The Back(hand) Story

I’ve been going to the U. S. Open for about 13 years. It’s my favorite sporting event, and each year seems to outdo each of the previous ones. Lots of handy tips about how to make attending more enjoyable have come my way: which tickets to buy, which sessions are likely to produce the best tennis, which bags are prohibited, the best seats on the Grandstand…they all leap to mind. But one of my favorite frequent-spectator tips is Gate D of Louis Armstrong court. The stadium is mostly first-come, first-served seating. Instead of standing in Space Mountain-esque lines of fans waiting for a changeover, those in the know climb the stairs just inside Gate D, emerge at the top of the stadium and drop into a free seat during play. On the way up the first staircase, you’ll pass some folding tables. At first, I assumed they were just left there; but year after year, they’ve reappeared in the same spot.   Along with a plotter.  I’ve been wondering about these tables for years.  As evidence of my curiosity, here is a shot I took from the staircase last year (who knows who that dude is):

This year, when we passed the tables, people were there.  Working.  A chance to solve the mystery!  In a few seconds we were talking to Frank.  It turns out that this location, in the bowels of Armstrong stadium, is the U.S. Open scoreboard management center.  Frank, pictured below, described the 12-hour days he puts in, climbing the scoreboard again and again to paste the stenciled names and scores on the board (within 10 minutes of the end of each match!).  It sounds insane, but it obviously gets easier later in the tournament.

Frank was great, even waving hello to us when we saw him the next day (we were kinda yelling his name from the ground at the time).  I was nearly tempted to ask him how I could become a harnessed-scoreboard-stenciler-paster-guy, too.  But I’d probably rather wait in a line snaking through Armstrong stadium.

  • Great story, Dana! One of these years I will see you at the US Open. Hopefully in 2011. :)

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