King of the Court

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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 26, 2008

What started as a small river running through the VIP hospitality tent has now become a seeping, splashy mess. It's a Wednesday night, the final match of the first season of the city's newest professional sports franchise -- the Washington Kastles. Team tennis. (No, not table tennis, team tennis!) They're named for an alarm system company; they play on a temporary court on the filled-in hole where the old convention center once stood; it's their first season, okay?

Just before the men's doubles event -- before guests even got to see visiting player Anna Kournikova play, or do whatever it is that she does in that small skirt -- the rain began.

Drops, then buckets, then sheets, until the match was halted, and the tent for the fancy people was opened to the 200 or so fans who chose to wait out the water. The plastic roof is sagging, looks like it could go at any minute.

A blonde in a strapless top marches over to a tan guy in a dark suit.

"I'm wet," she says, pouting.

"Ah," he says, politely. Before he can think of a solution to her particular problem, a man in glasses and a sci-fi T-shirt has another question: If the match gets moved to the indoor bubble at Hains Point, what time will it start, and is there any parking, and will there be refunds if Kournikova doesn't play?

In your other rich-boy franchises, say your Dan Snyder Redskins or your Ted Leonsis Caps, there would be some announcer type dealing with these logistics, some efficient customer-service PR type, who should be handing out maps and Kastles ponchos, and deciding whether to unplug the electrical equipment now or wait until the match is officially canceled.

But everyone is coming to this guy in the suit, otherwise known as Mark Ein, otherwise known as the multimillionaire owner of the newly minted Kastles, named after Kastle Systems, which Ein purchased last year.

He makes some decisions, then gets on a mike to let everyone know. The match is going to Hains Point. It will start in about 45 minutes. "We're going to make lemonade out of lemons," Ein says, more than once.

Ponchos for everyone!

People start to make desperate dashes for their cars, but Ein stays on the raised platform, overseeing the exodus.

"I feel like I'm the captain of the ship," he says, "and I should be the last to leave."


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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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