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Sunday, September 2, 2012


Rory McIlroy

Editor's Note: Lyons will be providing a double dose of sports insight tofday, first from the PGA Tour's Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, then from the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York where he'll file stories tonight and all day on Sunday before returning to Norton, Mass and the TPC Boston for the final round of the FedEx Cup playoff event. Enjoy and follow along on Twitter at #DigSportsDesk

NORTON, Mass - September 1, 2012 - Daybreak on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts where the best professional golfers in the world are competing at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second round of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, brought to you in cooperation by EMC.  For any sports marketer, that's a mouthful.

With that prelude, the story of covering two major sporting events on the same day begins.  Tonight, I'll settle in at the U.S. Open tennis tournament at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens - about 30-45 minutes east of New York City.  This morning and this early afternoon, I'm in my native Boston on the gold circuit.

Here we go!

7:00am - I awoke pretty early in my own bed in my suburban Boston home, not far from where the Boston College Eagles will play host to what used to be the Miami (FLA) Hurricanes. After a stop at Dunkin Donuts, a must plug for any true New Englander, it was a 30-minute car ride to the Brown Lot at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, the satellite parking lot for the PGA tournament.  A short media shuttle ride over, and the DigitalSportsDesk was back in action, a day after covering the first 18-holes of the tournament with the impressive and exciting start by the one and only Tiger Woods (-7/64) and PGA rookie, 21-year old Seung-yul Noh of South Korea (-9/62).

8:00am - On the ride over, I tuned into Sirius-XM's PGA Tour channel and listened to the morning round-up as they promoted a full day of college football on the satellite radio chain. The highlight of their promos was the fact the Notre Dame vs. Navy game was soon to kick-off (with coverage on not one but two Sirius/XM channels). The talk of the PGA town was the 9-under 62 stroked by No and the fact Woods was certainly in the hunt. The early tee-times for Pat Perez and David Hearn (shot 67-69) and some movement from the group with the leader (Noh) along with Ryan Moore, a Tacoma, Washington-born 7-year pro who posted a 64 on Friday and would go on to hit 68 today after stroking four birdies and an eagle on his front nine this morning.

9:00am - I asked to be dropped off at the TV Broadcast compound and trekked up to see an old NBA on NBC friend in executive producer Tom Roy, one of the best producers and classiest acts in all of sports TV history. Unfortunately, with a 2pm air-time, I was a little too early, but jotted out a short note and left it for Tom at his office trailer.  Sure enough, by 11am, he replied by text with an invite to join him at the NBC compound. With the ND vs Navy game kicking-off, I rigged up my own small broadcast compound in the Media Center by going wireless with three screens, the main screen being the MacBook Pro, ably assisted by my (new fave) Ipad and the small screen iphone.  A little FIOS username and password later and I had the CBS Sports broadcast of the ND game streaming live from Ireland. Not bad.

9:30am - The mandatory email reading and catch-up, along with a photo editing search on Getty Images preceded my update of and its affiliated sites via Linked In, my Twitter feed(s) - #MediaForward - #terrylyons  #DigSportsDesk  & Facebook of course. I'll get to Pinterest later.   If you're reading this, please check out all of the sites and join, like, follow, friend, share and everything in between, please.  It helps build the audience for the fledgling online destination for sports fans and purists.

10am - After my second cup of Joe, headed out from the air conditioned PGA Media Center to the grandstands at the 18th green. The 18th green at the TPC Boston went from being one of the easier Par 5s and possibly the easiest hole on the is one of the most difficult putting greens on tour.  The TPC Boston was originally conceived by golf legend Arnold Palmer with an assist from PGA pro Brad Faxon, a New Englander. In 2007, the course was re-designed by golf architect Gil Hanse, who tweaked the green once again this spring. The 18th is now smaller and was elevated to create sweeping drop-offs in front, behind and to the left side of the dance floor.

Before the tourney began, Tiger Woods said, "The green is way different. We can't bail left," he noted. "Based on the pin, we've got to figure out where the spot is to miss it. The good news is we've got probably another 8 or 10 yards from over the hazard to the front edge of the green that we can land the ball in, and hopefully that'll be enough to keep it on the green."

Tiger was right.  I wandered out and watched three or four groups come down the 18th fairway, all with intimidating approach shots. Once within range, they laid up and tried to stop their shots on the highest tier of the elevated green.  Phil Mickelson's approach landed 30 feet short and he was challenged to make one of the more difficult "up & downs" for birdie "4." Nearly every other golfer missed birdie chances and settled for par.  However, a few, including tournament leaders (as of 2:00pm, Saturday) Rory McIlroy and Ryan Moore, each posted eagle 3s en route to their tremendous rounds.

11am - As the temperature began to rise, I took a stroll through the center of the course, past Holes #1 and #8 and #9, then over to the broadcast compound where I caught up with NBC's Tom Roy.  Roy is the executive producer for all of NBC Sports and the Golf Channels coverage of the PGA Tour. He appreciates, loves and enjoys the game of golf and is on site for nearly all of NBC's coverage. We shared a few life updates, mostly on family and mutual friends, but realizing he was two hours from air, I excused myself with hopes of catching up on Monday or down the road, after the Ryder Cup. TRoy invited me to view the action from the trucks and I hope to do that before the tourney concludes on Monday, the Labor Day holiday here in the USA.

We hopped in an NBC Sports golf cart, reserved just for the Exec. Producer, and zipped back towards the Media Center where I jumped off before Tommy headed up to the range to get some pre-production elements done.  Time well spent.  In fact, afterward, I was thinking of Tommy's counterpart on the NBA on NBC, director Andy Rosenberg, and I emailed him to let him know I caught up with his colleague.  Andy and Sandy Grossman (CBS and Fox) were two of my all-time favorite live action sports directors and two of the very best.

Noon - The early tee-time pairings were all closing down their rounds and the cut-line reads (+1).  I was hoping to meet-up with fellow St. John's University alum and co-New Englander in Keegan Bradley. However, Bradley posted a disappointing (71-73) and failed to make the cut, being two over par. Next time.

1pm - The PGA Tour Media Center organizers served a scrumptious brunch, consisting of both marinated chicken and marinated steak fajitas, along with red potato salad and terrific cold green bean salad, all with the compliments of the PGA and the chef.  Great stuff.  Energized after some fuel-injected Diet Coke caffeine, I headed back to the media center where Rory McIlroy was ready to conduct his post round media session.  McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, is one of the fan favorites in Boston because of his Irish heritage. His golf game might have a bit to do with his popularity, too, although the most interesting human interest question came from his much-reported and apparent romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. McIlroy's golf facts, club choices and putting skills were set aside for a minute when it was announced for all to see and hear on the PGA televised media session that the gallery following the 23-year old was full of young, maybe teen-aged, boys.

While McIlroy recognized his friend's pain and misfortune of being a Day 2, first-round upset victim at the US Open in New York, he was happy to have her among the fsans here in Boston.

"It's nice," he said. "It's nice to have her out here. I think everyone would still love for her to be in New York, but unfortunately that isn't the case. It's great to have her support out here. Obviously, when she's not here, she's trying to follow as much as she can and watch as much as she can."

2pm - Time to gather all my things together, grab a few photos and to dedicate some time to writing and reporting, more tweeting and social media outreach. Gone are the days when you would file one story for the bulldog edition, one for the final and call it a day.

2:30pm - Wrap-up time at the Media Center.  I check a few US Open scores, some NCAA college football scores where I'm happy to see that Penn State leads Ohio, 14-10, early in the third quarter. I'll pick up some games on the car radio as I head for the second half of this "tale of two cities," after a 4+ hour car ride to Flushing Meadows, not far from St. John's in Jamaica Estates, Queens.

Mardy Fish at the US Open

FLUSHING, NY - September 1, 2012 - After a short pit-stop for a gasoline fill-up and restroom break in New Haven, Connecticut, the DigitalSportsDesk made the drive from Norton, Massachusetts to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens in about four and half hours. The "Tale of Two Cities" continues.

3:00pm to 7:15pm - The DigitalSportsDesk drove from Boston to New York, enjoying a combination of PGA Tour radio and US Open Radio on Sirius/XM, along with a full schedule of NCAA college football.  I was surprised by Penn State's 24-14 loss to Ohio, but my beliefs were confirmed when Miami (FLA) defeated Boston College, 41-32,  at BC and Iowa State defeated Tulsa, 38-23 at Iowa State.
There were quite a few other games that were entertaining, including #12 Wisconsin's narrow victory (26-21) over Northern Iowa, Maryland's 7-6 win over William & Mary and Nevada's 31-24 upset at Cal. On the home stretch to the tennis center, as I approached and crossed the Whitestone Bridge, I listed to the all-out destruction of James Blake by Milos Raonic.

7:30pm - Being without the official media credential and a valid parking pass, I was forced to wing it.  A relatively easy drive sans traffic or any delay whatsoever concluded in the vast parking lots of CitiField, directly across Roosevelt Blvd and about a mile from the entrances to the tennis center.  I grabbed the two computers and hoofed it over to the main entrance where there is a very strong security presence all along the way. The one thing that worried me on the drive was the fact the press credential center was scheduled to close at 8pm. A traffic delay would have cost me dearly.

7:45pm - At this point in the tourney, there were only three people in the media accreditation center, me and the two USTA staffers working the computer hardware. Processing took all of about two minutes and I was quickly handed my "M" media badge which included my head shot, a photograph taken by Andrew D. Bernstein when we did the team photos for the 2007-08 USA Basketball national team. I had it on file with the USTA.  A few steps, a bag check, a scan of the bar code and I was inside the compound, a facility I know very well from years and years of attending the US Open.

In fact, the first US Open I attended was in 1976 and '77 at the WestSide Tennis Club in Forest Hills.  At one point in the late 80s, I lived on a street in the lovely town of Forest Hills, a house a block away from the tennis club, still operational today with lovely grass courts throughout.  In 1978, the US Open was moved to the then-brand new tennis center and I was lucky enough to frequent the event each and every year. Back "in the day," as they say, the ProServe group in Washington DC, headed by David Falk and Donald Dell, had quite a grasp on the top players. ProServe offered tickets and hospitality to us as a professional courtesy.

IN 1999, I began to be credentialed among the media members covering the event and it's been an amazing tournament to witness as the growth soared with the building of Arthur Ashe Stadium and the refurbishment of the grounds.

8:00pm - Getting right into the action that I first heard by US Open radio but then witnessed as I settled into the media center, Milos Raonic of Canada, ranked #15, defeated American James Blake in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0, 7-6. When Blake met with the media in the interview room, the topic immediately went to the dominating service by Raonic. "Definitely one of the best," said Blake when he was asked to compare the speed of the serves he was trying to return. "I mean, it's tough to pick one better than the other, because you can take (John) Isner's (Andy) Roddick's -- I never played against Pete (Sampras) in his prime, but when they're having a good day, there's not much a returner can do. Obviously, it's pretty darn effective (serve), as it's gotten him to the top 20 in the world already and probably rising."

8:30pm - After a few quick "tweets" and some email, I am filing this section of my blog and heading out to "Ashe," the main court at the national tennis center where #23 Mardy Fish of the USA will play #16 Gilles Simon of France.  More to come via twitter during the match and online at later on.

FLUSHING, NY - September 1-2, 2012 -- The Sports Saturday/Sunday saga continued late into the night.

9:00pm - American Mardy Fish destroyed Gilles Simon 6-1 in their first set. With the fact Simon was nursing a stiff calf and continually stretching it between points, games and after the set, some of the the Flushing Meadows crowd headed to the exits. Simon had other things in mind and he stormed back to take the second set 7-5. The third set was the key as Fish struck back with a 7-6 (7-5) tie break victory to go up 2-1. As the clock struck Midnight and the match approached the three-hour mark, the US Open operations people played Eric Clapton's "After Midnight" on the Public Address system as the fans danced the night away. We even had a little of the "Village People" and Y.M.C.A - circa 1977 and '96. Fish took advantage of a key break point in the fourth set and defeated Simon 6-3 in the set to advance and avenge a straight sets beat-down from the 2011 French Open. Home court advantage holds forth.

9:45pm - A quick run from the media seating section in the 200-level back to the main media center was well worth the trip, as I ran into an old NBA and St. John's buddy, Seth Sylvan.  Seth was working the late night shift for the US Open (USTA) staff and running the press operation.  We spent some time, caught up on friends and family and I showed him the inner workings of  Together with his colleagues, we decided to undertake another "A Day in the Life" series for the site, highlighting the amazing set-up and a "behind the scenes" look at the vast digital production capabilities of the USTA as it presents the US Open tournament.

12 Midnight - About 4,000 enthusiastic fans remained in Arthur Ashe Stadium, many rooting for the American, Mardy Fish, but one young man screaming "Allez Gilles!" The serve and volley efforts of each player were strong and everyone in the stadium anticpated a five set marathon.

12:30am (Sunday) - With the crowd dispersed throughout the lower levels of the Ashe Stadium and ushers turning their heads and allowing fans to sit anywhere, I made my way to a corn spot by one of the CBS/Tennis Channel HD cameramen, a great vantage point. The speed and agility of the players intensifies as you get closer and just like most sports, the closer you are, the more you "feel" in terms of the power, impact on the ball, top-spin from the forehands and overall speed and quickness to cover the court.

When the fans chants of "Let's Go Fish" and "Here we Go Mardy" bellowed through the stadium, the home court advantage seemed to help as Fish broke serve and won in the fourth, despite his whopping 75 unforced errors in the match as opposed to Simon's 31. Fish did take advantage of his serve as he won 75% of his first serve points while Simon managed only 53%.

The first and fourth sets took 30 and 34 minutes respectively, but the middle two sets required 54 minutes for the 7-5 Simon second set win and 65 minutes for Fish's 7-6 tie break victory in the key third set, won with a 7-5 advantage in the extra session.

1:30am - With only a handful of French media present and solidly focused on interviewing Simon en Francaise, i headed to the main interview room in the Media Center to see what Mardy Fish would have to say. I also figured that a few good questions might help the efforts of my USTA media operations colleagues, so I quickly scouted the stat sheets and Fish's bio in order to ask some intelligent questions which surely would be recorded and fed on the satellite TV feeds. About 10-15 minutes into the wait, it was announced that Fish was seeking treatment and would not be available in the interview room.  No harm, no foul in my book and it was time to pack-up and get some sleep.

2:00am - My buddy, Seth, offered to drive me around the the CitiField parking lot where I left "Phil Ford," my 2012 Ford Fusion which was the lone vehicle in the "Tom Seaver" area near the new Shea Stadium. While driving through the lots, I marveled at the fact that I might've been driving in the spot where Tommie Agee or Ron Swoboda made the great catches in the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.  That said, it was time to get some shut-eye as the "Tale of Two Cities" came to a close.
National Tennis Center in NYC

Tomorrow (really today), is another day, and I look forward to seeing #2 seed Novak Djokovic play #31 Julien Benneteau of France at 11:00am edt and then American Andy Roddick, who announced that the 2012 US Open would be his last because of his decision to retire. Roddick faces Italy's Fabio Fognini in a match that will not begin until 1:30pm today, at the earliest.

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