Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My US Open experience was a dream come true




Covering the US Open was a dream come true. I believe in dreaming big, living hard, and never giving up. It's the stuff champions are made of and in my own way I consider myself as such.

I guess dreaming big, living hard, and never giving up makes things you want come your way.

I've been to the US Open six times as a fan but this was the first as a journalist. When I went to the grounds to pick up my credentials on the grounds I was nervous. I felt as I was getting ready for a big match.

This time I was entering the stadium as a writer first, fan second. At first it was a bit difficult to separate the two. I did a good job because I kept it real.

I wrote good columns, networked and watched great tennis. I had big fun. I met people I've never would have met if I didn't have a vision.

All dreams are possible because I just did something I consider big that I've always wanted to do. Hit a wagon to your dreams and have at it.

My overall experience ranks up there with the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the first of two Super Bowl games I attended as in 2001.

One thing that’s beautiful about sports is it brings people together. It's a utopian world that we in the mainstream can learn great lessons from. The biggest is cohesion. Sport as an institution isn’t perfect but what institution is?

Rooting for your player, discussing strategy, interaction with fans, meeting writers and TV analysts was great. The latter was possible because of the sporting event we all came to see. It was a very conducive environment to allow for meaningful communication to transpire.

Perhaps if we focused on those things which bring us together it would make for a great model in possibly transforming society.

I love sports, particularly tennis, because it simply makes me feel good. Sport is one of the greatest institutions ever. I'm blessed to have been able to live out a dream in an environment that I love to be in.

Despite the greatness of my overall experience it wasn’t without a few negatives. First off, I was one of a handful of African American journalists from all over the world. Out of the 1600 credentials issued I was one of approximately ten African American journalists from around the globe. The latter reflected the lack of diversity within the media and ultimately society.

For me the latter was bittersweet. It was bitter because of the poor representation of African American writers yet sweet because I was one of the few African American writers there. I was there with the big boys and by know means did I feel out of place because I believe I’m one of the best at what I do.

Representatives from Tennis Magazine, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Newsday were there. It was great for my confidence and future endeavors. I got to talk with some of the so-called experts in their craft. We even engaged in debate. I left those encounters knowing I was good and many cases better than some of those there.

Why?

Because I'm confident and I'm not afraid to let it be known. Everyone has a beat that they live by. Mine just happens to sound so good that I want to share with everyone. Like American Express says, "Never leave home without it." My confidence is something I don't leave home without.

Tennis is diverse in terms of nationality but not in terms of color. The number of African Americans playing tennis is not where it should be. Marketing, lack of inclusion, and developing young talent are the primary reasons. I feel the USTA needs to do more to make the game as diverse and reflect the societal makeup of America.

In short, IF the US Open is truly open the USTA should open their minds and hearts and bring more color to the game.

Why hasn't the USTA sought the knowledge of Richard Williams? He raised two champions in a white dominated sport. That’s never been done in the history of tennis.

My predictions for the tournament were right on. My favorites to win on the men’s side were Roger Federer, James Blake, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic. For the women I picked the winner of the Serena Venus Williams match would win the tourney.

Another ironic thing is during the first week of tournament I get to meet both Roger Federer and Serena Williams and secured their autographs. Just so happen they took home the trophies. Good stuff.

A few moments that meant a lot to me were seeing two African Americans battling on Ashe stadium in a five set match. James Blake and Donald Young put on a show. A very fitting first round encounter after a night that honored 40 years of Open tennis.

Earth Wind and Fire held a small concert at Arthur Ashe stadium. They happen to be my favorite group of all time.

Though the celebration was nice I don’t think enough attention was given to the man who ushered in the Open Era of tennis. Please read my column on Arthur Ashe as it's a fitting tribute to a man that gave so much to sport and society. I didn’t get to meet his widow but I’ve secured her contact info and will be sending her a copy of my column I wrote about her husband.

My overall experience at this years’ US Open was wonderful. Seeing how things function from the inside out was nice. I had access to every place on the grounds except the locker rooms. Seeing the players practice on the courts, hanging out in the players lounge, and watching them prepare for matches was cool.

I met a number of past and current players Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, James Blake, Donald Young, Serena Williams, Jim Courier, and Mats Wilander to name a few.

I was hanging out and got to meet Mr. October Reggie Jackson. He’s probably my all-time favorite Yankee. I really enjoyed the moment, lived a dream, and did it with a smile.

I met an author Shaun Powell. He’s a writer for Newsday. We had nice dialogue about sports and my writing aspirations.

I met a lot of photographers, television people, and video editors.
I met a photographer from Switzerland assigned to cover Roger Federer.

The workers on the grounds were great, particularly those in security. I forged some good relations with those who worked the inside. The only thing that disturbed me was I saw workers/chefs whom were responsible for cooking food for the rich corporate executives eating outside on the steps as fans went to their box seats. To me that didn't look good. Rather that was the workers choice I don't know, but it made me feel uneasy seeing them prepare food for the rich while being forced to eat in what I deem an uncomfortable setting.

I even wondered into a luxury suite. Not my type of crowd but it was nice to see how the other half lives.

In closing, the dream I had was transferred into a goal. I made it manifest through persistence and planning. I'm not sure where this road will lead me, but it’s something I intend to find out.

I've accomplished something now it's on to the next thing. I have a big one planned but before I go public with it I first must commit to the idea. Once I do I'll let you all now.

So to all of you I hope you dream big, live hard, and never give up.

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