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Beneath the Death Star 03/03/2009 - 6:02 PM

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by Pete Bodo

It turns out that my thoughts on Venus and Serena Williams' performance at Madison Square Garden in the BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup last night were a little more complicated than I had anticipated, so it took me a little longer to rassle them down onto paper than I had expected. But those speculations ought to be live, over at the ESPN tennis home page, sometime soon. Here are some further thoughts:

To to tell you the truth, I'm still feeling torn about last night's festivities, and probably in a way that I won't  be able to reason my way out of any time soon. The event seemed to be trying to do many different things at once, and that's sometimes a recipe for not doing anything well.

Was it a significant, historic moment, as evidenced by the presence of former US President Bill Clinton (although that's not exactly a causal relationship) and that ceremony honoring Billie Jean King?

Or was it a fairly grotesque exercise in waste and excess, representing a certain tone-deaf attitude on the part of the promoters and sponsors in these stressful times, using "social awareness" as cover?

Here's how it worked. Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic were the "seminfinal" opponents for, respectively, Venus and Serena Williams. These semifinals were one-set affairs, with no ad-scoring to boot. Jankovic and Ivanovic, who both lost, walked away with $250,000 each for what amounted to a half-hour of work - and work that was undertaken largely with something like a clock-puncher's resignation.

Who could blame them, though? They were made an offer was impossible to refuse (250k guaranteed, for stopping in New York to do half-hour's work as I make my way to California?). Besides, is anyone nuts enough to think that Jelena and Ana felt morally obliged to prevent an all-Williams final in Madison Square Garden, on a night honoring Billie Jean King?

And while it was certainly a welcome, helpful gesture when the suits (during the trophy presentation ceremony) trotted out the great big replica check representing a $50,000 gift to a charitable foundation associated with the event (the Dream Vaccine Foundation), that donation - while it sure beat a poke in the eye with a sharp stick - seemed oddly meager, when compared to the prize-money showered on the four ladies who performed on the court (Serena earned $400,000 for her win, Venus got $300.000).

I don't know, maybe I'm just channeling the financial anxieties that beset us all in this crazy time,  but wasn't it John McEnroe (one of the commentary team last night) who - in a much more solvent time - said that the $1.5 million dollar winner's prize offered at the Grand Slam Cup (a week-long, November tournament, bringing together the best performers at the Grand Slam events of the year) was "obscene?"

Like I said, there was an awful lot going on at once, and some of it was jarring and conducive to creating cognitive dissonance (dang, I'd promised myself never to use that term, but I'm caving). Bill Clinton made a speech about Billie Jean's towering contribution (his exact quote was: She has probably done more than any other woman in the world to empower women and educate men. . .

Quite an endorsement, that. But I had to wonder what Jelena and Ana were thinking as (or if) they listened to Clinton address the crowd and wax poetic about social justice, and how they privately viewed this Clinton, who isn't exactly a beloved figure in Serbia. Did that matter to them at all?  Did the girls want to meet Clinton? Marvel at the silver-haired, smooth-talker's gift for American-style self-celebration, self-indulgence, and self-congratulation?  Were they aware of Bill's history with women, and think, Maybe Billie should have worked a little  harder on educating that one. .  . Did they smile and think that American are perpetual optimists? Preposterous hypocrites? Deluded uber-materialists? Wishful thinkers?

I'm fond of Billie Jean and respect all that she's accomplished. But there's a template to these celebrations now and a familiarity to the rhetoric and encomiums, and a number of people today have asked or said something to the effect: Surely there must have been some other women in the world who advanced the causes of freedom, dignity and justice, maybe even before Billie Jean came around?

   I think Billie Jean really needs to be careful about "the brand"; she's untouchable now, but nobody remains that way forever. Eventually, she may be coming up against the same problem as Clinton - the perception (in Clinton's case, it's already got traction with many people) that she/he is an icon for sale, happy to go to the highest bidder.

These issues had to be percolating in the minds of anyone who cares about such things, although the audience at the exo seemed to consist of the already converted, with a healthy segment of the indifferent  - those who were there first and foremost to see Venus and Serena, and to a lesser extent the Serb stars. In a way, packaging this show as something far more significant than a tennis exhibition may have been a strategic error, at least in terms of how it impacted the tone and tenor of things. While there was some good shotmaking on display, especially from Serena and Venus, their approach was all-business in a ho-hum, Wednesday afternoon second-rounder kind of way. There was no electric moment, nothing to make you sit back with a big grin on your face. They did not pull me into the match; instead I could almost feel them keeping me out. Funny, how that works.

I suppose it was serious; the intent was serious, yet it was impossible to mistake this for the proverbial "serious" tennis moment. For gosh sakes, the warm-up act semis were one-set, with no-ad scoring! That doesn't scream Roland Garros final - it screams Ronald McDonald, sneaking out behind Serena to snatch the racket away from her in a comic moment while all the little kids in the stands laugh. But it seems tha even Venus and Serena wanted this to be something more than an exhibition featuring the stock, crowd-pleasing elements, and that's probably where all those other, weighty elements came into it - as part of a quest for instant credibility and legitimacy earned somewhere other than on the field of play. But tennis is an enterprise in which all that usually matters is what transpires on the field of play.

Clinton So by the end, I found myself wondering if it wouldn't have been more fun for all concerned if we had a few more clowns and a few fewer speeches, or overwrought words of adoration. If we had a few, well, hokey exo moments. Perhaps it might have been more fun (or isn't that on the agenda anymore?) if it were some kind of tennis festival, with the sisters and the Serbs and, what the hail, Bill Clinton and Billie Jean running around, engaging the crowd, showing of their talents, the way I've seen other great players do it in exhibitions.

I had an interesting conversation with Jerry Solomon, president and CEO of StarGames, promoter of the event. In the run-up, I hadn't really boned up on this Tennis Night in America idea, which is wholly Solomon's (or so he told me). This exhibition was a the centerpiece of that effort, and it's pretty impressive. Over  700 different tennis facilities, community centers and other recreational outlets took part in the festivities last night, holding special viewing parties (for the exo, which was broadcast on HBO). At the same time, those facilities collected registrations from youth for their various tennis programs. Twice, you may have noticed, HBO cut to a Chicago tennis club that was part of this 700 tent global village, the way the networks cut away to a tavern or restaurant back in the town of some basketball team that's involved in a critical road game.

"We had a staff meeting (at StarGames) last year, and I said, we should make this 'Tennis Night in America,'" Solomon told me. "I don't even know what that is, but it will be the first night of the year when pro tennis is back in the USA in a big way - before Davis Cup and Indian Wells and Miami, when everyone is traveling westward, even from Europe. Put it on TV, pipe it into theaters, have tailgate parties. . . You may not have noticed, but we had the TNA logo around last year, at the Pete Sampras/Roger Federer exhibition. We just didn't even know what it was then."

This is a fine idea, and I hope Jerry (and his partners, including Ivan Lendl) can pull it off. Whatever they do, it ought to be less of a hybrid. One plan Jerry is floating is bringing in the eight Grand Slam singles winners of the previous year and having a two-day event, with legitimate best-of-three "semifinals" on the first day, and the finals on the second day - along with escalating prize money.

It's a great idea, although it doesn't cure my personal problem. Madison Square Garden is a very different place from what it was when serious tennis was last played here eight or 10 years ago, and once again I found myself struggling to enjoy the experience while realizing what a joy it is to attend an event and watch matches outdoors, in the late afternoon sunshine. 

The PA system in the Garden, which is almost eternally pumping out music, is loud - so loud that you literally bang heads with a companion if you're trying to converse. The Jumbotron hangs over the arena like a Madison Square version of the Star Wars saga's notorious Death Star - it's a huge presence, and when it begins to spit sound, color, and light, watch out! The overall effect, to me is disconcertingly Orwellian. And the audience is the ceature's plaything.

Venus: I love New York, I really love it here. I want to live here!

Crowd roars approval and pours out the love, but why?

This isn't really a Venus issue  - she's just being nice, and what young, well-heeled person doesn't enjoy New York, or fantasize about living here? It's a crowd issue - New Yorkers love being told how great they are. The idea that Venus might choose to buy a loft in Soho confirms their self-importance. At the same time, the reaction suggest the opposite - that somehow Venus living in Soho would. . . validate New Yorkers. Reflect well on them. In other words, New Yorkers are both self-important and insecure about their importance.

And one last thing: for all the honor showered on Billie Jean King, how come the things her name gets attached to always end up constituting a mouthful? There's the USTABJKNTC (the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center) and now the BNPPSFBJKC (the BNP Parisbas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup). If you really want to step up for the old gal, how about a Billie Jean Avenue, or the San Francisco Billie Jean King Tower?

This is a red-meat post, so please keep it on topic move to Your Call for match-calling.


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Posted by Pspace 03/03/2009 at 06:20 PM

Lordie, Pete. That's a very complex take on a exo...womens' rights, posturing, New Yorker insecurities, all rolled into one? Yeah, I don't know why the players were so business-like. Made the whole thing kind of boring. I would've loved to seem them try crazy shots that they don't do in real matches, and play with the crowd a little more. Didn't they watch Pistol and TMF go at it last year?

Posted by GVGirl- Next tennis stop: SEO in Miami! 03/03/2009 at 06:46 PM

Second? Third? Fourth?

In all honesty, last night's festivities did not have the pizazz?of last year's Fed-Sampras Exo. I think that having all the celebrities running around MSG last year from Donald Trump to famous musicians made last year's event even more "Hollywood." Granted last night was fabulous..great to have tennis back in the Garden again. The tours should have never left. Let's see who plays next year.

Posted by Andy C 03/03/2009 at 06:53 PM

Pete,

Very entertaining and funny. You've got too much going on inside your head, much like your compadre Mr. Tignor. ("What does it say about New Yorkers that they cheer when Venus says she is fond of the Apple?") Is it something in the water at Tennis?

--Andy

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed - Still my heartbeat 03/03/2009 at 06:59 PM

WHOO!!!!!!!!! - well this is my first red meat commentary in awhile so here goes.
First: I too was a little bit taken aback at all the BJK love. There was a post today about Rosie Casalas over at ESPN the writer mentioned that she too was at the forefront of the whole equality struggle etc.
Second: The players did not seem to be too comfortable in the spotlight. Venus was I think the only player who actually came out thinking exo and played as if it was an exo. The others seemed a bit disconnected and seemed like they were just there for the money. Serena played as she always does - like her very life and a title depends on it.
Third: Comparing the TMF and Sampras exo with what the ladies did last night is a tad unfair. Sampras and Roger have a history. They are friends and Pete is Roger's idol. They have common denominators. The 4 ladies have no history together per se as they only play each in tournaments. There is no backstory to them, save and except for Venus/Serena. Perhaps a better drawing card would have been the uber Russian, since there is history between her and Serena especially.
Finally, I think what the promoters were trying to accomplish has in fact been accomplished. Signing up children for tennis, spotlighting the women's game. Letting people see the stars of tomorrow. For too long women's tennis has been getting short shrift from the media, promoters etc. I think having something like this not only helps to promote the game but also promotes women's tennis, which is essential in these troubling times.

Before I go though I have one final thought. I hate to have to think that I am seeing inferences of politics on this site. I know that Pete is not a Democrat (at least he did not vote democrat in the last election) but for some reason I sense a fair amount of criticism for the current President as well as a President who the world considered to be the best President America ever had. If I am wrong I stand corrected and I do apologise, but I do get that from certain aspects of this article.

Posted by Tom 03/03/2009 at 07:00 PM

It was an exo - like pre-season football or exhibition baseball, who cares. Is it just me or does every US tennis event now honor Billie Jean King. She herself should say "enough already." And all the fawning over Madison Square Garden. When was the last time an important sporting event was held there? The only entertainment last night was wondering if the crowd sitting behind the court two feet from the baseline would get hit by one of Jankovic's errors. I won't even get into the announcers again. I'm not sure they were aware there was a match going on they were so busy talking about such meaningful events as whether it was 1973 or 1977 when Billie and John had lunch.

Posted by Juan DeJesus 03/03/2009 at 07:05 PM

Twins separated at birth:

http://www.joetoucandiabetesproject.com/images/bjk.jpg

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/041117/041117_scoop_elton_john_vmed.widec.jpg

Posted by Tom 03/03/2009 at 07:08 PM

Yummy Prince Fed - when did Pete criticize Reagan?

Posted by daryl 03/03/2009 at 07:15 PM

pete
Maybe do yourself a favor and everyone else
Just stop covering women's tennis. Let someone else do it.
Why make life so miserable? Billie Jean-tennis duh.


Posted by Master Ace 03/03/2009 at 07:37 PM

Yummy Prince Fed,
Hello. Speaking of Russia, the promoters originally wanted Maria Sharapova because all ladies would have been 2008 Slam winners but she refused the invitation not wanting to risk re-injurying her shoulder in the exo. Therefore, Jelena was picked as the 4th player who happened to end 2008 as the best player in the world.

Pete,
Just imagine if one of the Serbian ladies would have taken the "match". Would the crowd still been happy?

Posted by Sherlock 03/03/2009 at 07:38 PM

"when did Pete criticize Reagan?"

LOL, Tom. :)

Posted by Ruth 03/03/2009 at 07:49 PM

YPF/Karen: It's so nice to have you back -- and especially to have you express so much of what I was thinking and feeling about last night. I won't repeat the relevant points, but I thank you for atating them.

I attended the exo with my longtime USOpen buddy. She trudged though several inches of snow from her house in the Philly area to get to the train and meet me in NYC with our tickets. I was stranded in Atlanta (was visiting my grandson Soli and other family) until Monday morning because about 2 inches!!! of snow in the Atlanta area on Saturday night resulted in the cancellation of my Sunday flight back to Philly --and several hundred others.

But I made it to NYC via a Monday morning flight to Newark in enough time to get some rest and get to the Garden where I thoroughly enjoyed the show last night.

Unfortunately, I missed meeting up with GVGirl, as we'd planned; but we kept in touch by e-mail, phone, and text. And I'm sure that we'll be chatting about the event more later. Thanks, GVGirl, for your link to your site on another TW thread.

As I mentioned elsewhere, my friend was very excited about seeing Bill Clinton in person for the first time even though she's not as big a fan of all things Clinton as I am. I am sure that his appearance was tied in with the gift to the Vaccines organization which his foundation supports along with many other projects related to health concerns in Africa.

President Clinton also was responsible for having the legislation put in place that gave life to the changes in our American schools/society for which BJK and, yes, many others fought for many years. So, his appearance last night made sense to me on many levels. I did not see or hear in anything that Clinton said the SELF-congratulating and other negatives that Pete mentioned --and I think that, tired as I was from all my travels, I was wide awake during his entire appearance and his short speech.

(Hey, Pete, as long as Bill continues to "sell" himself to raise money for worthwhile causes, it's AOK with me!)

All the praise last night went to BJK (and she shared the praise with others like Rosie Casals etc). Maybe, some people think that it (the BJK praise) has been overdone; but, God knows, it's a hell of a lot better than waiting to deliver the post-mortem praise that a trailblazer like Althea Gibson received recently. I say give them their roses while they're alive. Let them know you appreciate what they did NOW while they're here. And, in the process, we can, perhaps, encourage others to have the same guts to do what still needs to be done.

As BJK said, there's still a lot more to be done by the now empowered women and educated men to whom Clinton referred in his talk.


Posted by Cata 03/03/2009 at 07:49 PM

"I had to wonder what Jelena and Ana were thinking as (or if) they listened to Clinton address the crowd and wax poetic about social justice, and how they privately viewed this Clinton, who isn't exactly a beloved figure in Serbia."

that's an interesting question, especially since this year is a 10-year anniversary of NATO bombing of serbia. you might be aware of this already, but just in case, i should mention that, in serbia jelena is perceived to be the more patriotic one (or as the americans call it when they talk about serbia, "nationalistic").

i haven't watched the event, but in general i find billie jean king eulogies somewhat off-putting (not just in this context - and this appears to be a particularly excessive one - but more generally). i think she or her manager should take into account that, given her age, a substantive proportion of people in any audience are at best vaguely aware of her accomplishments. this might be regrettable, but regardless, it's a given and one should adapt to it, especially when the event is planned to appeal to a broader audience, most of which is only marginally interested in tennis and much less in its history.

Posted by Juan DeJesus 03/03/2009 at 07:56 PM

I liked when John Mac. said that he opposed Arthur Ashe playing in South Africa (Ashe wanted to show what a black American can accomplish). John changed his mind later in life when he learned the facts. Typical wealthy guilt-ridden NY liberal. He knows more about black issues than an actual black person.

Ranks right up there with a comment a white woman made on the news during the election - "I've wanted to vote for a black person my whole life." Several of my black friends found that more than humorous.

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" *ReRe hollywood starlet ;-) 10-time grand slam Champion* 03/03/2009 at 07:58 PM

Pete - From the little I saw of the match, it did look like competitive tennis and not an exo but then again the only exos I've watched part of are the Rafa-Roger on the battle of surfaces and the Abu Dhabi (sp?) one early this year and those also seemed competitive for the most part. So I did not see anything out of place per se with the competitiveness of the players

The one that stood out is the money difference between the players and the charity!

But like a said yesterday 250K for a set of tennis is the best deal;-)

Posted by Libby 03/03/2009 at 07:58 PM

Jerry Solomon -- so THAT explains Nancy Kerrigan's presence. I was really scratching my head on that one.

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed - Still my heartbeat 03/03/2009 at 08:03 PM

Hey Ruth, it is great to be back. Man I just love how you are able to disect things and put it in terms that lesser mortals like myself can not only digest, but leave feeling exttremely satisfied. I was yawning during the trophy presentation and that is when I realised that I really needed to go bed. I am hopeful that there will be repeats of this as I think it is very good for women's tennis (did I say that already), oh well.
MA - hello there yourself. You mean the Russian was invited and declined the invitation due to concerns for injury. Her situation is much more dire than we thought. Whilst I am not a fan I miss seeing her on the court screeching her way to victory and/or defeat. Say what you will about her she plays the game until the very last point. Wish we had more of that on the women's and men's side as well.

Posted by Annie (Go USA, Vamos Armada) 03/03/2009 at 08:09 PM

Ruth: thanks for your post.

Libby: thanks for putting that together for me too! Nancy looked lovely but out of place.

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" *ReRe hollywood starlet ;-) 10-time grand slam Champion* 03/03/2009 at 08:27 PM

Ruth and Karen - Thanks for your illuminating posts.

Posted by max estenger 03/03/2009 at 08:30 PM

As someone who has lived in the heart of Manhattan for the past 20 years, I find Peter's comments on New Yorkers 1000% on the mark! It's so damn obnoxious. New Yorkers
(9/11 notwithstanding) are hated by the rest of the country; its interesting that the rest of the world views America at large the same way the rest of the country views America--self-absorbed, insecure, self-important.

Every year I run out to the Open and have to suffer through the big ass kisses for the great fans of New York by players.

And by the way, last night was a depressing event. There was no buzz from what I could see and a friend confirmed it. The place looked pretty empty.

New York was/is great because of people like Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Merce Cunningham, Bob Dylan, Sonic Youth, Woody Allen, not people like Donald Trump.

Posted by tommy 03/03/2009 at 08:41 PM

I'm also a lifetime New Yorker, and I agree about NY crowds.
All Nole had to do at the 2007 US Open was tell the crowd that "You're a great crowd and I love New York", and they would have given him huge applause.

I didn't see this exhibition. I'll watch them play tournament matches.

When did Sharapova pull out? I thought she refused to take the same money as the others and never was in this.

Posted by maxnyc 03/03/2009 at 08:55 PM

One point of contention peter, lay off of Billie Jean King. She is the MOST important tennis player EVER. She not only made women's tennis but she also more than anyone else created the mania for tennis in general in the 1970s that the current players are still coasting on.

You may not like the fact that she's a liberal democrat lesbian but you cannot dispute what she has accomplished for women's sports and for tennis (male and female).
I think she can take as many bows as she wants. I'm proud to play my winter tennis at the billie jean king national tennis center.


Posted by Ruth 03/03/2009 at 08:55 PM

Thanks, YPF...and you're welcome Annie and avid. :)

" a substantive proportion of people in any audience are at best vaguely aware of her accomplishments."
Cata: The fact that this may be true would seem to make it more rather than less necessary for people to be informed about what BJK and others had to fight to achieve.

JuanDJ: I think that JMac was simply originally following what was then the accepted position, one that was supported by both black and white people -- that NO ONE should have anything to do with South Africa, period. But Ashe, after thinking about things, felt that a little exposure to a black athlete under the right circumstances might help. JMac and white liberals (to borrow your phrase) were not the only ones who thought Arthur was doing the wrong thing.

Please indulge me while I tell a little story: During the time when this absolute blackout (pun intended) of all USA involvement with SA was considered the "right" position, a group of black South African organizations banded together and BEGGED NBC to make an exception and allow episodes of The Cosby Show to be shown in SA. They pointed out that seeing role models (pardon the cliche) like the Cosbys on TV was exactly what their young folk needed and that the boycott deprived them of the opportunity.

Sorry, I honestly can't remember if NBC relented and allowed export of the shows. But I hope that you can see how the supporters of a 100% SA boycott might have been right as well as -- sometimes -- wrong.

I felt no sympathy, at the time, for black entertainers who went to grab the cash in Sun City performing to white only audiences, but I could understand Ashe's wish to play in SA while demanding that fans be totally integrated etc etc. I could also appreciate JMac's and other people's opposing "absolutist" stand at the time.

The harsh/dogmatic/doctrinaire comments that I heard from many peole a couple weeks ago about what the players should have done in Dubai reminded me about SA and how complicated these things can be.

Posted by Ruth 03/03/2009 at 09:17 PM

I agree with avid that the difference between the $400,000 winner's check and the $50,000 (that I think was Clinton's "appearance fee" :)) to the Dreams Vaccines charity was startling. The organizers could have made do with a smaller purse for the players and a donation or donations that, at least, equalled the 1st prize money.

Incidentally, does anyone remember how much money was passed over or under the table to the players for the Sampras-Federer exo last year? Can't imagine it was any less than last night's total purse.

And I don't remember any contributions being made by Net Jets (the sponsors) to any charities. I guess that made the Pete/Roger event less confusing or ambiguous. Right, Pete? LOL

Posted by skip1515 03/03/2009 at 09:21 PM

cata wrote:

"i think she or her manager should take into account that, given her age, a substantive proportion of people in any audience are at best vaguely aware of her accomplishments. this might be regrettable, but regardless, it's a given and one should adapt to it, especially when the event is planned to appeal to a broader audience, most of which is only marginally interested in tennis and much less in its history."

So on that basis, am I to understand that any person of historical significance should recognize that the value of their contribution to society is measured entirely by how well they're remembered by the great unwashed?

Sorry, but that's a little too People Magazine for me. Fame may be fleeting, but we ought to maintain some distinction between fame and celebrity, if only so the concept of posterity can contain more than yesterday's gossip column, and provide lessons in something other than what yesterday's fashion trends were.

Look, Billie Jean didn't invent the concept of women's rights, create respect for female athletes singlehandedly, or invent sliced bread, but she *was* the point woman for these issues in the world of sports. Her unflagging enthusiasm ("unflagging" = understatement) for the topic, and Yes, her willingness to be in the spotlight, helped put women's issues in front of the public's eye when many would have preferred that "the girls" just shut up. Rosie was there, too, as were Esme Emanuel, Ceci Martinez (look it up) and a host(ess) of others; it's no big secret that no one person makes history all by themselves, whether it's Big History or Little History.

I wasn't at the Garden last night, and I didn't watch HBO. But unless the This Is History part of the night was overly long I fail to see how including some sense of a Yesterday that's more than Last Week is anything other than good. The kids who're excited about Venus and Serena will only understand how much the Williams' success truly means if they learn that a mere 50 years ago that success couldn't have occurred for the whitest of white girls, let alone an African American.

Posted by skip1515 03/03/2009 at 09:27 PM

And Pete, if the adulation shown Billie Jean is sometimes over the top, or overly unctuous (redundancy alert!), I feel your pain. But as Ruth wrote above, better Too Much than the Too Little Too Late so often handed out in the past.

Posted by phillyKat 03/03/2009 at 09:31 PM

I thouroughly enjoyed the exo last night. Called Directv at 7:40PM EST after reading a poster (Stella? I think) mention free HBO, it wasn't free but there was a special $11 a month for 3 months, still significantly cheaper than trying to drive in or catch the train into Manhattan. I loved that imo Venus and Serena were really playing, that 8 or 9 duece game at 4 all in the 1st set showed how much they both wanted it, not to mention Serena's full out fall.

And Ruth, loved your post, " I say give them their roses while they're alive. Let them know you appreciate what they did NOW while they're here."

(Not tennis related, but my dear Grandma wrote that essential line to me in a letter some twenty years ago, she's since passed but your post brought a good memory and tear to my eyes. Thankyou)

Posted by John T. 03/03/2009 at 09:42 PM

All of these comments about an exhibition match! Indian Wells starts next week and we can talk about real tennis.

You people have too much time on your hands if you're turning a money-grab by some players into some big political event. Do you think the Serbian's cared one bit about what BJK did 30 years ago? They were there for the money as were the Williams sisters. Unfortunately, the latter won't be in the desert still claiming that they were the victims of racism. Maybe Al Sharpton and Tawana Brawley (a nod to all you New Yorkers) will be marching up and down Fred Waring Drive.

Posted by skip1515 03/03/2009 at 09:45 PM

To me, the accompanying photo reminds me more of the spacecraft in Close Encounters of The Third Kind than of the Death Star, but as happens more and more as they get older, Pete, you've identified yourself as Luke's Dad and not as Pete.

Posted by freakyfrites 03/03/2009 at 10:01 PM

To ruth - I had the same train of thought re: the ridiculous amount of prize money vs. the "little" charity check vs. the guys' prize money not coming under this scrutiny. I think the reasons the money was such an issue are:
1. the BJK angle gave the night a benefit feel that the prize money contradicted
2. these financial times have made wealth a moral issue
3. there's still a stigma to women earning big bucks - maybe stigma is the wrong word - but I don't think anyone expected Sampras and Federer to donate their appearance money back.

I agree with the person who said that the proceedings felt depressing - maybe it was just a bad year to try out a new exo.

Posted by Syd 03/03/2009 at 10:02 PM

"Bill Clinton made a speech about Billie Jean's towering contribution (his exact quote was: She has probably done more than any other woman in the world to empower women and educate men. . ."

Never heard of Millicent Fawcett, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinhem, Mary Wollstonecraft, (1765)...his wife? naw. ah, that old hypocrite...

Posted by Ruth 03/03/2009 at 10:14 PM

skip 1515: I often wonder how the players handle the service toss in indoor events when there the ubiquitous and necessary light sin the night matches. But I really wondered how they were able to play with the Death Star/CETTK spacecraft with all its lights, numbers, pictures etc looming above.

I attended several of the women's YEC's at MSG years ago, and I can't remember having that structure there at the time. Does anyone remember if it or anything like it was there in the 80's and 90's.


OK, OK, I'm looking for excuses for my dear "old" Venus's severe problems with her service toss. She must have had to apologize to her opponent and re-do her service toss once (or even twice) at least a dozen times last night.

phillyKat: Know just what you mean in the last part of your comment at 9:31. Don't make me start weeping, now.

Posted by 03/03/2009 at 10:22 PM

Agree with Syd @ 10:02. I wonder if we would even be having this discussion about the great BJK if it wasn't for that one 'over-the'top' phrase?

Posted by federgurl (forFed forever) 03/03/2009 at 10:55 PM

Posted by John T. 03/03/2009 @ 9:42 PM
All of these comments about an exhibition match! Indian Wells starts next week and we can talk about real tennis.

You people have too much time on your hands if you're turning a money-grab by some players into some big political event. Do you think the Serbian's cared one bit about what BJK did 30 years ago? They were there for the money as were the Williams sisters. Unfortunately, the latter won't be in the desert still claiming that they were the victims of racism. Maybe Al Sharpton and Tawana Brawley (a nod to all you New Yorkers) will be marching up and down Fred Waring Drive.


John T., do save your haughty derision for others like you who are in utter denial about or can't be bothered to talk about racism and conflate legitimate dissent and protest against it, which the Williams sisters, having experienced it firsthand in Indian Wells, have a right to do, with stuff like the Brawley fiasco. And thank you for reminding me why I love living in a city unlike few in the US or elsewhere, where, though every denunciation of racism might not be correct, it's the biggest tent in the country and there's room for discussion and protest of racism, and you're not just urged to sweep it under the rug.

Sincerely,
federgurl, one of "all us New Yorkers"

Posted by Sher 03/03/2009 at 11:02 PM

Syd thanks for reminding us about the other great women in history. I'd love to read something that instead of tearing down BJK build up some other important women.

Posted by Rosangel 03/03/2009 at 11:09 PM

The world considered Bill Clinton to be the best the US ever had? Which world? What about...FDR, for example?

Yes, Pete, I'd say that the likes of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson or the suffragettes obviously did more than BJK to empower women and educate men. Which is not intended to disrespect BJK.

Posted by Rosangel 03/03/2009 at 11:27 PM

I see Syd preceded me on some great names. FWIW, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Fawcett were sisters. One was the first lady doctor in Britain, and the other, among other things, co-founded Newnham College for women and was a well-known suffragist.

I think I've written in TW before now that the love of my life is the great great grandson of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, but that's another story.


Posted by Tennis Fan 03/03/2009 at 11:37 PM

Wow a deep thinking post and associated with women's tennis to boot!

"I'd love to read something that instead of tearing down BJK build up some other important women."

Read about Elizabeth Katie Stanton and Susan B. Anthony - forgotten women in history who fought for women's rights in the dark days 1800s and saw former male slaves, constitutionally, get the right to vote year before women. What about Babe Zaharis, Amelia Earhart an both Queen Elizbeths but not Victoria.

BJ was the right person at the right time in the 70s and a worthy person to praise but like just about everyone not perfect and full of contradictions.

It definitely was a wierd night. I think you really need a higher purpose than just money which was what last night was about.

As far as fun, I think JJ started with the right attitude of fun by cold water was poured on by the crowd booing her. The crowd did not seem to want a fun night but wanted a GS final. However, I do think at least Serena was taking it serious as she was diving for balls, she doesn't even do that at most tournaments.

Tone of article completely different from ESPN article. Hard to reconcile.

Peer lost her match today in Monterrey. She probably would have been one match and out in Dubai, instead they created a big scence that probably did not need to be done. What a shame.

Posted by Top Fiver 03/04/2009 at 12:36 AM

Here's tonight's top 5 list of truisms:
1. Bodo put together a great post from a piece of sh*t event, like a shockingly good manure sculpture
2. Tom's post at 7:08 PM is a delightful jab to the ribs of a deserving recipient
3. BJK has just ridden her horse to death, and it's stinking up the place
4. Cliton - oops, that's a typo, nothing to be done about it now - spare us your continued whoredom
5. The beauty and art of tennis is fortunately untarnished by this pathetic event that garnered a yawn of ennui and an upturned flatulent buttock from an unnoticing public...in short, the ticketholders and HBO got hosed

Posted by rg.nadal 03/04/2009 at 12:38 AM

Good morning all!

Pete, you never cease to surprise me. Been a while since i read something so brutally honest. Phew!

Posted by Sebhelyesfarku 03/04/2009 at 12:47 AM

Maybe Clinton hoped for a BJ that's why he was there.

Posted by Vie 03/04/2009 at 12:49 AM

Yes, I felt the paychecks given were enormous, and the spectacle or the players did not warrant it. Add to that this miniscule amount given to the charity in comparison. A shame. The event was cheap because of the money.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 03/04/2009 at 01:02 AM

Mr Pete Bodo Exactly the thoughts of a New Age Guy! Bravo!

Posted by ncot 03/04/2009 at 01:24 AM

Vie 03/04/2009 @ 12:49 AM

Yes, I felt the paychecks given were enormous, and the spectacle or the players did not warrant it. Add to that this miniscule amount given to the charity in comparison. A shame. The event was cheap because of the money

-------------------------

double standard. i don't remember anyone saying the same criticism to the fed-sampras exo last year. what a shame...

Posted by tina 03/04/2009 at 02:21 AM

Personally, I think if one Serbian girls won, it would not be the same. And I am sure that Jelena and Ana do not and should not care about politics, but Clinton in Serbia is surely not popular person, remember 1999. Anyway Pete I am really impressed with your article. Great insight on what was maybe going on behind curtains. Regards from Serbia, and let me hope a little bit that Serbia has some chances this weekend in DC. Anaway I think it will be great weekeend of tennis since Nole and Rafa as tha leaders of their teams are great patriots. We have seen that on many occasions.

Posted by DMan 03/04/2009 at 02:23 AM

Pete-

Amen! Allelujia! Say it again Sam....I mean Pete!

All I can say is thank god it's over.

The WTA has had an identity crisis for a long time. This event did nothing to cure that, only exacerbated it.

OK, so another event to proclaim BJK is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Should we have just elected her President...of the world?

When I first read Clinton was going to be there I thought how nice, Hilary will be back in NY. And then I read it was Bill. How irrelevant. Hilary I could sorta see. Bill....no.

And am I the only one who thinks it's ironic that we had this EXO event, offering up $1.2 million for a one night stand. And yet next week there's ahem *mandatory* event that two of the night's participants WON'T be playing. (Perhaps this was Larry's little escape hatch for the Williams sisters...participate in some nauseating event which *apparently* promotes the WTA...in lieu of playing Indian Wells.)

Also, was this event supposed to represent what's right with the women's game today? I sure hope not.

And while I know the supporters of the women's game won't like the comparison to last year's SOLD OUT match between Pete and Roger, exactly what was the purpose of this year's women's event? To prove the women could also stage a big exo at MSG? If so, they obviously didn't get it done.

And memo to Jerry Solomon about staging an event bringing together the Grand Slam winners. Been there. Done that (see Pepsi Grand Slam circa late 1970s, and the women's L'eggs World Series/Clairol Crown).
Also the event can be hard to come off when you have multiple winners of majors in a year, or surprise champs like Gaston Gaudio crashing the party.
How about the pro tours concentrate on staging tournaments where there are enough healthy players each week, players are allowed to play without political or other reprisals, and there are actually enough sponsors for the tournaments!

Posted by crazyone 03/04/2009 at 02:35 AM

*One plan Jerry is floating is bringing in the eight Grand Slam singles winners of the previous year and having a two-day event, with legitimate best-of-three "semifinals" on the first day, and the finals on the second day - along with escalating prize money.*

What DMan said about this. If Nadal wins the Calendar Slam this year, won't this event be moot? We have to go back to 2003 to have 4 different winners on the men's side. In 2004 we would have had an exciting Federer-Gaudio matchup (NOT.)

And what if the Federer and Nadals of the world don't want to play exhibitions like this because they want to protect their backs and knees?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 03/04/2009 at 02:40 AM

Ooh, lovely post. :)

Ruth and skip1515 - I particularly enjoyed your comments; thank you. :)

"She has probably done more than any other woman in the world to empower women and educate men..."

Nice seeing BJK recognised - and personally I don't think recognising and celebrating important women and even 'ordinary' women can ever happen too often - but really, Clinton. There are plenty of others to consider. In the interest of Women's History Month, one list:

http://www.nwhp.org/resourcecenter/biographycenter.php

I could stand a GOAT debate on *this* issue, however. ;-)

On the other hand I expect Clinton was just being his usual charming self. I am not convinced that the world thinks of Clinton as the "best president North America ever had", either. (Personally, I am for FDR, or maybe Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln...) However, I do think there's some nostalgia (in the UK, anyway) for the Clinton era which perhaps glosses over some of his worst excesses.

I would also have given money to see inside Jelena's head. She's a UNICEF ambassador for Serbia, is that right? And has some years of university study. I would expect her to have some thoughts on Clinton, BJK, history and America. I very much doubt she would want to express most of them, however, and open herself up to the criticism that might follow.

I don't know, perhaps I'm too idealistic, but maybe her (and all the others) presence there does indicate that she cares something for BJK's history and the WTA.

Agreed that the money going to the charity seems kind of mean - but without the exo, I guess there would be none.

Perhaps next year smaller charity events could be organised next to the American Tennis Night events, and more money raised that way.

Or perhaps the players could donate their cheques, or a portion of them. That would be nice to see...:)

also, kind of disappointed to hear about the very loud music - how can these things be any fun if you can't chat to the people you've gone with or are sitting next to? Strange.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 03/04/2009 at 02:45 AM

Also, doesn't Clinton have extensive charitable interests in the HIV/AIDS field?

Since the money went to the Dream Vaccines Foundation, that makes his presence perfectly appropriate in my book.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 03/04/2009 at 03:12 AM

Tennis Fan - just out of interest, why the two Elizabeths and not Victoria?

Posted by rg.nadal 03/04/2009 at 03:29 AM

Hey jewell!

Posted by roGER 03/04/2009 at 05:27 AM

I can't believe anyone would pay money to see a meaningless tennis event with the horror of an all Williams sister final as the crowning moment...

Nice piece, Pete - glad I wasn't there and never will be there for this kind of event. Tennis without competition is literally going through the motions...

Posted by naughty T, unknown meat product. 03/04/2009 at 06:03 AM

@cata
"especially when the event is planned to appeal to a broader audience, most of which is only marginally interested in tennis and much less in its history."
err what were they watching for then??? the fashion and hairstyles??
My mind is well and truly boggled.
anyhoo
shout out to Max for mention of Merce Cunningham. *loves*

Posted by rg.nadal 03/04/2009 at 06:51 AM

A exhibition series with the eight slam finalists (if there are repeat names, can add the remaining stars) sounds great.

Posted by skip1515 03/04/2009 at 07:27 AM

roGER wrote:

"Tennis without competition is literally going through the motions..."

Actually, I've seen some exo's that were a lot of fun. No one pretended that it was Kill To Win Competition, but the flashes of competitive fire burst out now and again, and were enjoyed by all (including the competitors, who for a change could smile in apprecation at each other after a great point or shot).

Usually, however, there's a component to an exo that makes it clear why it's happening; charity (as the primary rationale), tennis where it doesn't usually happen (Podunk, USA), or older v newer (Sampras v Federer). No such motivation existed in this match-up, though Pete gives Solomon some credit for expanding the reach of the proceedings.

On the other hand, this format reeks of silliness, and I'm embarrassed I didn't address this above. How did Jankovic and Ivanovic say Yes to this, knowing they were expected to take a fall so the Williams sisters would meet in the "final"? Or, conversely, how could the spectators give any credence to the semis?

Did anyone really think either of the Williams' were going to "lose" to Jankovic or Ivanovic? Hell, for a quarter of the money the Serbs got (so much more for charity!) I would have shown up in a tutu and mismatched sneakers and played a Williams. Maybe even for 20%.

I'm happy for anything that promotes tennis, but to hit my personal bull's eye it either has to be be honest about what it is or more real than the World Wrestling Entertainment matches.

Posted by Markic 03/04/2009 at 07:38 AM

Pete, I think this is one of the most interesting things you've ever written - and I like your writing anyway. I'd not thought about the Serbia-Clinton link at all.

The essential problem here seems to be that, by inviting the dignitaries and going overboard on the speeches, the tennis then just seems to be there as a sideshow, a cloth with which to polish the turd of self-aggrandization on offer from Bill and Billie, and whoever paid for it all.

Added to which, all-women exhibitions generally lack the fun factor - there's no camaraderie on the tour, for a variety of understandable though regrettable reasons, so you can't expect it to appear magically on a New York afternoon...

Posted by Sarah 03/04/2009 at 08:01 AM

Peter, an interesting article and somewhat provocative.

I think the main issues are that you've got some "powers-that-be" trying to pump up the image of women's tennis -- but that becomes artificial when there was not something of real value to see and then artificial to boot. The stark contrast -- as a tennis lover -- between the "natural" drama of Fed and Sampras going at it, and the rather "artificial" hype of four unconnected women is striking. But that sort of goes back to the unfortunate time and era that women's tennis is in right now -- a bad patch.

Second you've got another layer of artificiality in that you've got a few folks who are trying to hype the whole feminist lesbian angle of BJK. But they kind of know that the designated feminist lesbian they are going to use [for political purposes] isn't actually all that well known or even greatly respected by most Americans [in part because most don't know tennis's story and in part because BJK's legacy is inflated -- see "feminist lesbian" story for reasons] so they've got to add to and lard up the show with a bunch of extraneous stuff like Clinton handing out the 50K check and fulfilling his role, which is to be a celebrity and tell everyone how great BJK is, in case they haven't gotten that yet.

Leaves a sour taste -- and here's the thing. It almost never works.

You can't *force* a people to "take to the heart" a person -- a feminist lesbian to be specific -- if they just don't care. You can only go so far to make someone "an icon" -- especially if they're not particularly icon material. BJK has done a lot for the sport -- but not as much as some political people *want* her to be *perceived* as having done -- cue the feminist lesbian angle.

It's all a great pity. In the end, artificial hype that *shouldn't be hyped* does a person's legacy more harm than good -- which you touched on in the post.

Posted by Lousy Hacker With Aweful Shots 03/04/2009 at 09:20 AM

Great article/blog Mr. Bodo. I love the point you bring up with "Were they aware of Bill's history with women, and think, Maybe Billie should have worked a little harder on educating that one..." Touche! Thanks again.

Posted by Patsy 03/04/2009 at 09:26 AM

This post is ridiculous. It was an enjoyable night of tennis. That's it.

Posted by Ruth 03/04/2009 at 09:26 AM

I've just caught up with the comments that were posted after I left the scene last night. Too many of them remind me of the saying..."My mind is made up; don't confuse me with the facts." :)

But I'm glad to see that some folk were able to understand and appreciate what transpired on Monday night. Hey, jewell!

Posted by Kenneth 03/04/2009 at 09:51 AM

Pete this is a very interesting article, but for me, for all the wrong reasons. And because someone mentioned it upthread, I broke down and read your ESPN post. ??? I shouldn't have. No really. I shouldn' have. Does ESPN censor your writing?

So funny that you juxtapose women's rights and prize money on one hand while also denigrating the complete exercise, and leave the many meaningless and overpriced men's exhos alone (the dual turf exho between Federer and Nadal springs immediately to mind). The men's exhos didn't even bother with the facade of fund raising for a charitable event, no matter the paltry size of the contribution. But the men were, perhaps, a little more exciting eh, so no worries. Or perhaps the global economic situation renders allowing women to have the same rights to exho as the men moot. Thumbs down on that part of the article.

Posted by yello fuzzy 03/04/2009 at 09:57 AM

BJK's legacy is well established and I am one of the many who would have paid to spend the evening with her at an event like the BJK Cup. An Exo is an Exo, to a certain degree it is a staged event, how can anyone expect the same drama you would find in a tour level match for ranking points and slam trophies.

"It's all a great pity. In the end, artificial hype that *shouldn't be hyped*

I'm happy for anything that promotes tennis, but to hit my personal bull's eye it either has to be be honest about what it is or more real than the World Wrestling Entertainment matches.
Crowd roars approval and pours out the love, but why?
I can't believe anyone would pay money to see a meaningless tennis event with the horror of an all Williams sister final as the crowning moment..."

it's a show folks....geez, if you're not gonna like it ...go see Cats


"Incidentally, does anyone remember how much money was passed over or under the table to the players for the Sampras-Federer exo last year? Can't imagine it was any less than last night's total purse.
double standard. i don't remember anyone saying the same criticism to the fed-sampras exo last year. what a shame..."

as others have noted, no one dare ask Federer to donate his prize money and I don't recall any comment from Roger on the Dubai issue...not his problem I guess

Posted by Ade 03/04/2009 at 10:47 AM

To me, this night seemed to mix of the dreams and accomplishments of women in general making something of themselves, along with the dreams of African American women, gay women, minority women, and economically deprived women.

Pete, you're missing the point as to why President Clinton was there. If Hillary won the presidency, it also would have represented a major milestone in our country. A milestone me as a woman was more excited about than Obama, and would have loved to see her win.

The only dissapointment in the whole thing was the big fuss over the William's sisters. I am bored to death when they play and especially when they play each other.

With all the respect they deserve, they are atheletes who are so much more powerful than most of the field, there really isn't any competition left for me to watch. Billy Jean said it right when she mentioned power. The sisters are too powerful for the rest of the woman's tour. I know the Williams sisters have a new outlook concerning where they want to end up in history. And they are entitled to their dreams and goals.

I say just give them the trophies now and take us out of our misery!

Posted by skip1515 03/04/2009 at 11:06 AM

yellow fuzzy: Please read the entirety of my last post. I fully appreciate and have enjoyed exhibitions when they were clearly exhibitions. I might be interested if one was a stage-managed comedies, which is how I rate the "competitive" semi-finals of Monday night.

What I don't see as a positive is labeling the "semi's" real competition, since having the Williams' in the "final" must have been a given for all participants. As I said, only a rock (and a dumb one at that) would believe Jankovic and Ivanovic weren't hired to take a fall.

My point is (and was) that that's a disservice to the sport. No one confuses World Wrestling matches with Olympic wrestling because there's a clear distinction. No such distinction existed Monday, and in fact an effort was made to make the scripted outcome of the semi's look legit. I have no problem with tennis as show, just tennis as cartoon.

Posted by Editor 03/04/2009 at 11:29 AM

I chuckled out loud when I read this line about Clinton... Marvel at the silver-haired, smooth-talker's gift for American-style self-celebration, self-indulgence, and self-congratulation?

wait, poor Bill's to blame for the economy too, right? lol

your politics are showing Pete! but thats cool, just don't apologize to Rush LImbaugh and we'll call it even :)

I saw this 'spectacle' similarly, however, totally lacking in real spirit and a sad follow up to the far more fitting Fed Sampras showdown last year, which was totally unique and celebrated the sport, it's history, etc ...

Posted by Heidi 03/04/2009 at 11:29 AM

I think, Pete (and I have no idea what the exo looked like other than your description) that CHIEFLY you would like to see these exos with tennis as the main entertainment and focus, rather than a sad little sideshow to a paean to BJK or any other abstraction of iconic behavior. That, at least, is one criticism that cannot be leveled at, say, any of the Federer exos, though as far as bloated finances go, I'm not sure any major match or exo can go without scrutiny. A "tennis festival," as you say; one that celebrates tennis rather than using it.

That seems like the big issue; the distate for Clinton running around seems a kind of separate one, unless you'd prefer not to have any figurehead statesman there at all (by which I mean, would Bloomberg, say, have been preferable, or nobody at all)? Agreed that it's probably odd-feeling for two Serbian icons to meet him... Ditto for the big appearance fees; sensitive though the times may be, the players' donations to charity are their own business, and the organizers no doubt regret those big fees as much as anyone in the audience!

Poor timing and poor stage-managing, at a time when something like the charity events the tennis tours have thrown in the past, with lighthearted mockery and good family fun would feel more appropriate. But I'm not sure anyone can be blamed for anything except the stage-managing.

Oh lord. I gotta go read a book before a colloquium.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 11:30 AM

no idea why my post showed up as 'Editor' i want full credit for it! lol

Posted by Todd and in Charge 03/04/2009 at 11:30 AM

I think it's entirely unfair to pick out Clinton's over-the-top praise from the speech and flyspeck it -- in the context of what it was, a tribute speech to BJK, that type of hyperbole is the norm and quite expected at every rubber-chicken dinner I've ever had to sit through.

Pete's onto something, though, about the lack of buzz. The event as a whole seemed out-of-tune and poorly organized, and I've already criticized BJK's on-air commentary as rambling and somewhat pointless.

Unfortunately, she's starting to remind me of present-day Stevie Wonder -- incredible, a legend, groundbreaker and everything else, but there's always a chance the whole thing could go off the rails in a vaguely uncomfortable way.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 03/04/2009 at 11:31 AM

skip1515, you have nailed it once again!

"I have no problem with tennis as show, just tennis as cartoon."

Here's my beef, which may sound strange (it does to me, too):

Billie Jean King, a great activist for women's equality in the workforce and equal prize money for professional women tennis players, and one of the all-time greatest champions, who has given back to tennis 100-fold, has tended toward the "show." Just think of the big events associated with her name -- The Battle of the Sexes pitting her against septagenarian Bobby Riggs. She seemed, despite her efforts to convince the public that she was all business, to be quite taken with the fanfare. Hail, she even brought a little pig to give to Mr. Riggs, the self-proclaimed "chauvinist." She came in on that chariot held aloft by beefy men. George Foreman got close to her and she quickly seized the moment and made him her de facto bodyguard to escape the arena intact. Then there's that perennial sideshow, World Team Tennis, which she co-founded and continues to coach and promote.

DOn't get me wrong. I love BJK for all she's done to promote tennis and the causes of women everywhere, but particularly between the lines. It's just that I find it strange/odd/peculiar and fascinating that her most well-known "products" are so non-traditional and "progressive" -- and not always in the best way, as we saw this past weekend.

I only wish that she could be as passionate about the game as it is played on playgrounds, city parks and country clubs across the country as she is about WTT, which has always been more about the crowd and less about the tennis.

Posted by Sarah 03/04/2009 at 11:32 AM

RE: "The men's exhos didn't even bother with the facade of fund raising for a charitable event, no matter the paltry size of the contribution."

Right -- they didn't need to bother with a facade. They had real interest from tennis fans.

The women's exo had to also include some hype about the lesbian feminist -- get that lick in -- as a vehicle for the whole show. They *had* to clutter it up with doodads . . .

Posted by yello fuzzy 03/04/2009 at 11:42 AM

skip1515
do you not think that Exo's that Federer and Sampras have played, aren't carefully scripted?...no one wants to see a double bagel at an exo ( we would rather see that in the quarters of a slam heh heh).
I think this MSG spectacle was more about showcasing tennis : it's stars, a little of it's history and how lucrative it can be, to an america that desperately needs to find the next generation of stars.
Also, as others have stated maybe its a bit of love for those that are here now before they are gone. there maybe a bit of guilt for not giving proper recognition for the accomplishments of Althea Gibson(a multi slam winner, that even Federer didn't know of) before she died.
BJK did great things for sports and for women...it's too bad so many want to brand her as a radical lesbian, thus dismissing her influence and achievements as some sort of gift from the liberal media.

Posted by tina (Porec arrival tomorrow) 03/04/2009 at 11:43 AM

I was sorry that I was going to miss this exo - but then I heard it was much less entertaining than my friends and I expected, though tickets were going cheap due to the snow. The original price was a rip-off!

No snow here in Split - thank god, I'm a wuss. At an internet cafe now, but will have WiFi up in Poreć. bye for now!

Posted by Ruth 03/04/2009 at 11:44 AM

skip1515: If Ana and Jelena were there just to lose to Serena and Venus, it is they, not Serena, who should be going to Hollywood to try their hands at acting. I've seen both JJ and Ana play several times, and they were trying as hard as they could to win that no-ad set and playing their opponents just as I've seen them play them before. And I don't think that Ana's new coach, Craig Kardon, was there to watch her "throw" a set.

Serena mentioned that, being often a slow starter in matches, she was concerned about how she'd perform in the "semis." Being a huge Venus fan, I'd been hoping that Serena would pull one of her famous low starts (sorry avid :)) so that Venus would meet Ana in the final.

I was also hoping that Serena, who'd flown straight from Dubai to LA and attended the Oscars, might have spent so much time with her Hollywood friends that she would not be ready to play at her best.

No such luck! Like the typically annoying little sister that she is, Serena was determined to play and win in MSG -- something that Venus had done once and she (Serena) hadn't. I had to laugh when Serena was pouring it on in the final, and someone sitting among the mid-section seats where I was shouted, "Serena, that's your sister you're playing." LOL

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 11:45 AM

re your comment Sarah, I think BJK was in the closet for so long, and suffered so much personally as a result--not to mention that coming out back in the day was downright impossible and career suicide, youre literally forced to lead a double life-- that she feels its her duty now to campaign for equality for the gay community, and remind people that gay people can also be role models, successful, and yes, change the world for the better ...

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 11:52 AM

BJK is labeled a radical lesbian by some because she merely speaks out loud about the fact that she IS one, and gasp! wants equal rights... what's radical for some is considered mere common sense by others... I think every straight person should walk in a gay person's shoes for one day--deal with the workplace, family tension, Utah politicians, lol-- and this world would be a whole lot different ...

Posted by Sherlock 03/04/2009 at 11:54 AM

Hold it. Tim is TW Editor now? Good heavens! :)

Hi ya, Tim. Long time, no see. :)

Posted by federerfan 03/04/2009 at 11:56 AM

What does "with no ad-scoring" really mean? what was not being scored. I feel much the same way about the whole thing like Pete did, exactly.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 11:58 AM

Sherlock, hi pal! and yes, that means Ive got a sharp eye on you, so behave or you'll get banned! lol

repeat after me, Fed is the GOAT, Fed is the GOAT... :)

Posted by skip1515 03/04/2009 at 11:59 AM

Ruth: We'll have to agree to disagree here, perhaps due to my toxic level of cynicism.

yello fuzzy: A. My apologies for appending a "w" to your handle earlier, :) , and
B) I've been to a good number of exos over 40 years, and while my toxic level of cynicism (see above) more than accepts the standard "Whoever wins the first loses the second, and then we really play the third" type of script, I was at the Garden for Federer/Sampras, and to my (reasonably experienced) eye the outcome was not guaranteed. Per my comment to Ruth above, however, I highly doubt anything other than the Williams' making the "final" was in the cards.

No comment is implied about whether or not the Williams' are capable of beating Jankovic and Ivanovic, are better players, etc., etc. For my money the answer to that non-question rests in the Big Four Titles Balance Beam weigh-off.

Posted by Sherlock 03/04/2009 at 12:01 PM

"Unfortunately, she's starting to remind me of present-day Stevie Wonder -- incredible, a legend, groundbreaker and everything else, but there's always a chance the whole thing could go off the rails in a vaguely uncomfortable way."

LOL. Excellent, TaiC. :)

Does anyone else feel that the prospect of the sisters playing each other drags down any excitement a bit? It's not their fault at all, but we've seen it so many times before, and usually with so-so results tennis wise.

Otherwise, I don't have much to say about the whole affair, except that I wish I lived close enough to be able to attend. Tennis in MSG just always looked and sounded cool. Though maybe I'm just hoping that Willis Reed will come limping out for a big 3rd set comeback. :)

Posted by Sher (I am easily amused) 03/04/2009 at 12:03 PM

hey tim! :)

agree with your 11:45

Posted by Kaygee 03/04/2009 at 12:06 PM

I am really disappointed with this article and some of these posts. My first impression of the article is a blatant disrespect for women's tennis and an underlying theme of disrespect for women in general. I think the article actually ridiculed the entire event on Monday night and whatever the purpose or outcome of the event, I think at least some respect should be shown for the effort and the accomplished women involved.

Peter Bodo, I think you should have a good sit down with BJK and let her educate you on the position of women in the world in 2009 - you seem to be stuck in the yesteryear when women's accomplishments were deemed as "cute".

The tone of this article and some of these posts is a perfect example that the various forms of bigotry are still alive and well - we still have a ways to go. BJK's work is only beginning and we need more brave souls to point out the wrongs and try to right them.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 12:07 PM

Hi Sher!

Sherlock, totally agree, the buzz over a Serena Venus match baffles me, tennis wise, just lots of screaming and laser beam bullets...give me Mauresmo vs. Henin anyday

Roger for RG 2009! lol

Posted by Sher (I am easily amused) 03/04/2009 at 12:07 PM

Tim glad to see you on the RG bus! ;-) I'm paying for gas.

Posted by Sherlock 03/04/2009 at 12:08 PM

LOL, Tim. :) *trying to avoid looking at Tim's hypnotic watch*

Posted by Sherlock 03/04/2009 at 12:09 PM

Sher, don't encourage Tim. :)

Posted by Tom 03/04/2009 at 12:16 PM

Kaygee:

That's what happens when you mix politics and sports. This was a meaningless exo. The outcome was likely pre-scripted and everyone should have just had a fun time. When you inject controvestial figures like BJK, Clinton and the Williams sisters, you are going to annoy people.

You can't dismiss the fact that women's tennis is not played at the same level as men's tennis. You also have to acknowledge that the women's game is extremely weak right now and trying to find itself. Luckily they fired the person in charge of the "glamification" project. Maybe they will get back to being serious atheletes instead of debuting new outfits at each major (Federer is also guilty of this and look where it got him).

Posted by jc 03/04/2009 at 12:16 PM

Every day is becomes clearer and clearer to me that people are never truly happy and that is why they thrive on shining negativity and critism on others than heaping praise.

I am glad that athletes like the Willams sisters never listened to critism early in their careers and changed whom they were. I am so sorry that I for some time bought into all the "crap" that commentators wrote and said about the Williams sisters and women's tennis by extension. All I know is that I have learned my lesson and from now on I applaud anyone who does things their own way and for their own benefit; because NO ONE ever cares when you do the right thing, they are only there to point out the negative.

I say the hell with you all and in the words of T.I. I say to the rest of us," Just Live Your life."

Peter, you have helped me come to a painful realization that has been years in the making. It doesn't pay EVER to be the nice guy, the selfless one. This world is too cruel for that and I would be delusional to think that I can help change it and make a difference (now I know that). From now on, just do what works best for you and to heck with anyone else because negativity and HATE is all you will EVER get in return no matter what you do.

Peter, good luck to you in all your endeavours and future posts, blogs, etc; but I now know that you, like everyone else who does what you do, is just full of it. And what you and others like you (even those I agree with) have to say isn't really that important and not worthy of one second of thought and reflection.

It's time to stop trying to be the better person and live up to standard that only exists in the your parent's teachings (or preachings)or in your religious upbringing.

Let's all free ourselves of these burden and just live to make ourselves happy (without harming anyone else of course).

Posted by Sher (I am easily amused) 03/04/2009 at 12:22 PM

Sherlock, I wouldn't worry, Tim is incorrigible :)

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 12:25 PM

oh cmon, doesnt dear Rafa get new Nike duds for every new Grand Slam? its part of being a star, and I think Roger won a few Slams in his day while donning new duds, I still like the Darth Fed look the best...

Posted by Backhand blaster 03/04/2009 at 12:28 PM

Yummy Prince Fed states: "I hate to have to think that I am seeing inferences of politics on this site. I know that Pete is not a Democrat (at least he did not vote democrat in the last election) but for some reason I sense a fair amount of criticism for the current President as well as a President who the world considered to be the best President America ever had. If I am wrong I stand corrected and I do apologise, but I do get that from certain aspects of this article."

How would anyone know what the world was thinking? And hasn't the world heard of Abraham Lincoln? Maybe the world needs a history lesson. I know Lincoln was a Republican, but I think he was still pretty good at his job.

Posted by Ruth 03/04/2009 at 12:30 PM

"I think it's entirely unfair to pick out Clinton's over-the-top praise from the speech and flyspeck it -- in the context of what it was, a tribute speech to BJK, that type of hyperbole is the norm and quite expected at every rubber-chicken dinner I've ever had to sit through."

Thanks for that, Todd. It would be amusing if it weren't so sad that so many people, including Pete, have taken that piece of typcal politician hyperbole and used it as a reason/excuse to criticize other things and/or to vent. But, whatever peg you need to hang your hat on, I guess.

Amen to your 11:45 and 11:54, Tim! You can be editor for the day. :)

I'd like to mention two FACTS that some folk might either not know or just prefer to ignore:

First, BJK has always made it clear that she and her fellow female tennis activists had to go to work to organize women tennis players separately only because, when the ATP was being formed and the women thought they'd be included, the men said NO!

Note that the word "men" or "male" does not appear in the phrase, Association of Tennis Professionals -- just as it doesn't in Professional Golfers Association -- but the men decided that the ATP would be a men-only organization.

Second, the MSG exo was part of a larger event called Tennis Night in America. Young people all over the country were being encouraged to sign up for tennis programs in their neighborhoods. I heard that there was activity planned at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center that is a few miles from my home. These big events sometimes get too diffuse and lose focus.But, as long as their purpose is to publicize and popularize tennis -- and they achieve that to any degree -- they're all OK with me. At my college tomorrow, I'll ask my mostly inner city students if they watched the action on HBO on Monday night, and I'll be glad if they did and they enjoyed it. That's all.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 12:32 PM

lol thanks Ruth! But can I "Edit" Sherlock for a few months, at least? now THAT would be fun :)

Posted by Kaygee 03/04/2009 at 12:40 PM

Tom: You were one of the posters I was disappointed in - you apparently don't think much of women's tennis (which I happen to love and have loved for decades). I think you should have just passed this blog over and not just do it to be negative.

Posted by Ruth 03/04/2009 at 12:49 PM

Tim: I noticed that my beloved Sherlock was flagging a little in your absence, and then, he even let Grumpy Sherlock out of his box twice and terrorized dear Samantha. He must have been missing your watchful eye. So, I'll be happy to have you stick around and "edit" him for a while. :)

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/04/2009 at 12:54 PM

"Give me Henin anyday", right Tim. I used to think President Clinton was hot, but now he just looks old. I think the Williamses are great for the game because they actually transcend tennis. I was once walking my dog and I met this lady whose co-worker had actually name her two dogs after Venus and Serena. They're such superstar and tennis needs that. Go Caro, Scandinavia's#1!

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/04/2009 at 12:55 PM

Ruth LOL, you're so sweet.

Posted by Sherlock 03/04/2009 at 01:01 PM

Eh tu, my dear Ruth? :)

See Samantha, it's really Tim's fault. :)

What are the TW filibuster rules? I need to make sure that Tim's TW editor confirmation never comes to a vote. Someone ask him if he's paid his taxes!

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 01:04 PM

Ruth: Isnt Sherlock without Tim kinda like Oscar without Felix? or something like that lol

WIth Roger back on the scene, Ill be around more to 'edit' and in short order surely bring "Grumpy Sherlock" out for numerous appearances!

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie!) 03/04/2009 at 01:06 PM

after today's bee in my bonnet posts, I somehow doubt Pete would let me anywhere near the Editor's tool here at the old homestead, surely he would have a nervous breakdown!

Posted by Ruth 03/04/2009 at 01:08 PM

Thanks, Samantha.

Sometimes, I can be such a traitor, Sherlock, especially when the outcome of my treachery could be fun! :)

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