we can get today; a high or even a standard definition television feed over 'regular' television broadcast mediums, whether it is cable or satellite. Going the pay-per-view route, whether it is through the Internet or television is another move that won't win over too many tennis fans. Broadcasting sporting events over the Internet is definitely in our future, but let's not forget about about what we are capable of doing with television today.

That said, congratulations to Roger Federer, who defeated David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to win the Tennis Masters Cup for the fourth time in five years. In addition, congratulations are also in order for Mark Knowles and Canadian Daniel Nestor, who won the doubles final over Simon Aspelin and Julian Knowle 6-2, 6-3 in what was the final match together for the winning team.

Hopefully, next year brings even better tennis and better television coverage for the ATP Tour.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

EA Donates SimCity to "One Laptop Per Child" Initiative

Electronic Arts announced in a press release on November 8, 2007 that they would donate a copy of the game SimCity to the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative.

SimCity, a game that was first released in 1989, allows its player takes on the role of mayor of a new municipality—responsible for building and maintaining a place where citizens can work and live happily. Doing so requires laying out essentials such as housing, employment areas, transport links, schools, and commercial uses. The job also requires an ability to choose wisely—for example, some power sources pollute, while others do not but are more expensive. Players must also be financially savvy—raising taxes enough to guarantee an income that can be allocated to public services such as policing and road repair, but not so high that business growth is hampered or that citizens revolt. The mayor must always be prepared for emergency situations as well, as earthquakes, floods and fires can wreak havoc on the town and require an immediate response so that fallout can be contained.

The OLPC is a not-for-profit humanitarian effort to design, manufacture and distribute inexpensive laptops with the goal of giving every child in the world access to modern education. OLPC will begin distributing laptops in countries such as Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Haiti, Cambodia and India by the end of 2007. By gifting SimCity onto each OLPC laptop, EA is providing users with an entertaining way to engage with computers as well as help develop decision-making skills while honing creativity.

I think the OLPC is a great initiative, as long as basic living conditions are already available for people that they are targetting. For example, it makes no sense to give out these laptops, if things like shelter, food or water are not available. This falls along the lines of what Bill Gates talked about during his last MVP Summit keynote that I attended (details here). Once those basic living conditions are met, then the OLPC becomes a really compelling initiative with great potential.

Since SimCity was one of the things that eventually pushed me toward my current career as an urban planner, coupled with my on-going interest in computer technology, I think this was a great move by EA to partner with the OLPC. Hopefully the inclusion of a game like this will help children learn about the complexities of city building, the role of government and the effect of land use planning decisions that have social, economic and environmental implications. Who knows, maybe some of these children will end up making a career out of this like I did!

For more information, see the EA press release "EA Donates Original City- Building Game, SIMCITY, To "One Laptop Per Child" Initiative".

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tevlin Challenger Wrap-up

I was back at the Tevlin Challenger tennis tournament this weekend (see here for a blog entry about the tournament and my first weekend).

Similar to the Rogers Cup, and most other tennis tournaments, the final weekend is usually not very busy compared to earlier in the tournament. Many of the players, unfortunately, have left to go onto their next tournaments. During the first weekend, you have all the qualifying players (up to 32 singles players) and some main draw players around. Contrast this with the second weekend where you only have the 4 singles semifinalists and 4 doubles team semifinalists left.

While I was primarily driving again, it was a really slow couple of days, which was actually okay, because it gave me a chance to actually watch tennis; something I usually don't get to do during the Rogers Cup because it is so busy. It was also great to catch up with many of the Tennis Canada staff, officials and some of the volunteers whom I've worked with during the Rogers Cup.

On Saturday (Nov 10), there were only two matches played; one singles semi-final (the second semi-final was a walkover), and the doubles final. In the singles semi-final, Sabine Lisicki defeated Renata Voracova 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. The second semi-final was a walkover with Maria-Jose Argeri earning her berth in the championship after her opponent Naomi Cavaday could not play due to a high ankle sprain. In the doubles final, Canadians Sharon Fichman and Gabriela Dabrowski defeated Maria-Fernanda Alves and Christina Wheeler 6-3, 6-0. This win is the first professional doubles title for both players, with hopefully many to come.

On Sunday (Nov 11), there was only one match, the singles final. Sabine Lisicki defeated Maria-Jose Argeri 6-4, 6-4. It was a very well played match by the winner. Following the match, there was a awards ceremony where it was announced that next year's edition of the Telvin Challenger would be a $50,000 tournament, a step up from its current status as a $25,000 tournament, thanks again to the generosity of the Tevlin family.

All in all, it was a great couple of weekends. It was definitely a different atmosphere compared to the Rogers Cup, one which I could definitely say that I enjoyed as much, if not even more than the Rogers Cup itself. While there is a vast difference between he prize money that was available and the player rankings between the two tournaments, you can't help but to gain a new perspective and appreciation for all these players who are fighting tooth and nail for ranking points that will get them to the next level in their tennis careers. I hope that I'll see many of these players next year at the same tournament, or even in two years when the women are back in Toronto for the Rogers Cup.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

The Police Reunion Tour

I am not usually one to write about concerts. I have been lucky to see many, with huge majority in near past being ones where I have been working, either through production work, or through ushering.

I have always been a fan of Sting (Fields of Gold, Desert Rose and Fortress Around Your Heart are probably my favorite songs by him), and I knew prior to his solo career, that he was part of The Police along with Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland. As everyone probably knows, The Police broke up in the mid-1980s, but reunited in early 2007 with the announcement that they are undertaking a world tour from the middle of that year on until mid-2008, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their hit single "Roxanne" and also, to a lesser extent, that of their formation as a group.

Originally, there were only going to be two shows in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, which took place earlier in July of this year. Due to high demand, two additional shows were added, one last night, and one tonight, and as a result, I pounced on the opportunity to get these tickets. One night removed from the show, I am glad that I had a chance to see them live.

The Police Reunion Tour at the Air Canada Centre - November 8, 2007

While I did not know all the songs that were performed, all the songs that I did know (Message in a Bottle, Walking On The Moon, Don't Stand So Close To Me, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Wrapped Around Your Finger (fav song of the night), De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, Invisible Sun, Walking In Your Footsteps, Roxanne, King Of Pain and Every Breath You Take) were done in a familiar, yet slightly updated manner. I really liked the songs where Copeland alternated between his primary drumkit and a secondary percussion kit of kettle drums, xylophones, chimes, suspended cymbals and some other 'stuff' (Wrapped Around Your Finger and King of Pain). See the below video clip (from an earlier concert) for an example of Copeland at work.

<a href="">Video Link</a>

The stage setup was pretty simple split oval design, ringed with lights. It was nothing fancy compared to other stages that I have seen; no doubt the band let their music be the highlight of the show, as it should be. The production of the concert was also pretty straight forward. Video screens above the stage showed close ups of the three performers most of the time, but there was some pretty interesting footage during some of the songs, particularly during Invisible Sun (the photo image montage of children dealing with war, conflict, natural disaster, abuse and displacement, see 'Invisible Sun - The Story behind the Pictures' for more details and the video) along with video footage of The Police in their younger days during their final song of the night.

Tickets to the concert were not particularly cheap but for the experience of seeing The Police live, it was worth it. Part of the proceeds of the concert will be going to Wateraid, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to helping people escape the poverty and disease caused by living without safe water and sanitation.

Of course, what concert could I go to without running into somebody I know. I ran into Raya, a fellow volunteer at Tennis Canada in the same Transportation Committee as me. It seems that a lot of volunteers in my committee saw one of these Police shows based on conversations I had over the summer. Lastly, thanks Liz, for coming to the concert with me, even though you were not feeling very well. Hope you had a great time, and hope that you get well soon!

Set List - November 8, 2007, Toronto - Air Canada Centre

  • Message in a Bottle
  • Synchronicity II
  • Walking On The Moon
  • Voices Inside My Head
  • When The World Is Running Down
  • Don't Stand So Close To Me
  • Driven To Tears
  • Truth Hits Everybody
  • Hole In My Life
  • Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
  • Wrapped Around Your Finger
  • De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
  • Invisible Sun
  • Walking In Your Footsteps
  • Can't Stand Losing You
  • Roxanne

First Encore

  • King Of Pain
  • So Lonely
  • Every Breath You Take

Second Encore

  • Next To You

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tevlin Challenger Tennis Tournament

This past weekend, I helped out at the Tevlin Challenger Tennis Tournament, held at the Rexall Centre's Compass Centre of Excellence in Toronto. Prior to agreeing to helping out, I honestly did not know too much about this event. Now that I have had the opportunity to learn more about the tournament, here is my chance to share what I have learned about the tournament.

The Tevlin Challenger is a women's tennis tournament that is sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). It is classified as a $25,000 tournament, which means that the total prize money (purse) for the tournament is $25,000. It is a 32 player singles main draw tournament, a 32 player singles qualifying draw and a 16 team doubles main draw.

Where does this tournament lie in the tennis hierarchy? The following chart shows the levels of tennis tournaments for women.

WTA Tour Events

  • Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open)
  • Tour Championships
  • Tier I (sub-divided by both prize money and 96, 56 or 32 player singles main draws)
  • Tier II (sub-divided by both prize money and 64 or 32 player singles main draws)
  • Tier III (sub-divided by both prize money and 64 or 32 player singles main draws)
  • Tier IV (32 player main draw)

ITF Pro Events

  • $100,000 (with or without Hospitality, 32 player singles main draw)
  • $75,000 (with or without Hospitality, 32 player singles main draw)
  • $50,000 (with or without Hospitality, 32 player singles main draw)
  • $25,000 (32 player singles main draw)
  • $10,000 (32 player singles main draw)

At first glance, it would be easy to say that this event is quite a step down from the Rogers Cup, which is a Tier I (56 player main draw) event. I wouldn't dispute that at all. However, it was a real eye-opener to see many of these players competing with the hopes of acquiring ranking points to help them move up to the next level of the professional competitive ladder. With the lack of media coverage for these lower tier events, not many people see the plight of players at this level, working up the ranks, attempting to live out their dream of becoming an elite tennis player.

There was a large mix of players at this event, from young juniors to more veteran players. Some of these players even played at the Rogers Cup earlier this year. While there were a lot of Canadians in the qualifying draw, I was especially surprised to see the number of players who came from overseas to play in this event (the entry list can be found here).

One of the duties that I assisted with was driving the players to and from their hotel. This was quite the change from my duties at the Rogers Cup, where I would be co-ordinating various transportation related requests and managing volunteers who do the driving. It was also nice to not have to be in charge for once; just being able to help out was really refreshing. Because of this, I had the opportunity to talk to the players about their experiences. With the common bond of tennis aside, it was nice to see the human aspect of these players. Everybody had their own story to tell, whether it was a first or a repeat visit to Toronto, the joy of participating in tennis camps all around the world, life as professional player after completing college, travel adventures and/or nightmares or even talking about their home city/countries. Who knows what the future holds for these players. Maybe in two years, I hope to see some of these players again at the Rogers Cup.

The Tevlin Challenger was founded by Tevlin family of Toronto as part of a generous $500,000 donation made to Tennis Canada's High Performance Development Strategy in 2005. Qualifying play started on Sunday and concluded on yesterday (Monday). Main draw play will begins on today (Tuesday, November 6) and concludes with the finals on Sunday, November 11. The event is open to the public, with no charge for admission or parking. If you are interested in tennis, you should really consider coming out to watch this event. Matches begin at 10:00 a.m. during the week, 11:00 a.m. on Saturday and the finals will be played at noon on Sunday.

For more information about this event, see the Tennis Canada news article 'Tevlin Challenger to Begin Next Week'.

If you are not in Toronto, take a look at the ITF website to see what tennis tournaments are being held (see the Mens Circuit, Womens Circuit, Juniors, etc). Perhaps there might be one of these tournaments happening in your area.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

End of an Era

On the afternoon of October 28th, the end of an era came with the removal of the basketball net from our driveway.

This basketball net had been up for 16 years, and I remember all the great times that we had playing basketball in my driveway.

In the last few years, the basketball net wasn't used much. Instead it served as a wayfinding device for people looking for my house. My brother and I would always tell people to 'look for the basketball net' as part of the directions we gave.

While the basketball net is gone, the pole remains. I suspect it'll be used to hang some sort of a floral arrangement off of it. We'll see what happens. Either way, don't look for a basketball net anymore if you are looking for my house. If you do, you'll never find my house!



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Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Halloween

Yesterday was Halloween. I actually had a couple of Raptors tickets for their season/home opener, but I wasn't really in the mood to go. Gave them up to a couple of friends of mine, and decided to stay at home.

It's been a while since I've been at home during Halloween. I always remember Halloween as being one of my favorite holidays. Being at home, it was amazing to see the work that some people put into getting into the Halloween mood. I took a walk around the neighbourhood to see what people had done, and was amazed by the lengths that some families took into decorating their houses for the occasion. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera, so I couldn't take any pictures.

While my parents weren't the biggest fans of the candy distribution, I decided to give out candy to the kids once I got home. We didn't really have any candy at our house, but it was a good thing that Gary had a lot of junk food around, so I 'borrowed' some of that supply. While not too many kids came up to our house, those that did were probably happy with what they got.

Later that night, Shima messaged me asking for help securing a highly sought after gift (hint, it is something I appeared in a newspaper for last December). Luck must have been upon us, because I found one for her pretty quickly. I don't think I've ever secured one of these items with about one hour's notice.

The Raptors ended up winning their home opener against the 76ers by a score of 106-96. My friends enjoyed the game, I got to enjoy Halloween, and I was able to help a friend out. I think everyone won that night.

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