Scenes from Queens: Staying Connected

by: Andrew Friedman | September 03, 2012

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The U.S. Open is more than just the matches, it's an experience. Each day, we'll highlight one part of what makes the Open the Open.

Of the disparate special offers and giveaways available on the grounds of the U.S. Open, the most indispensable just might be the small American Express radios available to cardholders from booths on the grounds and on the club level of Arthur Ashe Stadium. The deceptively simple-looking plastic earpiece, which comes fixed to a necklace to keep it dangling close by at all times, is the gateway to significantly enhancing one's visit to Flushing Meadows.

Yes, American Express is a sponsor of the tournament. No, this article isn’t an informercial. It’s just that American Express Radio Live at the U.S. Open, as it’s officially billed, happens to be exactly what the name promises: A live broadcast that deftly blends AmEx’s own hosts, such as television’s Andrea Joyce, with long stretches of television commentary, and snippets of aural action from around the Open. While it won’t win any awards, the ever-shifting mix on American Express Radio usually proves to be highly entertaining and informative.

For most listeners, including many journalists covering the tournament who wear the earpiece around their necks right alongside their credential, the radio’s main utility is to plug them into the television commentary of show-court action. Via the radios, fans on hand in the stadiums can hear what John and Patrick McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Jim Courier, Martina Navratilova, and others have to say about matches in progress. They can also find out things you can’t from the seats, like why a player called the trainer to the court, or which way an unused challenge might have gone.

At other times, there are updates from around the grounds, as well as player and fan interviews, and bona fide radio shows such as a nightly Nick Bollettieri broadcast from on site.

For example, late Sunday morning, as Novak Djokovic and Julien Benneteau battled on Arthur Ashe Stadium and David Ferrer took on Lleyton Hewitt on Louis Armstrong, those with the earpiece in place could hear Jim Courier’s sage analysis of the Ferrer-Hewitt match while John McEnroe picked apart the Djokovic contest. In between, they were treated to audio of Mary Carillo’s tribute piece to Andy Roddick, who was set to play on Ashe that afternoon, and Andrea Joyce and Virginia Wade talking to junior players Taylor Townsend and Victoria Duval.

Occasionally, the show’s producers bring fans from around the grounds in on the action, asking them to keep tabs on a match and share their feelings and impressions. It’s a charming element that would be cheesy on television but perfectly fits the radio format.

American Express Radio does what good radio has always done: Fills our cranium with compelling sounds that make us feel plugged into something larger than ourselves.Even when surrounded by other fans, watching tennis can be a solitary enterprise; the radio broadcast connects us not just with others in the same stadium, but those around the grounds and around the country. It gives you the comforting feeling of knowing what’s transpiring on the courts you chose not to sit on and confirms or corrects your own internal analysis of the match you’re watching. In short, it provides the comforting feeling of omniscience, and what tennis fan doesn’t like that?

More Scenes from Queens:

Monday, August 27: Getting to the Open
Tuesday, August 28: Night Matches
Wednesday, August 29: Photography
Thursday, August 30: Autographs
Friday, August 31: Food at the Open
Saturday, September 1: Practice Courts
Sunday, September 2: Getting In
Monday, September 3: Staying Connected
Tuesday, September 4: Ball Kids
Wednesday, September 5: The Corporate Connection
Thursday, September 6: The Outer Courts
Friday, September 7: Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Saturday, September 8: Arthur Ashe
Sunday, September 9: Empty Corridors

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