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tennisIlove09
Mar 19th, 2003, 11:40 PM
These days, dull is enough at Crandon Park
March 19 2003
COMMENTARY / JEFF MILLER
jamiller@herald.com
The Miami Herald

Tatiana Perebiynis won her match, but Zuzana Ondraskova lost hers. So did Wynne Prakusya.

Michael Chang practiced, just like Todd Martin, his appearance causing an actual buzz at the Crandon Park Tennis Center.

Daniela Hantuchova had a news conference and announced she feels ``really good on the court.''

Monica Seles canceled her news conference.

It would be difficult for this sport to assemble a more anonymous day than Tuesday, the eve of the main draw starting at the NASDAQ-100 Open. Little of consequence occurred, which generally will result when the biggest news is a victory by Justin Gimelstob.

But Tuesday did occur, they did play qualifying matches, they did go to deuce, they did shake hands afterward. And right now that's enough.

With so many serious things happening today, this is the time to keep playing our silly games. This is when we need to keep going for kill shots and staging sudden death and gunning down base runners. Now, when lives soon will be lost. For real.

This is dangerous ground, inviting something as momentous as war to the sports pages, which typically are filled with stories as thin as the pages themselves.

Possessing a worldly view sounds good but often is more of an afterthought, sort of like playing the national anthem before games.

We end up with Gary Allenson, a Baltimore Orioles minor-league manager, explaining the motivation for war by quoting a Midas commercial. We have a caller to WQAM saying, ''There comes a time when, you know, guys who are kind of evil like this, you know, history says you take them out, right?'' We end up sounding woefully ill-equipped, which we can be when the subject moves beyond the impact of Jed Weaver leaving.

The better response, the definitive response is to just keep playing, keep doing the things we do, no matter how trivial. In fact, the more trivial the better. Keep going to the gym, playing golf, watching tennis. No matter how many lives stop, the earth spins.

This is not to suggest turning deaf to the war, even for those opposed to it. History is happening, and ignoring it won't make it go away. Besides, ignorance rarely is the answer to anything.

But if you want to honor our soldiers, show them they're succeeding in protecting our way of life. Play the NCAA tournament and baseball's season opener. Let them know the America they left behind is the same because of them.

Clearly, there could be safety issues, with travel, large crowds and the threat of retaliation in this country. That reality is a separate issue, one that should be dealt with in a very different manner. But as long as our routine remains uninterrupted, our games should also.

This tennis tournament is one that speaks with an accent, players coming from all over the globe. In 34 matches Tuesday, 25 countries were represented. Officials say they will monitor the situation but have no plans to postpone or cancel anything.

This is significant. So, too, will be our behavior. At the Ford Championships at Doral two weeks ago, fans ridiculed French golfer Thomas Levet for his country's stance on the war. Such conduct is as senseless and unfortunate as Levet having to play the Honda the next week flanked by three plainclothes cops.

Yes, these are tenuous times, with reminders of 9/11 constantly flying over Crandon Park on Tuesday. To remember how uncertain things are in this country today, just look at the name of this tournament.

There's a giant clock ticking down on the world, and when 00:00 is reached, a buzzer won't be going off. This is real life and real death. And even if our wars are packaged neatly on TV -- ''Showdown With Saddam'' building to ''Countdown To Conflict'' -- there is no boxscore that includes recovered body parts.

There will be a lot more seriousness in our lives soon enough. We'll need something else, something to distract. We'll need to keep playing because when we're playing, we're living.

This is a time when these games matter more than ever, even as they matter not one bit.