Mister B's Blog
Something unusual occurred within the last couple weeks. It was the actions of one man that made people take notice. The irony is that if you were in reasonable proximity of this gentleman, you couldn’t help but notice, but from a distance, you could have easily missed the significance of this short television clip.
The recent US Open Tennis Tournament took place without fans in attendance. It was odd to watch tennis being played at the highest level amidst the eerie silence within the world’s largest tennis venue. But on Saturday, September 5th, I was watching the highly anticipated 3rd round match between Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens. Whenever Serena plays a Grand Slam match, it always draws a great deal of interest, because she has been in pursuit of her 24th Grand Slam title, which would tie the all-time record.
Even though Serena’s match in the stadium was the main attention grabber, network coverage could not help but cut away to the antics of an exuberant individual in the park outside the grounds of the tournament, near one of the outside courts. Italian Matteo Berrettini was facing Casper Ruud from Norway on Court 17, but it was a demonstrative and boisterous man with long hair and a shaggy beard, pacing incessantly outside the fence, who had attracted the attention of television cameras for his persistent and resounding cheers. The man’s name was Giovanni Bartocci, owner of an Italian restaurant in Manhattan that had in recent years become a popular hangout for a number of Italian tennis players, including Berrettini, during the annual stay in New York City for the US Open. Sadly, and consistent with other disruptions of 2020, Giovanni’s restaurant suffered severe damage from a fire in February and was forced to shut down.
From where he stood, Giovanni barely had a view of any aspect of Court 17, but he could follow the score of the match, point by point, as projected on a giant scoreboard. Each time that Berrettini had earned a point, Giovanni was shouting into a bullhorn in support of the athlete who was his inspiration. Keep in mind that Giovanni was not reacting only to the key points when Berrettini won an important game or set. That certainly would not have been enough to garner television coverage. It was his ongoing enthusiasm after each point successfully earned by Berrettini that could not be ignored. Park patrons, including several socially distant adults and children on bicycles, had to wonder what could have excited Giovanni to such a degree.
Courtside tennis commentator, Brad Gilbert, immediately recognized Giovanni as the restauranteur that had been loudly cheering from Berrettini’s “Friends Box” at last year’s US Open, and Gilbert referred to him as “a fan of one” who was making a difference. Ultimately, Berrettini soundly defeated Ruud in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 6-2. At the end of the match, Berrettini could be overheard clarifying to Rudd that his presumed crowd of supporters was in fact “just one guy”. That was a clear indication that Berrettini both heard the energetic support and understood who was behind it. Giovanni Bartocci was recognized on ESPN’s SportCenter that evening as the #1 “Play of the Day”, and I was encouraged by his unbridled enthusiasm.
I’m reminded once again that sometimes it just matters that someone is pulling for you. The fact that someone else believes in you and believes you can accomplish more than you thought possible is a force that cannot be fully described by physics but with an impact that would seem exponential. We all should strive to push others toward greater success and achievement, and in doing so, we assure that the future will be brighter.
By the way, within 2 short weeks, Berrettini faced Casper Ruud in the Italian Open, on a different court surface, but this time Ruud prevailed in a deciding set tiebreaker. Giovanni was not in attendance to support Berrettini in the same way, and I have a difficult time believing the result was just coincidental. Those of us who are natural cheerleader types tend to think we have some level of influence on outcomes.
“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”
- Vince Lombardi
I'm intrigued by "moments". They cause me to imagine, ponder, and wonder. By themselves, moments frequently seem arbitrary and insignificant. However, when a series of moments are strung together, they produce an outcome. It doesn't require the mind of a great philosopher to understand that any single moment has the potential to redirect an outcome.
In February 2018, we watched as athletes from around the world competed in the Winter Olympics. Naturally, the Winter Olympics cannot pass without a reminder of the gold medal winning USA hockey team in 1980. That legendary team of young college players (what we know as "professionals" were not allowed to compete in the Olympics in those days) captured the hearts of the country at a time when our collective spirits needed a lift.
In 2004, the movie, "Miracle", detailed the story of how coach Herb Brooks assembled this group and built the team that accomplished the unbelievable objective to win the gold medal. In the process, they upset the seemingly invincible Soviet national team, who had
Ever since I was a young boy, I have dreamed about Wimbledon. Each summer, my excitement level builds as the tournament known simply as “The Championships” approaches. Then, at the completion of the two-week fortnight, I have a feeling not unlike that of a young child whose seasonal enchantment is destroyed when the adults pack away all the Christmas decorations for another year.
Wimbledon has a special meaning to me because until the day arrives when I can actually attend the tournament in person, it will remain my only significant bucket list vacation. As I get older, based both on time constraints and financial constraints, every trip that I take is measured with the mental yardstick of whether or not traveling elsewhere will decrease my chances of actually making it across the pond to attend Wimbledon.
I want to list out some of the reasons why Wimbledon is so important and meaningful to me.
So why after 37 months did I choose to break my blog silence to record this entry? The answer is simple. We are all driven by our dreams. I have a deep-rooted dream to attend Wimbledon. As a young boy, Novak Djokovic dreamed of becoming the Wimbledon champion and promised himself that if he did so, he would eat the grass on Centre Court.
In a similar way, high school students across the country are driven by dreams to improve their standing in life through a college education. There may be a myriad of personal reasons for which they pursue a particular college/university or a particular major, but they are focused and determined in that pursuit. This is because the dream holds a position of unparalleled importance in their hearts, and they have held on tightly to that dream for years.
Make no mistake, someday when I walk up to the iron gates of the All England Lawn Tennis Club and I see the letters AELTC, I suspect that I will drop to my knees and shed some tears. It may be comparable to the moment of strangely emotional exuberance when students receive a letter of college acceptance from what they consider their dream school – but I’m only trying to check off my bucket list, not improve my standing in life.
“In dreams, we enter a world that’s entirely our own.”
- Albus Dumbledore