Monday/ not out of the woods

Looks like we will have to wait until Wednesday Australia time for the final word from Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, regarding the fate of No Vax Djokovic.

There are reports that his travel declaration form (travel before the trip to Melbourne) was filled out incorrectly. He had in fact, traveled to Yugoslavia and Spain, which was not noted in his declaration. Then there are Twitterati that got a hold of the (now publicly available) QR-code of his Dec. 16 Covid test, scanned it, and says the test result show as negative, not positive. If one can believe that.

Here’s Team Canada (Brayden Schnur, Félix Auger Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov) taking the Canadian flag and the 2022 ATP Cup* that they had claimed on Sunday, for a jolly in Sydney Harbor.
*A team competition between competing nations to kick-start the calendar year for the Association of Tennis Professionals.
[Picture from @felixtennis on Twitter]

Saturday/ no vax, no play

From Yahoo Sports:
The Victoria state government allows medical exemptions for people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last six months. That’s why Djokovic received a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open. The event is hosted in Victoria, one of six states in the country.
Border authorities, however, did not accept Djokovic’s previous COVID-19 diagnosis as an acceptable reason for a medical exemption, leading to Djokovic being detained and his visa being canceled.

My opinion: Djokovic should just go home. Bye-bye.

Reported by Tennis Channel: in spite of testing positive on Dec. 16, Novak ‘No Vax’ Djokovic attended public events— sans mask— the very next day and the day after that.  I think he is obnoxious, and I am indifferent to his self-inflicted dilemma.

Mon 1/10 (reported by @MetroSport on Twitter):
Judge Anthony Kelly declared that the government’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa was ‘unreasonable’ on the grounds that he had not been given time to speak with his lawyers or representatives from Tennis Australia after being detained, and overturned the cancellation.

That means that the judge’s call hinged on a technicality, concerning the way in which the border force implemented the rules, rather than an outright declaration that Djokovic should have been completely free to enter the country all along.

Now the ball is in the court of Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, who must decide whether to personally intervene and cancel Djokovic’s visa himself.

Fri 1/14: Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa was announced at 6 pm Melbourne time. Djokovic’s legal team is challenging the decision.

Sun 1/16: The Australian Federal Court upholds Hawke’s decision to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa. The court panel returned their unanimous decision just a day before the World No. 1 was set to play his first match of the Australian Open. Djokovic will now be deported and will not compete in the tournament.

Saturday/ Kraken 2, Canucks 4

Well, that was disappointing, and we will file this one in the ‘Too Bad’ folder.
It would have been great for the Seattle Kraken to win their first-ever game in their new home, but it was not to be. The home team was up 2-0, but in the end, succumbed to the Canucks with 2 goals to their 4.

Here it comes!— the very first goal for Seattle Kraken on their brand-new home ice rink. With just 3.2 seconds remaining in the first period, Seattle Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn scored for the home team.

Friday/ Climate Pledge Arena opens

The new home of the Seattle Kraken (ice hockey team) opened today, officially. There was a concert tonight: the first live performance of Coldplay’s brand-new album, Music Of The Spheres. This was the band’s first arena show in nearly five years.

The crews now have 12 hours to turn the arena into an ice hockey rink for the first home game of the Seattle Kraken (against the Vancouver Canucks).

The new Climate Pledge Arena with the intact roof and windows of the old Key Area (architect Paul Thiry; built for the 1962 World Fair). Private equity groups invested some $1.15 billion in the facility’s make-over. The arena will use on-site solar panels and off-site renewable energy power to be powered 100% by renewable energy.
[Picture Credit: Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times]
Workers dug an extra 15 feet downward to form a new arena floor some 53 feet below street level. In addition, the steeper seating grade now makes for double the seating capacity that the Key Arena had.
[Picture Credit: Oak View Group]
The ice rink will not have the traditional center-ice scoreboard, but dual scoreboards, one on each end, and high enough not to interfere with the sight line of the spectators.
[Picture Credit: Daniel Kim/ Seattle Times]

Wow. This wish-I-was-there picture of tonight’s Coldplay ‘Music Of The Spheres’ concert, tweeted by Ross Fletcher@RossFletcher1 on Twitter.

These are stills from the live-stream. The ‘spheres’/ planets and the lighting looked great.
[Source: Amazon Prime Video livestream]
Coldplay front man, vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and pianist Chris Martin (44 yo). Coldplay are a British rock band formed in London in 1996.
[Source: Amazon Prime Video livestream]
South Korean boy band BTS (make that SUPER-boy band), also known as the Bangtan Boys, also beamed into the concert.
[Source: Amazon Prime Video livestream]

Monday/ fired: the coach plus four

Mike Rolovich and four of his assistants have been fired for failing to comply with Washington State’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate.

From the New York Times:
Earlier in the day, a Superior Court judge rejected a request by hundreds of Washington State Patrol troopers, corrections officers, ferry workers and other public employees for a temporary injunction to block Inslee’s mandate, though the lawsuit they have filed can still go forward.

Rolovich, who was in the second year of a five-year, $15.6 million contract, had become the public face of the showdown with Inslee, who repeatedly said there would be no exceptions. Rolovich was counseled by June Jones, whom he played quarterback for and coached under at Hawaii, to get vaccinated. And Jack Thompson, a Washington State star quarterback from the late 1970s, had several heart-to-heart talks with him.

Rolovich’s resistance frustrated campus leaders, including President Kirk Schulz, who has strongly encouraged students to get vaccinated. Fans at the last two home games have been required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test in order to be admitted, a policy the school developed in conjunction with the University of Washington and the Seattle Seahawks.

Sunday/ the deadline is here

Rolovich*: “I don’t think this is in my hands. I’ve been settled for a long time on it. I believe it’s going to work out the right way.”
Reporter: “Right way, as in staying the coach?”
Rolovich: “Correct. Or, if that’s not what (athletics director Pat Chun) wants, then, you know, then I guess I gotta move on. But I like being here, I like being the coach here, I love these kids, and I just got faith in it.”
*Nick Rolovich, head coach of the Washington State Cougars football team, and Washington State’s highest-paid employee at $3 million per year. The governor of Washington State earns a paltry $172,000 by comparison, per Ballotpedia.

The deadline is here: Washington State employees must be vaccinated come tomorrow, or get fired (or just risk getting fired? time will tell). The mandate includes employees at the Capitol in Olympia, firefighters, policemen, state troopers, and Washington State Cougars football team head coach Nick Rolovich.

Rolovich is reportedly seeking a religious exemption. If the school’s review panel — through its double-blind review procedure that is out of the hands of the athletics department — determines he does not have “sincerely held religious belief” preventing him from getting vaccinated, then he will be out of a job, and WSU will be off the hook for the remainder of his contract, says the CougCenter website.

The report also notes that even if his exemption is approved, the school must also determine if he can be accommodated. (He will have to do his job with social distancing, testing, and wearing a mask at all times, and so on). Given that the governor’s mandate is a public safety measure, it’s reasonable to infer that the safety of others — employees and the public at large, will factor into WSU’s thinking.

Photo and reporting that I referred to, from the CougCenter website. Washington State University is located in Pullman, Washington.

Sunday/ Release the Kraken!

The kraken (/ˈkrɑːkən/)
1. a legendary sea monster of gigantic size and cephalopod-like appearance in Scandinavian folklore
2. Seattle’s new National Hockey League team, commencing its inaugural season in the league

For the first time in almost a century, Seattle has an ice hockey team again that competes for the Stanley Cup. (The Seattle Metropolitans beat the Montreal Canadiens in 1917 to become the first American team to capture the Stanley Cup. After the Metropolitans had disbanded in 1924, there were other teams, such as the Seattle Totems, that competed in the Pacific Coast Hockey League, but not in the National Hockey League).

So tonight, in a preseason game for the upcoming 2021-22 NHL season, the Seattle Kraken took on the Vancouver Canucks. More than 10,000 fans packed into the Spokane Arena, all the way across the state near its border with Idaho.
Forward Riley Sheahan (#15) scored the first-ever goal in Kraken history tonight.
The Kraken ended up winning 5-3.

Hockey pucks (1 in. thick, 3 in. diameter, weight 6 oz.) are made of vulcanized rubber, with diamond patterns on the edges to improve the grip of the hockey stick on the puck. Pucks are frozen before the game to reduce bouncing during play. Ice hockey started out with a ball, such as the one used for field hockey, then in the 1870s came a square puck. Soon after that, the round puck came into play.
The origin of the word ‘puck’ is obscure. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests the name is related to the verb ‘to puck’ (a cognate of poke), used in the game of hurling for striking or pushing the ball, or from the Scottish Gaelic puc or the Irish poc, meaning “to poke, punch or deliver a blow”.
A hockey puck is also referred to colloquially as a “biscuit”. To put the “biscuit in the basket” (colloquial for the goal) is to score a goal.
[Source: Wikipedia, Picture @SeattleKraken on Twitter]
Action on the ice in the Spokane Arena tonight. The Seattle Kraken wears the dark blue. That’s defender Jamie Oleksiak (#24), forward Jared McCann (#16) and forward Jordan Eberle (#7). These guys are all Canadian-born, but we also have Scandinavian-born players and hey! a few Americans on the team. It’s professional hockey. Money talks and the owner/s* buy (is that too harsh a word?) the players for the team from all over the world.
* Billionaire private equity businessman David Bonderman is the majority owner.

Saturday/ let’s go, Carlos!

Let’s Go, Carlos! clap-clap-clap
Let’s Go, Carlos! clap-clap-clap
Let’s Go, Carlos! clap-clap-clap
– Rowdy Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, chanting during the Alcaraz-Tsitsipas tennis match at the US Open, Friday

World No 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas (23, Greece) was up against 18-year old sensation Carlos Alcaraz (Spain) and the spectators on Friday. (The crowd may have been a little tired of Tsitsipas’ lengthy bathroom breaks between sets. Andy Murray had said on Monday he had lost his respect for Tsitsipas because of it).

The epic match went 4 hrs 11 mins and the full five sets. I watched all of it.
Alcaraz was on fire during the first set. Alcarez 6-3.
He lost the second set. Tsitsipas 6-4.
Alcaraz then trailed 2-5 in the third set. Tsitsipas had 40-15, serving, and yet, Alcarez wrested it away from him, and the next two games. Level at 5-5. The set went to a tiebreaker, which Alcarez won. Alcarez 7-6 (7-2).
Alcarez must have been drained mentally at that point, because he lost the fourth set 0-6. Tsitsipas 6-0. Never mind.
The fifth set went to a tie-breaker again, which Alcarez took 7-5. Alcarez 7-6 (7-2).

Alcarez def. Tsitsipas 6-3 4-6  77-62  0-6  77-65

Update Tue Sept. 7: The young Alcaraz made it all the way to the quarter-finals. Unfortunately, he had to retire today against Felix Auger-Aliassime because of a leg muscle injury.
Fourth Round: Alcaraz def. Peter Gojowczyk (32, Germany) 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 6-0.
Quarter-final: Felix Auger-Aliassime (21, Canada) def. Alcaraz 6-3 6-1 (retired).

Alcaraz about to put away a backhand volley in the first set against Tsitsipas on Friday. When I started playing tennis, my coach would say that it takes ’10 years’ to become a tennis player, and ‘another 10’ to become a champion. Well, that was 50 years ago and I guess we live in internet time now. 
Alcaraz at 18 has a mature game with a great serve, powerful & flawless groundstrokes, a deft drop shot touch, and great volleys. He is already a champion. He won the Croatia Open in July. He qualified for all four 2021 Grand Slam tournaments and won his first round matches in all of them. His coach is former world No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero (41, Spain).
[Video still from ESPN+ broadcast]
The Alcaraz forearm shot that is a bazooka, shooting a tennis ball back at 90 mph. His backhand is double-handed.
[Photo by Rhea Nall/USTA, posted on]
Match point* for Alcaraz (Alcaraz is up 6-3 in the 5th set tiebreaker; first to 7 wins). He lost this point, the first of his three match points. Score 6-4. During the next point, he hit a drop shot. With Tsitsipas up at the net, Alcaraz lobbed the ball deep. It was out by a hair. Score now 6-5. Second match point gone. The final point saw them exchange 9 shots, and then an inside-out forehand winner from Alcaraz got him the match after 4 hrs.

*Match point means one of the two players needs ONE POINT to win the game, with that win the set, and with that, win the match. In this case, leading 6-3 in the tiebreaker, Alcaraz could lose the point, but would have another match point at 6-4. He could lose that point as well, and would have yet another match point at 6-5. (Let’s get mathematical. So up at 6-3 in the tiebreaker means you have triple match point. Up 6-2 would be quadruple match point for you. Up 6-1 would be quintuple match point, and just to complete the math, being up 6-0 would be sextuple match point.)  
[Video still from ESPN+ broadcast]

Sunday/ the Games are over (hooray)

Well, that was that.
The Games held in a pandemic is now over. It was getting a little too much for me: the commercial-filled coverage from NBC with the taa-ta-ra-tataa music, and my Twitter feed filled up with stories and superlatives (best ever, most medals).

Great action picture of 23-yr old Neeraj Chopra, the Indian athlete that won the first ever track and field gold medal for his country. His final throw of 87.58m was not his personal best, but good enough to win the gold.
The German javelin star Johannes Vetter was also not in good form. He had thrown a second-best all-time throw of 97.76m last year. Coming into the Games, he boasted the season-best in 2021, a spectacular 96.29m. He just could not best Chopra at this event at the Games. [Photo by Reuters]

Tuesday/ the harmfulness of excessive hype

‘By withdrawing from two Olympic events, Biles joined a growing group of elite athletes who have rejected a long tradition of stoicism’.
– The New York Times @nytimes on Twitter

This afternoon, NBC showed the fateful vault jump of superstar* gymnast Simone Biles (24) again. She did not complete her somersaults and stumbled badly on the landing. This prompted her to withdraw from participating with her team, citing her mental well-being/ bad state of mind. She still watched and supported them. (Biles later explained that she experienced ‘the twisties’:  a loss of one’s sense of space and orientation while in the air. It could make for a very bad landing and serious injuries).

I say: give her a break.
Kudos to her teammates that came close to claim the gold for Team USA, but had to settle for silver.

*Here’s reader Lecteur from France, commenting on the NYT article: ‘Obviously Americans have freedom of speech, but perhaps it would be salutary for them to recognize the harmfulness of excessive hype, including applying the Greatest of All Time label, to athletes still performing‘.

Composite picture of the vault done by Simone Biles, and all that went wrong with it. Biles had planned to do an Amanar, a difficult vault with two-and-a-half twists. But, she said, she lost her bearings in the air. She completed only one-and-a-half twists, then stumbled out of her landing. [Text by New York Times; Photographs by Emily Rhyne; Composite image by Jon Huang]

Friday/ Team USA

Team USA entering the stadium during the opening ceremony. Sue Bird and Eddy Alvares (basketball players) were the flagbearers for Team USA. There were only some 10,000 people in a stadium designed for 68,000.
[Picture by Doug Mills/The New York Times]
And here comes Team USA!
NBC’s coverage of the opening ceremony here in the US, had a heck of a recorded introduction of the team, by actor and tough guy Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He said that they are truly ‘the best of us‘. Johnson also remarked: ‘Kindness matters. Always.

I love the ‘Earth’ made up of 1,824 drones up in the sky, while John Lennon’s Imagine played below. The drones were programmed by chipmaker Intel, who first brought drones to the Winter Olympics in 2018.
[Picture by Chang W. Lee/ New York Times]

Friday/ Team South Africa

Hey, Team South Africa! I see you.
Love the vellies*.
*Velskoene (“FEL-skoona”) or colloquially vellies (“FELL-ys”), are Southern African walking shoes, made from vegetable-tanned leather or soft rawhide uppers attached to a leather footbed and rubber sole, without tacks or nails (from Wikipedia).

Team South Africa, at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
[Picture from Team South Africa @TeamSA2020 on Twitter]

Sunday/ heartbreak for England

It’s a shame that it had to come down to a penalty shootout.

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saving Jadon Sancho’s penalty. He also stopped Bukayo Saka’s attempt to clinch the win. It was 1-1 after extra time, and then Italy won the penalty shootout 3-2. [Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images]

Saturday/ Wimbledon, 40 years ago

The first week of action is over at the world’s oldest, and arguably the most famous, tennis tournament: Wimbledon in London, England.

It’s hard to believe that I had taken this picture 40 years ago, on Thursday, July 2, 1981. Bjorn Borg (25 at the time, Sweden) was playing Jimmy Conners (28, USA) in the semi-final.
Regrettably, we had to leave early. We had dinner reservations, with a business associate of my dad’s. After dinner, we did not want to wait for the newspaper in the morning, and inquired from the hotel’s doorman if he knew who had won the match.  He did.

My 35 mm black & white picture, from where parents and my brother and I were sitting, watching the Borg-Conners semi-final match at Wimbledon 1981. That’s Borg on the far side. They are warming up, and have not started playing (Borg still has his jacket on, and there are loose tennis balls on the court). The scoreboard shows the time as 5.12 pm. The match went on for 3 hrs 18 mins, with Borg the victor. (John McEnroe defeated Borg in the final). Our tickets cost all of £11 each, an amazing bargain. (£11 in 1981 is worth £43 today. At this year’s Wimbledon, a ticket for the men’s semi-final goes for £170). 
Today the court has a high-tech retractable roof cover. There is a crowd, albeit a little thin due to Covid-19 restrictions. Here is Andy Murray (34, Scotland) serving against Denis Shapovalov (22, Canada) in a match played on Friday. Shapavalov won 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
The tournament was first held in 1877. There was no tournament 1915-18 (during World War I), nor 1940-45 (during World War II), and not in 2020 (during the War against Covid-19). [Picture by AELTC/ Joe Toth]

Friday/ spectacular tennis

There was spectacular French Open men’s tennis on TV today.
The youngsters Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece, 22 yrs old) and Alexander Zverev (Germany, 24) went first, with Tsitsipas overcoming a mid-match slump to win 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Then the legendary King of Clay, Rafael Nadal (Spain, 35 yrs old, won 13 French Opens* in 16 years) took on the world’s No 1 Novak Djokovic (Serbia, 34). Djokovic won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2.

Officials decided to suspend the controversial Covid-19 curfew in Paris, that had them empty out the stands at 9 pm on Monday & Tuesday night, and at 11 pm later this week. The Nadal-Djokovic match was still going at 11 pm. There would have been a French Revolution II in the Philippe Chatrier tennis stadium, had anyone attempted to chase the rabid tennis fans out.

*The French Open is a Grand Slam tournament, with 128 players in the main draw. (Regular tournaments have 32). For 4 of the 128 spots in the main draw, there was a qualifying tournament.  To win, you have to win seven matches in a row, all guaranteed to be against a fierce competitor in the game of tennis.

A Nadal fan waving the Spanish flag, as the players came onto the court. [Still from NBC Sports broadcast].
No ball is too wide, or too short, or too high, for Nadal to run down on the slow red clay courts of the French Open. For this one, he was all the way up at the net, and had to run back to retrieve a high overhead shot. He invented a shot on the fly, lobbed the ball back into the corner of Djokovic’s court, and won the point and the opening game. [Still from NBC Sports broadcast].

Thursday/ tennis at Amy Yee

I made my way to Amy Yee tennis center again tonight by bus.
It was 5.10 pm and the No 8 bus is notorious for being late, or ‘full’ (half-full, actually: half the seats are still blocked out, in order to create social distance between the passengers).
Plan B was to call for an UberX (cost: $20, quite a bit more than it used to be) if the bus (fare: $2.75) had not worked out.
The bus showed up in good time, though, and had a few open seats left.

Inside the Amy Yee Tennis Center. That’s Court No 5 in the distance, then there’s 5 more indoors, for a total of 10. Outside there are 6 more courts. The tarp ‘door’ pieces for the courts are still removed— so that people don’t accidentally bump into each other. Now and then the tennis balls escape through the opening, of course. And check out the silly little piece of blue tape on the floor warning of a ‘Bump’ (in the floor). Um. It needs to be a LOT bigger!

Saturday/ allez, légende!

Go, legend!
Tennis legend Roger Federer (39) is into the 4th round of the 2021 French Open, winning a grinding 3 ½-hour match that ended after midnight:
7-65 63-77 77-64 7-5, over German Dominik Koepfer (27).

Federer at full slide, and full stretch, going for a very wide angle drop shot return from Koepfer.
He flicked the ball back over the net and Koepfer was not able to volley the ball back. BY THE WAY: That silly green box with ‘Peugeot’ on it was in the way. With these wide-angled shots, it’s perfectly fine to play the ball back super-low, and into the opposite court, by going AROUND the net post.

Sunday 6/6: Oh no .. bad news, this morning. Federer is pulling out of the tournament. There were hints at Federer’s Saturday night post-match press conference, though.

Friday/ tennis and beer

It’s been a dry and mild weather week here in the city (72° F/ 22 °C today).
Four of us played a little doubles tennis at the Jefferson Park courts south of the city.

One of the guys brought a six-pack of beer —’Porch Glow’ amber ale, brewed in Spokane all the way across Washington State on its border with Idaho. We sat on the tennis court and socialized for a bit afterwards. It felt good. Not long ago we had to play with masks, stay the hell away from each other by 6 feet, and then just scurry off and go home right after the tennis was done.

Monday/ the Bulldogs lost

The Gonzaga Bulldogs lost in their bid to win the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball title, 70-86. Congrats to the Baylor Bears.

I could not watch the end of the game and went for a quick walk. This is 8.00 pm on 15th Ave & Mercer St (sunset is now at 7.45 pm). The Canterbury Ale House sports bar on my right is still closed, which is surprising. (Bars can be open, with restrictions). The Olympia Pizza House with its outside seating (behind me, not shown in the picture), was noisy and had a good attendance.

Saturday/ March madness, in April

UCLA had come too far, defied too many odds in surviving March to reach April, to give in now, no matter the probabilities or the season-long perfection of its nemesis.
– Ben Bolch writing in the Los Angeles Times

Tonight, Gonzaga* played UCLA** in the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basket Ball tournament (known as ‘March Madness’).
Gonzaga had everything to lose, as it is aiming to become the first undefeated national champion in men’s basketball since Indiana in 1976.

UCLA went toe-to-toe with them, all through the game tonight, and was only a point behind at halftime, 44 to 45.
At the end of regular time, it was 81 to 81.

So now came overtime. As the clock wound down, the plays were down to the wire.
With less than a minute left, Andrew Nembhard scored a 3-pointer, putting Gonzaga up 90-85.
At 48 secs left, Jaime Jaquez Jr. knocked in a 3-pointer from the wing for UCLA. Gonzaga 90-88.
At 3.3 secs left, the Bruins (UCLA) had gotten the ball back, and Johnny Juzang followed his miss with a putback jumper. Tied 90-90.
At 0.8 secs left, Jalen Suggs stopped from 30-some feet away, took aim and shot at the hoop on the far side.
As the buzzer sounded, flashing **0:00**, the ball dropped through the net, for the win.

Gonzaga 93-90. Mayhem.
(Gonzaga to play Baylor for the NCAA title on Monday night).

At the buzzer. The ball hits the target, clears the hoop.

*The Gonzaga Bulldogs are an intercollegiate men’s basketball program representing Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA). The school competes in the West Coast Conference in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

**The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball program represents the University of California, Los Angeles in the sport of men’s basketball as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. Established in 1919, the program has won a record 11 NCAA titles.