Birmingham or Bust (or Baby?)

Looking for a chance to get out of town one last time before the baby arrives, I had the great idea to go watch the US Davis Cup tennis tournament in Birmingham, Alabama last weekend. For those that don't know, Davis Cup pits nation against nation in a year-long tennis tournment, which often features a country's best players. The US used to dominate the Davis Cup but went through a dry spell in the late 90's to 2007, when they finally recaptured the title under the team of Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Bob and Mike Bryan. This year's first-round match was scheduled against the Swiss, and I was so excited to go because Roger Federer had committed to play. I had never been to a pro tennis event before, so the chance to see Federer play two (or maybe three) matches against the US, was too good to pass up.

Unfortunately, Federer bailed (because he was scared? or because he had a back injury), but with my buddy Erik Mosley in tow, we watched some great tennis last weekend. In Davis Cup, each team fields two singles players and a doubles team. On Friday, James Blake played Switzerland's best player not named Federer (Stanislas Wawrinka, ranked 16th in the world), and unfortunately lost in 4 sets. Then it was Andy Roddick's turn to destroy the other Swiss player filling in for Federer (I don't even remember his name) in straight sets.

Saturday is a features day for doubles, with only one match scheduled. The US is lucky to have Bob and Mike Bryan, twin brothers, who are the best doubles team in the world, and possibly the best in history (they still have some time left to cement that claim). It took four sets, but the handled the Swiss team of Wawrinka and Allegro in a very exciting match. Having played so much doubles in my life, it was awe-inspiring to watch these two at the top of their game.

With the US leading the match 2-1, Sunday would decide it all. Roddick took on Wawrinka in the first match of the day, and if he won, it would clinch the match for the US. The team calls Roddick the closer, because he has NEVER lost when up 2-1 and playing on the last day. This time was no different, as Roddick played brilliantly to win in straight sets. Then the team took a victory lap around the court, waving the flag. Very cool.

The Davis Cup tournament is a fun experience because, as opposed to a normal tennis event with mild clapping and no real rooting interest, the crowd can get behind their countrymen, make lots of noise, and celebrate in a way uncommon to the sport. The nationalistic pride is really fun, and it was even great to see the large Swiss contingent at the arena who were great sports and had some well-coordinated cheers.

What made the weekend of tennis even more fun was hanging out in Birmingham with Erik, who I normally only get to see a couple times a year at Purdue sporting events. Being an awesome tennis player in his own right, he could also appreciate watching 6 hours of tennis in one day! We also thoroughly "did" Birmingham as we hit all sorts of local restaurants, dives, bars, and tourist spots. Some highlights included:

-Fantastic BBQ at Dreamland...we enjoyed the unique sauce, ribs, pork, smoked sausage, baked beans, and the essential banana puddin'.

-The Vulcan - a giant iron statue on a big hill on the south side of the city. Being up next to it on a windy night was fun, and I think I pulled the pose off well.

-Little local joints Seafood D-lite (guessing we were the first non-locals to ever eat there, but good gumbo and hush puppies), Rojo (good Mexican), Dave's Pub, 5 Points Grill, The Garage Cafe (a unique indoor/outdoor bar with more antiques than an annual flea market), and Twist and Shout (a dueling piano bar where I had to keep Erik from hitting on the bachelorette party ladies).

-sampling lots of local beers. It was our goal to drink Alabama or southern brewed beer whenever possible, and we had some interesting pints courtesy of Good People, a local Bham brewer, and Terrapin (brewed in Georgia)

Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and a much needed "last getaway." Did I mention Lynne was there too? She decided to use our "guys' trip" to hitch a ride to Birmingham and stay with her friend Katie that she hadn't seen in a long time. It definitely made for some good company on the 8-hour drive since Erik flew in to meet me in Alabama. Also, it made for some anxiety as we had to prepare for the big What If...Lynne went into labor on the car ride or in Birmingham! As Lynne put it, "I'd rather have the baby in Alabama and you be there, than to have the baby in Indy and you be in Alabama." Good point!

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