Hometown Heroes?

When you come from a major urban area, it’s hard to understand exactly what drives the passion and loyalty of people from small towns.  But having spent my college years in the 20,000-person country seat known as Oswego, New York at the onset of the Reagan era, living as a citizen for several months amidst people who had one of the lowest per capita HH incomes and the third highest incidence of alcoholism among all 62 counties in New York State, I at least developed a first-hand understanding of exactly how the kinds of sentiments identified eloquently by John Mellencamp, and, more recently, less so by Jason Aldean, can be evoked.  It may at times tax my Voltaire-inspired belief system to its limit, but, trust me, I get it.

Which is why I try and isolate where possible if and when things and people from my immediate area are in the limelight.  I may not be a resident of El Segundo, California, but I’m close enough to it to connect with the sentiments and the emotions that America saw unfold when a tween who actually does reside there became an international hero.  As DEADLINE’s Tom Tapp and Bruce Haring reported late yesterday, a star was born.

I was in similar proximity to Northridge when they had been the most recent LLBWS champion from the Golden State, doing so in impossibly ironic fashion mere months after the 1994 earthquake that leveled many of the homes of its players.  It was the ultimate feel-good story at the time, one that made you believe in the concept of comebacks, particularly in a world that had not yet seen 9/11 or 1/6.   I knew a few people whose kids played in that league against those All-Stars and, yes, I wore their merch with pride.

My current financial state prevents me from having similar feelings about these fine young men from just south of LAX, but I tip the caps I currently own to them in any event.  Besides, my actual hometown is in the news yet again, and, once again, I’m awed, as I was nearly a year ago in this space, that, one more time, The World Returns to Flushing.

This time around, per Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, there’s significant anticipation for a younger generation of players that has been growing all year to gain even greater respect and appeal amidst the brightest lights in the biggest city, even if the crown jewel is a couple of bridges away from the remains of chop shops that still surround the home of the underperforming New York Mets:

The 2023 U.S. Open officially kicks off on Monday with the first rounds of the men’s and women’s singles. The fourth and final tennis grand slam event of the year promises to be a thriller.

Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Świątek come in as defending champions of the men’s and women’s tournaments, respectively, and both are ushering in a new era of tennis. Last year’s tournament marked the first time that players born this century won both the men’s and women’s singles titles at the U.S. Open.

The competition will be fierce, however. Novak Djokovic is back and aiming for his 24th career grand slam title, while Świątek will be challenged by the likes of 2023 Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka.

There’s a good chance that one of them meets the second-seeded Sabalenka in the final. The 25-year-old reached the semifinal in all three grand slam tournaments this year and has made consecutive semifinal appearances at the U.S. Open.

Sabalenka showed her hard-court prowess at the Australian Open in January, though her path to the final won’t be easy. Top competitors like Jessica Pegula and 2022 finalist Ons Jabeur could stand between Sabalenka and a spot in the final.

ESPN devotes an array of channels both digitally and linearally to all of this, and I’ll probably have it on nonstop for the next two weeks as I attempt to make more progress on my latest lengthy project.  And yes, I’ll be proud as the blimp and drone camera show off Flushing Meadow Park in all of its grandeur to the world, even I know the lake it will glide over is so chock full of sludge and pollution no fish would live more than a few minutes in its waters.

But why shouldn’t I be?  After all, we’ve literally had famous visitors from all over thanks to the two World’s Fairs the park hosted in 1939-40 and 1964-65, respectively.  The second one actually drew a modern Stone Age family and their dear, dear friends and neighbors as visitors.  In that classic episode, naive Fred tried to pay for four hot dogs and “Rock Colas” with the currency he had on hand at his all-too-familiar price point.  Two rocks.  No, literal rocks, like the ones that you’d likely be able to fish out of Flushing Lake.

The Flinstones and Rubbles fortunately had a time machine at their disposal which eventually allowed them to return to their era’s World’s Fair, which was much simpler and less crowded than any where one was trying to navigate the Van Wyck Expressway.  They only had to outrun the police, which as any current Queens resident can tell you isn’t all that challenging.

Good thing that wasn’t happening today, in a town smaller than New York,  They might have run into Jason Aldean.


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