Well, our little rant about the festival of ineptitude that was the television coverage of the U.S. Open men's final seemed to touch a nerve.
We were half-joking when we titled the post "…And Everyone Is Pissed," but it turns out that if you define "everyone" to mean "a devoted base of wounded tennis lovers, most of them Canadian and all of them earnest," then yes: everyone is pissed.
A surprisingly steady stream of emails, ranging from despondent to defiant, has flowed in over the past week. In the interest of publicly shaming CBS, ESPN, and the USTA we present a sampling of them here.
The majority of emails came in from Canada, where the ESPN family of networks are less accessible for our neighbors to the north than they are in the US:
Your article was passed on by a friend on twitter and I for one would like to applaud you.
As an avid tennis fan and player and had been given permission to go home early to watch the match but by the time I realised that it was not even being shown on CBS in my city but on my local sports station I had missed the first set. Then the fun began, due to rain delay we were shown the semi-final match of Nole and Roger and then to ad insult to injury we were then told that the match was being switched to ESPN2. Sadly I do not subscribe to that station, (living in Canada it is extra for me) so I couldn't even tape it (I had made plans that evening)...I have had to watch the last bits of the match plus the ceremony on youtube.
No doubt this will happen again....calling up CBS on it may do some good it may not but perhaps if more people like yourself were to write about the debacle we might get retribution but I am not holding my breath.
Some viewers looking for the match had to rely on the Internet to guide them:
Couldn't agree more with what you said. It's only because I went on-line and found out that it was going to be on TSN2 (in Canada) that I managed to watch the end of the match. And I couldn't believe when they yanked coverage of the awards ceremony for a stupid, non-important football game. I hope they don't renew the contract with CBS once it ends next year.
While others were saved only by the kindness of friends:
I totally agree with your criticism of the USTA, CBS and ESPN for their maddening treatment of the US Open Final.
At the very LEAST, all people with any clout in the tennis world must insist that CBS, ESPN and any other network scheduled to carry the match MUST DISPLAY ON THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN INFORMATION AS TO WHERE FANS CAN SEE THE TV COVERAGE.
CBS did not give us a clue about the rain delay or where we could ultimately resume watching the match.
If a friend hadn't emailed me I would not have known where to tune in.
So circuitous was the broadcasting that it even foiled one woman's laudable efforts to preserve the match for posterity via a smorgasboard of technological formats:
I just sent you an email and I'm not sure if you received it or not. I do not use Outlook and my email seems to have been sent from an email that is no longer in use. So...here I go again!!
I would like to THANK YOU for addressing the problem of the botched up job by CBS and ESPN regarding the airing or lack thereof the Nadal vs Djokovic match this past Monday! I am one of those people who recorded the match on a dvd player and a vhs tape so that I could keep a copy of this epic match! I wasn't going to take chances, thus the recording on two different formats! I was livid when I didn't end up with at least the first set of play when I taped the match on CBS!!!!!!!! I ended up with 2 copies of Oprah!!!!!!!! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching Oprah, but I wanted to watch the US Open mens final!!!!!
I live in Canada and didn't realize that our local sports station (TSN) was airing the match. Otherwise I would have taped it on that station. Nevertheless, just like CBS, TSN stopped coverage when the rain delay kicked in!! When the match began again, it aired the rest of the match on TSN2 —- a station that I do NOT have!!!!!!! I was not pleased at all!!! I went onto the US Open website and I still did NOT have access to the match! I luckily found it online somewhere else!!! Nadal is an amazing athlete and an even greater person! He is rare person whose demeanour on and off court exemplifies what we should all strive towards. I wanted to keep a piece of history by having a copy of his thrilling match on dvd, so that I could view it at my convenience! Well, that's not happening for now. Do you know if there will be a dvd coming out of this match in its entirety? If so, where might I get my hands on it? I would love to buy it!!
MANY THANKS for speaking up for us frustrated viewers!
Aww. If anyone does know whether we can get this dear lady a copy of the match, do speak up!!!!!!!!
For some, the bungled coverage and airing of Oprah reeked of American exceptionalism:
Thanks a lot for the great article you wrote about the mess CBS And ESPN made of the US Open men's final. At last someone had the courage to write what a disgraceful exhibit that was.
First of all they moved the match to ESPN, loudly saying that people in the United States are more interested in Oprah and two and half men than a tennis match! The ceremony was embarrassing. Rafael Nadal won the US Open for the first time and completed his career slam. The announcer was rushing both players and cut off Rafa's speech. Then suddenly when Rafa raised the trophy, the whole coverage was gone. No comments, no talks.....This time American football was more important! ( at least by deduction we now now American football=Oprah=two and a half men!)
Why then bother airing tennis? Why bother having the US Open? Let's have the American football in the Arthur Ashe Stadium! This is ridiculous and an insult to the world class athletes ans well as the tennis players.
I agree with you completely and I hope the USTA has the guts to cancel their contract with the stupid CBS And ESPN. Bring USA back.
A number of emailers put the bulk of the blame on CBS, which initially set in motion the chaotic series of events so as to preserve its Monday night lineup of reruns. I particularly loved the quiet resignation of this email:
The CBS station should say sorry to all tennis fans for making a snafu of the US Open 2010.
Others found ESPN just as culpable:
Brava! You are completely on target re: the shameful and unprofessional coverage of the US Open Final. And you were perhaps a little too kind. I e-mailed ESPN's ombudsman within 15 minutes of their idiotic programming decision, and referenced "Heidi" myself.
Any other time I surely would have been able to enjoy the surreal drama of a 30+-year-old bowling slugfest between Ed Asner and Elena Verdugo, but was too outraged over how tennis and a great champion — not to mention an audience needing an appropriate curtain call – were cheated. It's clear the USTA president cut short Nadal's remarks because they were playing beat the clock. ESPN can come up with lots of excuses — CBS scheduling, NFL $$$, we saw match point — but they can't deny they apparently had no one in charge who knows the basics about running a sports and entertainment network.
And I do have to wonder: if an American, or maybe Federer, had won the final, would they have pulled the plug? It just seemed so ugly American to switch to football, at our national tournament even.
Thanks for calling 'em on it! Now if we can just get all that poker off the air...
Ha. If she emailed Don Ohlmeyer last week, we can expect a 6,000 word non-response sometime in March. (Paging Richard Deitsch!) Another emailer called for an equally ineffective but time-honored tactic:
Thank you so much for your article that settled a lot of questions in my mind regarding the CBS and ESPN debacle of the men's final. Just because I am a die hard tennis fan in general, and of Rafa Nadal in particular, I surfed channels to find the coverage on TV and "stumbled" across it on ESPN. I was watching it live on my computer, but of course, I prefer the TV coverage to that.
If you want to generate a "protest" letter for signatures, please feel free to contact me for mine. I am thoroughly disgusted with these two TV power brokers showing such little respect for the sport of tennis, the incredible athletes in the sport, and the millions of fans who follow the sport. I do hope that something punitive will follow their disgusting actions.
That last line strongly echoed another emailer's conclusion that justice must be served:
I usually never respond to anything, but as a huge tennis fan and an even bigger Rafa fan, I was etremely upset over the way this situation was handled. The match was one of the greatest matches I have seen and I am glad that I got to see the total match. Rafael Nadal is the No. 1 tennis player in the world, and to not see him raise the one trophy that he longed for and so deservedly won was awful. I don't know exactly how the broadcasting world works, but I couldn't understand why the match was moved around so much. And finally towards the end of the match, they announced to move it to a channel (ESPN Classic) if not completed at a certain time. Everyone does not even have access to that channel. I certainly don't in my area. As a tennis fan, one of millions, I was extremely disappointed that I did not get to see one of the geatest athletes in the world enjoy his triumph. Rafa made history that night, and neither he nor his fans deserved what happened. It was definitely cut off too soon. And for what! A football game that had not even started! Whoever is in charge should be disciplined for such incompetence.
And apparently, this wasn't the tournament's first TV disaster:
You are so right about all of this. I watched Saturday's match and thought it was one of the best I ever saw, so I looked forward so much to the final. I looked for it Monday night on CBS and never thought to look for it on ESPN2. Silly me! The way it was being thrown back and forth throughout the weekends, I should have realized that it might be lateralled over to ESPN. But, I didn't, and had to look online the next morning to see when the match would be played. I was shocked to see that it already had been played. Also, you didn't mention that during the first weekend of the Open, the matches on Saturday and Sunday nights - including a match with James Blake - were not shown on CBS or ESPN. I was so furious about that.
The USTA itself isn't exempt from criticism. One Toronto-based journalist pointed out that USTA head Lucy Garvin's infatuation with the sound of her own voice denied viewers a chance to watch Nadal celebrate before the live feed was cut:
You know, maybe the USTA boss lady can take a little blame for wasting time by giving the same damn speech she gave on Saturday night. At least she crossed out "Kim" and "Vera" and pencilled in "Rafael" and "Novak."
And hey, Deadspin I-Team, assemble!
I have already emailed CBS. I can't seem to figure out who I should contact at the USTA or at the Open to complain about them cowing down to CBS and postponing the match on Sunday way too early.
Can you help? I would love to email everyone and anyone about this and all my tennis friends want to too!
The most heart-wrenching letter came from one grown man who was actually moved to tears:
Thank you for writing such an articulate piece getting the word out on how messed up the coverage was.
I am a Tennis teaching pro and an avid fan as well. I had watched the U.S. Open coverage on ESPN 2 from day 1 and enjoyed it very much....until the final.
I followed the coverage through the maze of channels not wanting to miss any of it. I thought the end of the match with Nadal falling to the court was such a pretty moment and my wife and I were actually a bit teary eyed at the history I was watching............ and then came the trophy presentation.
This is supposed to be the climax of the whole fortnight, Nadal starts lifting the trophy over his head, history unfolding before our eyes when wham, they yank you away from the fairy tale for a ridiculous football pregame sideshow. Really?
Please, I just want to know who I can write to so this doesn't happen again. Would you ever see this if it were the Superbowl?...Yeah right.
Whoever is in charge really f'd up and I want them to know it
But we'll give the last word to this man, whose impassioned late-night missive really crystallizes the way we all felt one week ago today.
please give to the proper authority !!!
I HAVE TO TELL YOU , OF YOUR DISGRACEFUL HANDLING OF THE FINALS OF THE US TENNIS FINALS.
I HOPE WHEN THE CONTRACT ENDS , THAT THEY GIVE IT TO ANYONE WHO IS TENNIS KNOWLEDGEABLE, AND
TO SOMEONE WITH THE AUDIENCE IN MIND AND NOT THE PRESENT DECISION MAKERS WITH THEIR SELFISH MOTIVES.
WE THE TENNIS FANS WERE NOT MADE AWARE OF CHANGES OF CHANNELS, TIMING ETC AND BECAUSE OF THAT
MOST TENNIS FANS MISSED THE FINAL.; I MUST ADD THAT THE COMPUTER DIDN'T ADVISE EITHER
OF RAIN OUT , CHANNEL CHANGE AND OR TIMING. SHAME OM THEM. THE SCORING WASN'T EVEN ON TIME.
MOST DON'T EVEN HAVE THAT CHANEL. YOU HAVE BECOME THE LAUGHING STOCK OF SPORTS JOURNALISM, AND TO
COMMERCIALIZATION OF A GREAT SPORT, THAT MAY LOSE A LOT OF DIEHARD FANS BECAUSE OF YOUR ANTICS.
I AM CANADIAN SENIOR, AND HAVE WATCHED THIS SPORT FOR ALL THE YEARS , SINCE THEY PUT IT ON T.V.
PLEASE MAKE AN EFFORT TO SHOW THE MATCH IN ITS ENTIRETY IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE.
GOOD FANS WOULD WATCH EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW THE OUTCOME.
YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO JOHN McENROE [SP?] . ITS 2 AM, SO I WILL END WITH DISGUST FOR YOUR AWFUL BEHAVIOR.
I don't know who "the proper authority" is, good sir, but let's just hope they read Deadspin.