The J-Block (Fire it up, James, BAM!) [Archive] -

The J-Block (Fire it up, James, BAM!)

08-31-2007, 04:21 PM
The J-Block has polarized so many people that I think they deserve to have their own thread. :p

Here's an article about them which basically says that the Pilot Pen would've been kinda boring without them. I will have to agree with that. ;)
The James Blake Show
The 2007 Pilot Pen would've been a snoozer without Blake and his rowdy fans.
By Joshua Mamis

Harvard! James Blake won his second Pilot Pen. More importantly, his cheerleaders brought some excitement to the tourney.

The tennis enthusiasts at last Thursday's men's quarterfinal between James Blake and Fernando Verdasco were tired of the J-Block—the gallery of noisy Blake fans that cheer his every winner and chant his name during switch overs. They rolled their eyes, took deep sighs and complained about the distraction.

I overheard the tennis players at my local park on Saturday, before the final, grousing about all the commotion in the stadium during Blake's matches. "It has to bother him," said one, authoritatively.

But even these tennis fans have to admit: This year's Pilot Pen would have been a big yawn if it were not for Blake and the J-Block.

Sure, there were some moments for the highlight reel, including junior champ Donald Young taking last year's title-holder Nikolay Davydenko to three sets in the second round. (Davydenko blamed his loss in the next round to fatigue from the Young encounter, but I wouldn't bet on it. We can bet that Young will have a lot more buzz among casual fans if he comes back next year.)

Then there was Blake's near-death experience: down 6-3, 5-4 with last year's finalist Agustin Calleri serving at 40-0, it looked like Blake would begin practicing for the U.S. Open a week early. Blake found his range on his return of serve and broke Calleri's serve. The collapse looked suspicious to some fans I spoke with later that evening, except for the fact that Calleri broke Blake right back—certainly not the behavior of a player in the midst of tanking. Blake went on to win a second set tie-breaker and cruised through the third set. Pilot Pen execs probably exhaled more forcefully than Blake himself, as the walk-up gate had been deflating before their eyes.

Watching Blake play his quarterfinal match that evening against the accomplished Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, one thing was clear: To win at this level of tennis you have to display return-of-serve prowess. Neither players' serves are overwhelming in the Federer or Roddick school, yet Verdasco clearly had trouble picking up Blake's ball off his racket. When Blake broke Verdasco's serve in the second set, the Spaniard seemed to give up. The J-Block kept things interesting in this otherwise fairly routine match, especially when chanting "Harvard" whenever the Ivy-Leaguer Blake won a line call challenge. Cracked me up every time.

Blake, of course, went on to win his second Pilot Pen championship, beating best friend Mardy Fish 7-5,6-4 to take the title.

The women's draw, if not literally bereft of top flight champions, was missing the Big Attractions: No Justine Henin to defend her title, no Amelie Mauresmo, and, at the last minute, no Serena Williams, saving her tender thumb for Flushing Meadows.

The sparsely attended women's final, between top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and qualifier Agnes Szavay, ended anti-climactically. With Kuznetsova down a set, Szavay retired with a bad back. It's the second straight year that the women's championship was decided this way: Last year, it was Lindsay Davenport who quit, citing a shoulder injury.

Make no mistake, there was some good tennis to be seen among the women, though not a lot of thrills. Eleni Danililidou gutted out two straight tough three-set matches, hitting harder than her opponents, though not being particularly fleet of foot, before succumbing to Szavay in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, Kuznetsova won the tournament without having to actually win a match point after her first match. She was beating Francesca Schiavone handily in the quarterfinals when Schiavone went down with an ankle injury. She was in the midst of a three-set semi-final battle in hot and humid conditions when Elena Dementieva quit from nausea. And so it went in the final.

It doesn't take a Harvard grad to figure out that professional tennis needs more than this to grow its fan base. It did, however, take a Harvard grad and his rabid followers to make this Pilot Pen entertaining.

09-29-2007, 09:36 PM
J-Block criticism from Wertheim's mailbag:
So, easily a dozen of you wrote to me (and, for that matter, to NBC's Web site) complaining about the J-Block. I had always assumed this was a harmless cheering section of Connecticut Brahmins, adding some energy to James Blake's matches. I checked out the "block" for myself and, at the risk of sounding like Claude Raines, I was shocked by what I saw and heard. "Cheers" included "lock-and-load on him, James." Fabrice Santoro was told that "France sucks." Santoro was also asked: "Where were you during the war?" Tommy Haas was treated to a quick countdown as he prepared to serve. A fan in a neighboring box accurately yelled, "You guys are acting like bullies."

Hey, we're all for more volume and enthusiastic cheering. We're all for "beering up" a gin-and-tonic crowd. But yelling "France sucks?" Yeesh. Especially given that decorum is Blake's stock-in-trade, it was surprising that his cheering section seems to have so little of it.

The J-Block did not yell, "France Sucks." I was there -- it was a J-Block wanna-be who was standing above them in the Loge, about 20 feet from me. -- Ray Lum, Arlington, Va.

Another reader made the same claim. Even taking you at your word and striking that charge from the record, there were plenty other examples of wildly inappropriate behavior. (And, again, the only reason I checked this out for myself was because easily a dozen of you complained about the J-Block, most of them beginning with, "I like James Blake, but...").

Particularly given Blake's generally sterling reputation, it's a shame his "peeps" are giving him a bad name. Maybe he just pulls a designated leader aside and says, "Look, you know I appreciate the support. But do me a favor and make sure it doesn't get out of control up there." That's all.

11-16-2007, 08:58 PM
Fire It Up One Time…BAM!
Connecticut’s own J-Block talks tennis and friendship

USTA New England Magazine
Nov/Dec 2007 Issue

The J-Block isn’t your ordinary group of tennis fans. Since 2005, they’ve been a permanent fixture up in the stands with their signature blue shirts, showing support for longtime friend, James Blake. The “unofficial” captain of the J-Block, BobbyD, took some time recently to give us the lowdown on what makes the J-Block so special.

Who came up with the name J-Block?

BobbyD: The name J-Block was created by Ann Worcester, Tournament Director for the Pilot Pen. The original group of J-Blocker's consisted of friends of James and Brian Barker (his coach) - all from Connecticut. James' friends and Brian's friends all know each other and actually have competitions, like bowling, golf, darts, etc against each other - the young guns against the old guys. Brian was coaching James before he was a teenager, and most of the other young guns in the group were coached by Brian also.

Your shirts say: Fire it up one time…BAM! Who came up with this slogan and what does it mean?

BobbyD: Fire it up one time...BAM is a saying that our group uses. It was started by Andy Jorgensen while at a boring party—he was trying to get it going and yelled that out loud. We started using it with James when our group went to Indian Wells for a tournament. We all went there to surprise Brian for his 40th birthday. Andy yelled “Fire it one time” to James when he had a big break point, and when James nailed a powerful winner, we all yelled out “BAM!” at the same time.

What do you think of James’ new book, Breaking Back?

BobbyD: We all read James' book and thought it should have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list! (Just kidding). However, after living, telling and hearing James' story, reading the book was still emotional. We thought it was great that he mentioned so many of us and the local places we all go to. The book is very accurate in the way James thinks and acts.

James recently partnered with Nike to sell the J-Block t-shirts. What color would you call these shirts anyway?

BobbyD: When James returned from his illness, 25 of us had shirts made up in James' favorite color...Carolina Blue and the slogan on it. We did not have anything to do with the naming of the J-Block, but we fit in perfectly when we got to the Pilot Pen. We just wanted to be there to cheer him on. Since then, the J-Block has grown to just about every tennis fan out there. Nike ended up making shirts that sell for one of James' charity of choice [USTA Tennis and Education Foundation] and you will see people all around the world that have his shirt and set up a J-Block at each tournament. Sometimes it is only 2 or 3 people.

How hard is it to take time off from work to travel to tournaments?

BobbyD: We have traveled all around the world to watch James—Australia, Moscow, Bangkok, Europe, Vegas, you name it. I think someone has been to every tournament James has played around the world. It's not hard to take off work, because James is always so excited when someone says, "I think I might go to this or that tournament." So, no one minds taking time off work.

What do you admire most about James?

BobbyD: I can't speak for anyone else, but what I admire about James is that even with his fame and fortune, he always wants to get together with all the guys from back home whenever he has a chance. And, he acts like the same fun seeking kid he was as a teenager. Sometimes James only has a weekend home and he still wants to get together and do something with his friends.

Has the J-Block ever become so rowdy that you’ve been escorted out of a tournament?

BobbyD: As far as I know, the original J-Blockers have never been escorted out of a tournament. We feel that even though we are out there having fun, we have to remember that we are there because of James and we would never do anything to harm his reputation.

In your experience, how have other tennis fans reacted to you at tournaments?

BobbyD: The reaction from other fans has been mixed. It is funny, the crowds are so much more rowdy around the world and we would not be considered too loud anywhere, but here. So we try to keep in mind the people who want to go to a tennis match and clap quietly at the end of the match.

Do you think that your group has brought more attention to the game?

BobbyD: I think the J-Block has been good for tennis. Most sports viewers and athletes get excited when the crowd gets going.

11-16-2007, 09:01 PM
Seems to be a difference of opinion regarding the J block ;)

11-16-2007, 09:11 PM
Of course there is, Sue. I'm sure if they were a group associated with Baghdatis instead of Blake most people here on MTF would find them to be just dandy and wonderful to have around. ;)

11-18-2007, 12:09 PM
Of course there is, Sue. I'm sure if they were a group associated with Baghdatis instead of Blake most people here on MTF would find them to be just dandy and wonderful to have around. ;)

What I meant is that the J Block constituent who was interviewed specifically states that they don't want to tarnish James' image;)

11-18-2007, 05:01 PM
Unfortunately more than one person has told me that their opinion of james HAS gone down because of the J-Block.... I personally thought they were great until they started actually insulting and taunting his opponents. Because it's not just a rabid group of fans and his actual close friends, it would be nice if James would say to them something like "ok guys, you can't insult my opponents, just cheer for me" Maybe they were better at this year's USO I don't know but I think the fact that these are actually friends of James makes it a trickier situation :shrug:

11-24-2007, 03:00 PM
this forum is dead but i love james blake

11-24-2007, 03:15 PM
this forum is dead but i love james blake

I enjoy watching him play so hopefully with Davis Cup he will do his best. And by next year when the season starts the forum might get busier;)

12-06-2007, 08:54 PM
Craigh Hickman reports on his blog ( that the Netheads may be no more! :eek: :sad: