Yesterday I took the subway out to to the U.S. Open in Queens, where I met up with ESPN.com’s tennis editor, Matt Wilansky, who’s soon going to be taking over the Playbook section (read: He’s my new boss). Quite a few people on the train were wearing U.S. Open shirts, U.S. Open caps, and so on — nothing unusual there. But one guy, pictured above, caught my eye, because of his sneakers, which I recognized as the official ball boy sneakers that Brinke had mentioned here on Uni Watch a few days ago.
So I approached the guy and said, “Excuse me, but are you a ball boy?”
“Yes,” he said, “I am.”
His name is Eric Adler, and he was on the train with his buddy Conrad Dias, who’s also a ball boy, although Conrad wasn’t wearing his official U.S. Open attire (he planned to suit up once they arrived at the tennis center). During the next half-hour or so, I pestered them with all sorts of questions, which they very patiently answered. Here’s what I learned:
• The ball boys are provided with two sets of uniforms, free of charge.
• The uniform consists of a shirt, shorts, and socks, plus there’s a warm-up-style jacket and pants that can be worn in cool weather.
• If you think the logo on the front of the shirt is big, wait until you see the back.
• “Ball boys,” is a colloquialism, of course. Eric and Conrad are both in their late 30s, and there are also ball girls/women (who are provided with a Polo-branded sports bra).
• The uniforms are theirs to keep when the tournament is over. Eric made a point of mentioning the attire’s monetary value, so I asked if he planned to sell the gear on eBay. He said, “Nah, I’ll probably just give it to my dad.”
• Grooming Code, Part One: no facial hair. This was tough on Conrad, who had to shave the beard he usually wears.
• Grooming Code, Part Two: no visible tattoos.
• The pay: $8/hour. Eric (who normally works as a video editor) and Conrad (a project manager for a software company) said this is actually pretty good, because most tournaments don’t pay ball boys anything. They don’t get any tips from the players.
• A big part of the job is being able to throw, because ball boys at the U.S. Open throw the balls to the opposite end of the court. At most other tournaments, including the other Grand Slam tourneys, the balls are rolled to the other end, which takes longer. (Conrad also noted that rolling the balls on a clay court, like at the French Open, is bad news, because the ball picks up little bits of clay as it rolls.) So if you can throw, you work “ends”; if you can’t throw, you work at the net. Eric and Conrad both work ends and both said they prefer it, because the visual perspective at the net is so skewed that it’s hard to follow the match.
• A big part of working ends is being ready when a player asks for a towel between points.
• Working a doubles match is a bit easier than working singles, because the players tend to confer between points, which means the pace of play is a bit slower.
• During the trophy presentation at the end of the tournament, some of the ball boys are called upon to carry and hold flags (a bunch of American flags, plus the national flags of the two tournament finalists). Conrad was a flag holder last year; Eric’s thinking he might want to do that this year.
• This is the second year working the Open for both Eric and Conrad. They met and became friends at last year’s tournament (which was the first time either of them had ever been a ball boy). Eric lives in Brooklyn; Conrad lives in San Francisco and flew to New York just to try out for the gig. This year he’s staying at Eric’s place.
As for my time at the tourney, I did see some tennis, but I was talking with Matt the whole time — getting acquainted, discussing ESPN stuff, etc. — so I wasn’t really paying close attention to the match we were watching and have nothing to report on that front. Sorry. Still, it was a productive Uni Watch day, thanks to my encounter with Eric and Conrad.
College football update: FBS uni updates continue to trickle in (go back to the middle of yesterday’s post for more of them, and of course the mother lode is in my ESPN column from earlier this week):
• The bulldog’s sweater on the Fresno State helmet is now red.
• Regarding those Georgia Tech honeycomb helmets, reader Jason Hirschey says, “While walking by Bobby Dodd Stadium today on my way to class, I peeked inside the gates to watch the football team practice. They were all wearing those honeycomb helmets.” Further info on the helmets can be found here.
(My thanks to Michael Rich and Max Torrente for their contributions.)
NFL query: Got a note yesterday from reader Mike Cline Jr., who asked, “Are NFL officials now wearing the black pants full-time? It seems like they’ve worn them in every preseason game I’ve caught so far.”
Now, we all know the NFL officiating situation is in a state of flux, because of the labor impasse and the replacement zebras. So even if the slacks have been worn for every preseason game, that might just be a placeholder protocol until the real officials are ready to come back on the job. Still, it hadn’t occurred to me that the entire preseason had been bereft of white knickers. Is that true? Can anyone recall seeing any knickers-clad zebras over the past month?
I’ve asked the NFL about this (and about several other things), but they’ve been unresponsive so far. I’ll give them another friendly nudge today.
Uni Watch News Ticker: As some of you are aware, there’s now a uni-centric podcast, called “The Logocast.” I was interviewed for the latest installment, which you can access here. … Jersey Snafus, Part One: The SF Giants wore their “San Francisco” road jerseys last night — except for Marco Scutaro. Even weirder: He put on the wrong jersey in the middle of the game. Details here. ”¦ Jersey Snafus, Part One: Several readers
had nothing better to do last night than watch yet another NFL preseason game noticed that Packers QB Graham Harrell was wearing a Reebok jersey with a blacked-out logo last night. Apparently his main jersey got a tear, and then he had to switch to the Reebok product (screen shots courtesy of Steven Gates and Nicholas Honeck). ”¦ In a vaguely related item, someone on the Raiders sideline was wearing a Reebok jacket last night. I guess all these clowns didn’t get the memo about worshipping Nike, eh? (Screen shot by Rudy Gutierrez). ”¦ Man, the 1974 West Leyden High School basketball team sure had some crazy uniforms (from West Leyden alum Mike Hinkel). … Gordon Blau was watching the old 1960s sitcome Mothers-in-Law when this T-shirt caught his eye. “Looks kinda like the Red Wings logo with a wagon wheel,” he says. … Life Imitates Art That Imitated Life Dept.: Campbell’s is rolling out a limited edition of Warhol-inspired soup cans. Very cool. … Also very cool: this Reds-themed corn maze! … Yesterday I Ticker-linked to a photo of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wearing a shirt with a cover-up patch. Now Mike Bergan has provided persuasive evidence that it’s one of his old Stanford shirts. … Good piece on the airbrushed artwork on hockey goalie masks (from John Muir). ”¦ Speaking of goalie artwork, Western Michigan goalie Frank Slubowski, whose nickname is the Big Slubowski, has the Dude on one side of his mask. His other nickname — Frank the Tank — is referenced on the other side (from Adam Bodnar). ”¦ New logo for the Hershey Bears. ”¦ Two New Zealand rugby teams — Otago and Bay of Plenty — went color vs. color the other night. “Was very hard to keep track,” says Andrew Kendall. ”¦ Lots of great SF Seals photos in this slideshow (from Frankie Parish). ”¦ A cartoon in this week’s New Yorker takes humorous aim at corporate douchebag sponsorship. ”¦ The Twins are sending out season ticket renewal packages that include a 2014 All-Star Game logo. Not sure how official that logo is (from Luke H). ”¦ Leo Strawn found two killer Dayton Triangles photos. ”¦ A high school in Florida recently sold the naming rights to its stadium (yes, a high school stadium — I can never wrap my head around that concept). Here’s what they plan to do with the money (from Tom V). ”¦ Prince Fielder’s helmet squatchee decal is still badly askew (from Blair Riffel). ”¦ Bill Theiss was at last night’s Steelers/Panthers game and spotted a few guys showcasing their striped socks. Maybe they’re gearing up for this year’s throwbacks. ”¦ “I had a work function on Thursday night at an art museum, and the instructions were to wear something that inspired us or a piece of art,” says Aaron Kusch. “What did I choose? Stirrups, of course. It was hard to get the blousing right with dress pants, but it seemed to work.” ”¦ “Sponsorship at the Paralympics is different than at the Olympics,” says Blain Fowler. “Sponsors get their logos right on the field of play and on the athletes’ apparel.” Hooray for equality, which allows even the disabled to be saddled with corporate douchebaggery! ”¦ A guy is Seattle is selling striped arm sleeves. “Bought a pair for the Seahawks game today,” says John Przebieglec. ”¦ I think it’s a safe bet that 49ers punter Andy Lee doesn’t wear a cup (screen shot by Rick Rutherford). ”¦ And that reminds me, Mets shortstop Reuben Tejada took a ground ball in the jewels the other day, and it was later reported on the air that he hadn’t been wearing a cup. His predecessor as Mets SS, Jose Reyes, never wore one either. ”¦ After the tennis yesterday afternoon, I went to Manhattan and met up with a friend to see Compliance. Ended up walking out after about 45 minutes — not because it’s disturbingly creepy (which it is), but because all the characters were so mind-bogglingly, cringe-inducingly stupid. Seriously, had none of these people ever watched a cop show on TV? ”¦ New basketball uniforms for Georgia Tech, and also a new court design. But they don’t have a honeycomb pattern, so they must be fakes (from Michael Rich).
Holiday Schedule: Phil will be back on board this weekend with his usual Saturday and Sunday content. The site will be open on Laborious Day, but content will likely be minimal. A happy long weekend to one and all.