The ESPN3 Chronicles: I watched a dynasty I didn't know about die a little

ESPN3 somehow coaxed us into having an emotional investment in some weird offshoot of tennis we didn't know existed. There were weird rules and terrifying mascots.

And so Kastles made of sand
fall in the sea
eventually

- Jimi Hendrix

In "Futurama," Fry, the character who was unwittingly transported to New New York in the year 3000, is confused and scared when he attends a blernsball game with his friends. The sport they are watching clearly resembles the baseball he watched in his time, but it's different in ways that only make sense to his friends from a thousand years in the future.

This is how I felt when I watched World Team Tennis, which for some reason is a thing I can watch live and for free on ESPN3.

Kastles_medium

It starts with a court that clearly has too many colors. I imagine the idea was to capture the red of Roland Garros, the blue of Arthur Ashe, and the green of Wimbledon, but instead I feel likeI'm watching acid tennis.

It is very clear someone at World Team Tennis takes great pride in being **different** from the tennis we're familiar with. Some of these things make sense. Instead of the 15-30-40 scoring system most tennis uses that is in place simply because it always has been, they go 1-2-3-4. The cumulative total of games won in all sets decides the winner, rather than total number of sets won, which means games played in a set where one player leads 4-1 are relevant, where they might be phoned in during regular tennis with the set basically decided.

Some are just completely random. In the first few minutes I see a serve skip off the top of the net and land in play, but instead of everybody relaxing on an obvious let, the player returning serve sprints forward and lunges, sadly tapping the ball into his net. "Remember, there are no lets in Mylan World Team Tennis," the announcer gleefully boasts. "Just another one of the things that makes World Team Tennis unique!"

Most tennis audiences are politely neutral. Since tournaments are at neutral locations, the crowd often doesn't have an obvious favorite -- besides, say, Andy Murray at Wimbledon, or any number of American contenders at the US Open. Cheering is not spurred on by the tournament organizers -- in fact, they often hush the crowds before service.

Here, there is a home team, so there's someone on a megaphone leading the crowd in cheers.

There are Tennis Cheerleaders, which I did not know were a thing.

Cheerleaders_medium

And there was a horrifying tennis ball mascot with dead, soulless eyes:

Horror_medium

A quick search allowed me to find that this tennis ball mascot mated with another tennis ball mascot and had a baby tennis ball:

Topspinslice5_medium

Terrifying.

Anyway. As I kept flipping back to this game, it became clear that I was witnessing history. The Washington Kastles, the home team here, have apparently won three straight championships and had won 34 games in a row including back-to-back perfect seasons and had apparently won 18 straight heading into this game.

As I kept flipping back to this random game, it became clear they were not winning. (Well, the announcer told me this. I had a somewhat vague idea of what the scores were.) The San Diego Aviators, who had Daniela Hantuchova for the night, were handling the Kastles, who had Martina Hingis for the night. In other news, Martina Hingis is 33 and has not been in a major final in 15 years, which makes no sense.

As the end of the Kastles' streak grew nearer, I began worrying about the preservation of a dynasty I didn't know existed. How distraught would Hingis and Co., so accustomed to creaming the competition, be after a tight loss? Are we about to see a riot by the Kastles faithful, whose high standards had not been met?

Nah. Everybody just kinda shook hands and went home. The Kastles are on to try to start next anonymous incredibly long winning streak.

Sports you've never watched before can become randomly intriguing if you allow them to. But then you instantly remember how trivial they are, and that it makes no sense that I can stream them instantaneously on ESPN3.

Here are today's randomest things on ESPN3:

DOUBLE FEATURE!!! World Lacrosse Championships: Germany vs. Israel, 10 a.m., Iroquois Nationals vs. United States, 7 p.m.

Jon_medium

SEC Media Days, pretty much all damn day

Look, I know why this is on ESPN3 -- I'm a college football guy and tons of people watch it. I am very glad we get to watch Steve Spurrier talking in our homes.

But still, it's PEOPLE TALKING!

County Cricket, Sussex vs. Glamorgan, 1:28 p.m.

It seems this is the top level of cricket in England, so perhaps it's unfair of me to trivialize it. But still!

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