The Tennis Phile

January 19, 2010 8:39 AM


In times of profound sorrow and devastation in the news - as we have now in Haiti - commenting on egocentric athletes seems trivial. But since we cover sports to such an extent on this planet, every comment must be scrutinized and there should be some accountability behind statements uttered. And sports coverage  can be useful - in this case serving as  metaphor for a timid and unfocused media.

... which brings me to Serena Williams.  The top ranked player - and arguably one of the top four women of all time - is continuing to be queried regarding  her vitriolic episode in last year's US Open semifinals when playing against eventual champion Kim Clijsters. Nearly every sports fan on the planet knows the details by now. After being called for a foot fault (something rarely done and and act that would justify some  annoyance from anyone), Serena then laced into the line judge with such fury never seen on a court, stating, "I want to take this ball and shove it down your f------ throat", among other things and gesturing towards the women in a violent posture.

Obviously, I doubt Serena would ever actually have crossed the line and push a dispute to a physical level. But her responses to the outburst continue to be along the lines of, "well you know I've already said it was wrong but there have been things done and said way worse than that and there's a double standard with the men."  Patently false.

But the media, while still asking if Serena feels "bad" about it or asking her to explain her actions, has for the most part yet to repeatedly ask the follow-up question: when has there been an instance where a man or woman has said such vile things? And I doubt she'd be able to answer that (for an out-of-proportion analogy --- does anyone recall the dearth of questions asked prior to the Iraq invasion several year ago).  Sure, she may evoke John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase or Jimmy Connors who acted childlishly and cruedly on a far more frequent basis than Serena has. Serena is the modicum of manners compared to these three. But in this instance, I can't recall any incident from these three men, and this trio does indeed possess long rap sheets, that can compare to her tirade.

Instead of talking about charity and how she's going to use that fine money to good use - and by the way $92,000 is the equivalent of about $25 for mere mortal. And charity is a way to avoid an issue often times as it's used as cover.  Serena should just say "I was so out of line and am embarrassed that this behavior is so polar opposite to the way I usually conduct myself. I am ashamed at what I said and how I said it and I look to put that in the distance by my future actions on court." 

She's just making  this situation linger by continuing to state that it was no big deal. She should grow up and just be the brilliant champion she is. I'd hate to see this episode be part of her defining legacy, as McEnroe's egocentric and pathetic tantrums have defined him.

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