Odd Ball: Weird NYC Sports
by Jonathan Zeller, 01/02/2013
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Squash at Grand Central Terminal
What is it? This event is odd mainly because of the setting: a gorgeous glass-walled squash court in the middle of Grand Central Terminal could attract more than a few new fans who might mistake it for the railroad depot's similarly sleek Apple Store. It's free to watch the games through the front wall (though spectators can also buy premium seating right up against the court), and the action moves at a blistering pace as players fling themselves back and forth and sometimes onto the playing surface. Their ruthless jostling for position might remind commuters of their own daily routine, and the matches could draw more foot traffic than the iPhone emporium itself. This year's Tournament of Champions is set to take place January 18–24.
Why should you go? Julian Illingworth, the top-ranked American squash player, says no other sporting event brings fans closer to the action than this one, where they can watch players right through the wall. "You can be 10 feet away from guys who are the [best] in the world…. If you go to US Open tennis, even if you pay $1,000 for a ticket, you're still going to be 40 or 50 feet away…you're not going to be a ball boy out there." Illingworth says the distinctive setting allows fans to experience the speed of squash in a way they ordinarily couldn't. "The glass court's cool, because the ball is right there. It's hitting the glass right in front of you, so you can really see how hard they're hitting it—you can easily see how quickly they're moving."