Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - A Night of Historical Importance
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A Night of Historical Importance 08/29/2006 - 12:20 AM

2006_08_29_king So here I sit, watching images of Steffi Graf, puncutated occasionally by some coverage of the Andre Agassi - Andrei Pavel match. This kid Agassi looks like a pretty good prospect, no? I say he's got a future!

Actually, we're in the second set tiebreaker, and somebody in the crowd just hollered out, "There's only one Andre!" That's true, thank God. I'm not sure I could handle another iconic figure tonight. This isn't really that funny, I suppose, given that this is meant to be a NSHI, or Night of Supreme Historical Importance. Yet here I sit, minding the store, drifting in and out of Arthur Ashe Stadium (and don't I know you'd give that Borg-vintage Fila shirt to be in my place, which only makes me feel even more guilty), a part of me deeply resisting everything I've seen and heard tonight.

Maybe I'm having a Roger Federer Cincinnati moment; I just can't muster the enthusiasm and fire for the acrid smell of gunpowder or even the sublime resonances of the moment. Maybe I'm just shutting down, from overload. You know how that goes: I'm implicitly being told, left and right, that this is a NSHI and I'm supposed to be awash in deep thoughts and glorious feelings. Well, this is an apalling confession, but the only deep thought I've had is: Andre has a remarkably flat head. It looks like a helipad. That's kind of weird.

Am I a f-up, or what?

I guess it started with the dedication of what will heretofore be called The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The highlight for me was Chris Evert turning to John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors and asking, "You guys are standing so close together and you haven't started fighting yet?" That was good for a belly laugh, but then, showing her customary killer instinct, Chrissie put the rehabilitated bad boys in a real spot by asking them, point blank, if they've actually come to like one another.

This kind of frankness, when it's supported by an inconvenient truth (thanks, Al!), is enough to throw even the most suave and media savvy character off stride. And that's just what it did. That it caught Connors, always a self-conscious and and somewhat uptight guy, by surprise was no surprise. But the fact that the generally nimble McEnroe also stumbled on it, albeit momentarily, spoke volumes.

I suppose I especially appreciated the moment because I'm bored to tears by being force-fed the party line about Billie Jean's revolutionary impact and "cultural signficance," and whether that happens to be true or not has nothing to do with it. I just hate being force-fed, and I especially hate being force-fed social consciousness. That I had to listen to that towering intellect, Diane Sawyer (our Solzhenitsyn) weigh-in on all this in the pre-game show  pre-disposed me to being a grump. I just think these sentimental, horrific middle-brow orgies of mutual backpatting and unmitigated adulation are unseemly, especially when they involve all the usual suspects. Cue background music: I am woman, hear me roar. . .

2006_08_29_agassi And don't get me wrong. Billie Jean earned and deserves this honor (it would be oh-so-easy to write this if it weren't so). The USTA did its best to put together a fitting tribute, albeit one scripted too closely to the self-infatuated garbage regurgitated with such depressing regularity at awards ceremonies like the Oscars. Ultimately, I find there's something deeply phony - and strangely un-self-assured - about these aggressive posturings and strivings for deeper meaning. It's like the real thing isn't quite enough. I guess I'm uncomfortable with hagiography. I would have traded it all, all the breathless commentators, all the former champions sucking up the reflected light, like the flourescent, optic fiber cables that come aglow from retained light, for something much simpler - say, a dozen people speaking extemperaneously about how Billie Jean made them feel about tennis. Or a few words from her mom, Betty.

ON the whole, I prefer ill-expressed honesty to artfully articulated hooey that's so predictable and on-script that it's very had to imagine that it means anything at all to the speaker, much less to me. I suppose this all may have to do with the politics of the 1970s women's movement, which sieizes on anything Billie Jean to experience one more, origiastic, Hear-Me-Roar moment. We heard all the talking points tonight, right down to the one about the secretaries who reputedly showed up for work the morning after the King-Bobby Riggs match adamantly refusing to brew coffee.

I don't especially like myself for thinking this way, but that's the truth of it for me. I would hate myself even more if I didn't express what I felt. I found it obscene that Mary Carillo somehow conflated Billie Jean and Dr. Martin Luther King in her opening remarks.

Well, in the time it took me the write the paragraph above, les deux Andres, one with a flat head and one with an upset tummy, have found a way to neutralize what had been the pending sentimental orgy of the NSHI, Part II. They did it by getting into a tennis match, and not an especially artful one at that. They've managed to convert service breaks and bathroom breaks and wildly shifting swings of momentum into the perfect antidote for the overpowering sense of falsity that I've been struggling with tonight.

What we've got here is a grubby tennis match. A messy affair with plenty of low comedy and all the huffings and wheezings we've come to expect from a couple of thirty-something warriors, sufficiently in touch with their Inner Tennis Player to somehow have forgotten that this is supposed to be a NSHI. Andre and his counterpart with the extra vowel are engaged in something refreshingly spontaneous here, I revel in its authenticity and I celebrate its utter and visceral simplicity, Agassi's grunting and groaning and Pavel's roundhouse cuts (is that a great backhand, or what?).

Thanks Andre, you're showing me something tonight more valuable than all the testimonials that are sure to come and that will be no less deserved than the honor Billie Jean King received today. Some day, perhaps here at Arthur Ashe Stadium, others will make of you someone who, in the eyes of some, may seem to be both more than you were and also somehow less - a person trapped inside icon-hood, your substance draining away as you become a brand - a better one, perhaps, than the Adidas brand, nothing so lofty as the feminist brand, but still a brand. Something other than a person.

On that night, Andre, I'll think of this one.

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Posted by dennis 08/29/2006 at 12:45 AM

Dear Pete,

Lighten up.

Posted by rei_baguio 08/29/2006 at 12:46 AM

I appreciate the raw, emotional honesty of this piece of work, with the hint of cynicism that actually honors than disrespects Billie Jean King. I personally believe that no ceremony/tribute can ever capture her greatness, whether they are mouthed by a dozen tennis players or by champions and celebrities. In the same way, any ceremony that will declare Andre Agassi an icon is redudant.

Posted by Juan José 08/29/2006 at 12:48 AM

Yep, that's one great backhand.

Once again, Pete, you would've been better served down here in L.A: we were treated to Wawrinka-Chela during the whole celebration thing, which was summarized in a 30-second clip before the Agassi match.

Posted by Tanya 08/29/2006 at 12:51 AM

WOW I felt the same way about pretty much everything written.

Posted by mici 08/29/2006 at 12:52 AM

Have 2 say great match- from Agassi and paval.

But the NY croud is not fair.

they did 2 him what the did 3 fed last year, and someone of nadal Kad's complained aboud the JB box- the need 2 look at this matches with Agassi.

Last year in the final when the croud was in his high scremming claping at Ufe from fed and missed 1 serves fed just got on with it, didnt wait for the cround 2 be more qyiet, and I thought he was crazy, how he constret with all that noise, I from watching on tv couldnt and belive me I am the last person that get upset by noise.

paval waited for the croud to come down- didnt happen and only heart him.

But like I saig t=great match- paval has great Bh down the line.

IS is more fiting that if agasii loses ot would be 2 Bhgdhdis.

Posted by mici 08/29/2006 at 12:59 AM

and pete, even if fed tanked the match I dont have any problem with it, I think it was good he lost when he lost and 2 the player he lost was the best way.

I dont like it when he goes 2 slam with streaks on the line just more prasure- he doesnt need.

Posted by L. Rubin 08/29/2006 at 12:59 AM

Mr. Bodo,

You wrote, "We heard all the talking points tonight, right down to the one about the secretaries who reputedly showed up for work the morning after the King-Bobby Riggs match adamantly refusing to brew coffee." And you see this as a problem? I call it inspiration--cheesy and somewhat pathetic, yes. But inspirational nonetheless.

BTW: BJK's speech reminded me of one of those sadistically long, grandiose, and sentimental speeches that characterize high school graduations.

Posted by steggy 08/29/2006 at 01:04 AM

*blows kisses to all four corners of TW*

Some wrestler guy on TV is attacking another guy with an aluminum ladder. Brings "Do It Yourself" to an all new, lower level.

Pete: You're not a fsck-up -- you're just fed-up. Too much Agassi worship leads to sugar-shock. Go have a beer and a good night's sleep.


Posted by kiwibee 08/29/2006 at 01:26 AM

Thank goodness Andre got through.I was praying like

Posted by J. Nelson 08/29/2006 at 01:33 AM

I wasn't able to watch the opening ceremonies, but I am glad I did not have the opportunity for the very reasons you point out. There is something about grandiose scripted dedication ceremonies that always depresses me, even if I think, as in this case, that the honor bestowed is perfectly legitimate and appropraite.
That said, I would have loved to have heard Chrissie deadpan a little - she's so good at it!

Posted by Matt Zemek 08/29/2006 at 01:38 AM

Wow, Pete... I needed to see this ceremony, I guess, but I was at work.

A very initial and tentative reaction, before I read up on the ceremony and anything approaching a transcript/summation of remarks:

I tend to agree with everything you say, in terms of both the content and the spirit behind it.

I would temper that praise, though, by simply saying that on a night like this--affirming BJK's name and legacy for some members of a general public that might still be unaware (our attention spans are short in this day and age, you know...)--it would be well-nigh impossible to not trot out some familiar phrasings and talking points.

But more later... this is too deep a post to definitively assess in a brief, clipped, overly presumptive manner.

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 02:09 AM

The place should have been named after Jimmy Connors, he's the one who personifies US Open (and New York) tennis - brash, noisy sometimes vulgar but always exciting. What did Billy Jean King ever do worth remembering, beat some 60 year old geezer?

Posted by 08/29/2006 at 02:42 AM

Pete, you want to talk hooey and posturing? To my knowledge, at least Mary C., ChrissieE, Johnny M, Jimmy C, Venus and the rest weren't bribed to appear!

Dig what happens here in LaLa Land (otherwise known as Hollywood) when celebrating/paying tribute to one's professional peers: (Wash Post by Ruth Marcus):

"This year's official Emmy gift basket was worth around $30,000, but that was just the tip of the freebie iceberg: Invitation-only suites in the days before the main event offered such items as $3,500 gold-plated phones, $35 rhinestone-encrusted pacifiers, $1,000 manicures with real diamonds affixed to each nail and $200 worth of Emmy-shaped dog treats. People magazine totaled up this year's Emmy-related swag at $157,795 per celebrity."

But if you think that the Emmy's are over the top, dig what they pay/give away (not if the IRS can help it) at the Academy Awards:

"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose 2006 Oscar presenters received $100,000 gift bags containing such items as cashmere blankets, mink eyelashes, Tahitian pearl necklaces and coupons for Hawaiian vacations, has agreed to settle its past tax obligations."

Posted by Sarah 08/29/2006 at 02:43 AM

Thanks for the great post, Peter. I didn't watch the opening ceremony for the reasons you mentioned. I knew that it would do much more than celebrate King's excellent tennis, and instead trot out all the feminist philosophy, with which I'm not in general agreement.

The Agassi Pavel match was something else. At 0-4 down I really thought Andre was going out for sure, in the first round, and that would be the last match he would play. What a relief that he can go out to Baghdatis.

Posted by May 08/29/2006 at 02:46 AM

Here is something for all of you Agassi fans: a beautiful Hebrew article about Andre, said that Neil Young's line: "I am the ocean, I am the giant undertow" describes perfectly what Agassi has been to tennis.

I am not an Agassi KAD, but I think the writer got it right.

Posted by 08/29/2006 at 02:46 AM

By the way, unlike you better than thou types, I loved every moment of the event! Especially (call me) Miss Ross singing, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough!"

Posted by kom 08/29/2006 at 03:10 AM

Bravo, Pete. Well-written and thought out.

Posted by Victor 08/29/2006 at 04:10 AM

Completely off topic but I have to ask, does anyone have the skinny on this Benjamin Becker guy? I have kinda been following his results through the summer. He's kicked some serious butt in the challengers and he seems to go through the qualies relatively easy at every tour event he enters.
I just saw his profile and I was surprised to see he's 25? If he's having such good results now where was he before? Anyone knows?
And now he's in the 2nd round of the USO, he took out Volandri

Posted by skip1515 08/29/2006 at 04:37 AM

sam wrote:

"What did Billy Jean King ever do worth remembering, beat some 60 year old geezer?"

Yo, look it up, Sam. Wimbledon, US Nationals, established the women's pro tour (not singlehandedly, but clearly a motivating force), broke barriers regarding all white on court, Fed Cup, WTT. That's not all, but the point's been made.

Pete, I wasn't able to see the opening night, but even if I was I'd have known enough to plan on making dinner during the ceremonies, and you probably did, too, except professional duties required you to pay attention. It seems impossible for events like this to not appear scripted, and poorly scripted at that. Is this because the public is incapable of understanding anything that's not pre-packaged into nutritionless, single bites of info, or because the networks and presenting organizations are too worried about free form broadcasting? Or are there other reasons? There's probably a doctoral thesis in there somewhere.

Regardless, while it's a sin the USTA couldn't come up with a better way to incorporate Billie Jean's name into the new title of the facility, I agree with you that it's a fitting tribute. The US Open is the most public of the Big Four tourneys, and Billie Jean did more to make tennis a sport for the public than anyone before her, and maybe anyone afterwards, too.

Posted by trich 08/29/2006 at 05:27 AM

Sam is right. Billie Jean may have won a bunch of titles, but the only thing she's done in the last 25 years that I remember is complain about equal prize money. I wish Wimbledon would give the extra $15K or so to women so that we'd never have to hear from her again.

The Jimmy Connors National Tennis Center would have been a much better name, but it will always be Flushing Meadows to me.

Posted by daylily 08/29/2006 at 06:27 AM

Pete, it's uncanny how you expressed in this piece and another recent endeavor your worrisome feelings of, well, disillusionment to do with the USO, at least so far. I remarked a few days ago that this last slam of the year lacks the rip-roaring emotion that the tribe was feeling during the spring turn into summer with RG and Wimbledon. Somehow the momentum has been lost, combined with all the other feelings you so admirably painted in your word picture above.

I wonder if this has all to do with the fact that we Ameri -- oops, gringos -- have to overdo EVERYTHING with hype, that we've lost the ability to let an occasion speak for itself in a relatively uncoached, reasonably sincere manner. Why must we instruct people as to what they should be feeling and why? Here in the usa we do it all the time, and I for one resent being force-fed pap because i'm perfectly capable of determining for myself the reasons and proper behavior for a wide variety of occasions.

I'm sorry you feel somewhat alienated....but i couldn't agree with you more. In fact, I'm kinda glad you were feeling strongly enough about at least one aspect of USO so far, because it's those strong emotions that impel you to write so beautifully -- as you did at RG especially, and in London, too. I could read you forever when you write this way.

Posted by May 08/29/2006 at 06:47 AM

I have just discovered Fed will play his first match tomorrow. Can someone kindly explain to me how it is possible that the US open defending champion will play his first-round match only on Wednesday? Instead of asking whether tennis players take illegal "enhancement", it's time someone checked what tournaments organizers consume. This is just stupid. Give TMF an American citizenship and let him play the opening match. I wish he said something about that, the way he attacked the French Open organizers for another piece of poor scheduling. It would be nice to see a direct confrontation between him and the clueless fools in charge of the US open schedule. I can dream, can't I?

Posted by Fedfan 08/29/2006 at 07:43 AM

Pete,your post is quite brave as you are a part of the tennis media establishment yourself. Daylily said it best, and you also touched on it; we're not allowed to let these occasions stand by themselves and experience our own natural emotions. The little tin hearts of network television are constantly trying coach us on what we should feel about what they've packaged for us. They do this for everything, from genuine tragedies to some teen's losing enough weight to fit into her prom dress. They need to learn that less is really more. Agassi and BJK are iconic and admirable figures, but when I heard about the night's festivities, I dreaded what the USTA and the television honchos would make of an evening fraught with natural nostalgia. Ironically, and I am embarrassed to admit it, I've absorbed television values enough to wish artless, unglamorous BJK's obviously sincere and self-written speech had been much shorter. That they didn't give her a time limit or at least a professional writer's help with her speech was just dumb in terms watchable television.

Posted by Tari 08/29/2006 at 07:45 AM


Are you playing the Suicide Pool by chance? If you are, then I'm not telling! LOL Actually, I'm already out of the men's side...

And May, yes it's disgraceful what the USO organizers have done with Roger's scheduling! Hold on, more to come, surely...wait until he's messed with after the rain delays. Nothing new here.

Posted by robbyfan 08/29/2006 at 07:50 AM

I think the match of the day will be the Hendrick-Murray match.

Posted by Mark Eckley 08/29/2006 at 08:01 AM

It could have been worse- at least a tennis match broke out.
My daughter wanted to play catch, so I didn't watch much of the dedication. I suffered through enough to think the following:
What's next for the US Open? Giving wild-cards to the players with the best backstory? That way we can cut away from the action of the sport and focus on human interest, ala Tour de France and the Olympics.
That would suck.

Posted by Lucy Clark 08/29/2006 at 08:16 AM

Did anyone notice that Agassi's interview (for Tue, 8/28) on the USTA Open website was listed as an interview with "Andrew Agassi"? So much for fame. (Link:

Posted by Vivien 08/29/2006 at 08:20 AM

Like Juan Jose,I got to watch the Wawrinka-Chela match instead of the ceremony honouring BJK. From your description, it sounds like it was conducted in a very 'over the top' fashion. That's a pity.

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 08:28 AM


I didn't ask what she's done. I asked what has she done worth remembering? She won a bunch of titles in a time when women still wore long skirts when they played, who cares?

If your arguement is that they gave it to a great player then why not call it The Pete Sampras Tennis Center who was a greater player in a more competitive era?

As for what she did for Women's Tennis. Look at the Montreal tournament two weeks ago. They sold the most tickets for a women's only event and none of the top players except Kim Clisters bothered to show up, my favorite was Sharapova who cancelled because she was "too tired"? What a joke all BJK has done is create a bunch of spoiled monsters.

My favorite is Lindsay Davenport crying while withdrawing from the Pilot Pen Final while because her shoulder is hurting and then coming out two days later at the Open and firing 120 MPH aces! What a Tank Job at Pilot Pen! Let's face it she knew she was in for a long battle against JHH and didn't want to expend the energy before the Open so she cried her way off the court to stave off criticism. Only in women's tennis! In men's tennis, TMF loses a day match after playing a night match and four tough three- setters the week before to Murray one of the hottest players on the Tour and he's virtual called a tanker by Carillo, what a double standard!

Let's face it, this is just the Limousine Liberals who run the USTA feeling good about themselves. Why don't they expend their energy developing some players?


Posted by smallville 08/29/2006 at 08:30 AM

Benjamin Becker just graduated from Baylor (maybe last year). He won the 2004 NCAA tourney, so he has only been on tour for a little over a year. There was some controversy over the possibility that he had participated in a professional league in Germany prior to enrolling in school therefore making him ineligible for NCAA play. Apparently, he was routinely investigated by the NCAA. I think his coach even held him out of the NCAA tournament his sophmore year as a precaution.

Posted by rudy3 08/29/2006 at 08:46 AM

I watched the ceremony last night on TV. I thought is was very moving. And Chrissie is STILL the prettiest girl in the room.

Now I know I will probably get blasted for this, but here goes...

What struck me was Martina and Andre, they are both retiring after their last matches. Legends and ambassadors, both of them. And to me they both also personify the American dream. Martina became and American, and Andre's father brought his family to America to have a better life. Andre has said winning the Olympic medal means as much to him as any of his slams.
So that brings me to people like Maria, Tommy, Nicole, Xavier, Dimitry, etc. who reap the benifits of living and training in the US, but who can't be bothered to become American citizens. Whats wrong with being a Russian American, or German American.
Of course everybody has his or her own reasons for what they do.
Me, I'm Irish American, and proud of it.

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 08:48 AM

A few quick comments:

I think BJK's honor was well-deserved. Ther ceremony felt "scripted", but I expected that.

Saw the first 2 sets of the match last night. I love Pavel's backhand and was impressed with his net play. Once Agassi won the second set tiebreak, I had the feeling he'd win.

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 08:51 AM

rudy3 - I was moved by the ceremony as well, but it still felt scripted for the most part. Evert did look great. Isn't she 50?

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 09:06 AM

I personally find the USO the most exciting Slam of the year this year, it oozes electricity! Probably because Serena is there(a miracle!) and I prefer it to the AO...still, all the Slams are so different that you really can't compare. US open has a great atmosphere that just comes through the TV(lol) and I like it more than any other tournament. I have amazing rip-roaring emotion about this Slam! And I plan to have a 15 hour tennis marat-hon today... I firmly have decided I must spend atleast one day(or night here) like that this year...
Serena playing today!! Vamos Eros Ramos(what?)! I'm super excited, even though she's playing a no namer, she just plays so rarely! This compares to making love, which I get to do so rarely! She must be fresh and hungry.
People, give Billie Jean a rest! She deserves this, even though they might have blown the ceremony! I didn't see it so I can't tell my opinion...I just think all huge ceremonies are corny...

Posted by jerryf 08/29/2006 at 09:06 AM

"I found it obscene that Mary Carillo somehow conflated Billie Jean and Dr. Martin Luther King in her opening remarks."

Pete my sentiments exactly. Billy Jean has contibuted greatly to our society --see the excellent HBO Special from a few months ago. But to equate her with Dr. King was over the top.

Posted by tennis kad 08/29/2006 at 09:30 AM

Let me preface this by saying that I turned off the TV during the ceremony and did some work, checking in periodically to see if the match had started yet. Wow, that was a long ceremony.

Nonetheless, it's been interesting to read everyone's (almost unanimous) negative reaction to it. I felt the same way about it, and thought it was way over the top. I personally don't believe that anybody should have anything named after them until they're dead. That is the proper time to honor somebody's legacy.

Still, the cynicism I'm reading here speaks of a psychological phenomenon that I'll refer to as "geek envy." Here's how it plays out. The geek finds a place in his sandbox that he calls his own. He studies it, knows everything about it. It's his special place. Then, one day, the cool people discover it. Suddenly, the geek's place in the sandbox is overrun with fair-weathered people who don't appreciate it for what it really is. After a couple weeks, the cool people leave, and the geek reclaims the space, and nurses his resentment until the next time the cool people come.

It shouldn't be too big of a stretch to apply the metaphor here. We are all tennis geeks. Don't even bother trying to deny it. During the other ten months of the season, nobody cares about tennis. We rule our sandbox. Now, suddenly, the spotlight is passing over our dark corner for two weeks. People are flooding in. We hate them because they get to enjoy it, and they don't appreciate it the way we do. To us, it seems like they're force feeding us all this emotional stuff that we feel intrinsically. But to them, to the cool people who've invaded our special place, this probably feels like geniune emotion.

I don't know what the cure is for geek envy, but it seems that you either need to stop being a geek (out of the question), or just ignore the fair weathered fans and enjoy tennis the way you do when they're not around. In the meantime, stop complaining. You sound like whiners.

One final note about the match...I've been rooting for Agassi for as long as I can remember. But I felt bad for Pavel. He reminded me of a "lonely monster" character from a Tim Burton movie. The way he lumbered around the court, booed by the fans. The way his calves seemed way too big for the rest of his body. The sad Transylvanian glower that he seemed to wear permanently. He played a great match. And I was surprised at how little the crowd got to him. It seemed to me that every time he would step up to serve, he would wait for the jeers and boos to die down, and then hit an ace or service winner. I like his game, and hope to see more of him while he's still "young." In the meantime, I think Andre A. can go deep. I don't think Thursday will be his last day.

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 09:33 AM

temes - You're right, the USO does have an electric atmosphere. I've been there a few times, and particularly at night you can sense that excitiement. The New York crowds are something else.

It is hard to compare the Slams, as they each have their own appeal. I've always been partial to Wimbledon, but the USO is a close second.

Posted by vanfan 08/29/2006 at 09:33 AM

Ahhh Pete, I enjoyed the dedication ceremony last night but I like all that sentimentalist crap and nobody does it better than Mary Carillo.

John and Chris were well spoken but I was a little embarassed for Venus and Jimmy. That was uncomfortabel to watch. And BJK could have sped things up a little bit, she just dragged on.

Posted by gagaforguga 08/29/2006 at 09:38 AM


You're not alone. I also found the ceremony tedious and middlebrow, no matter how great BJK was. You're the HL Mencken of tennis journalism!

Posted by Todd and In Charge 08/29/2006 at 09:38 AM

Believe it or not, I was playing tennis last night instead of preparing for the hurricane/tropical storm which has forced me to close my law office for a few days, schools closed, courts closed, no mail etc. So by the time I got home the match had already started.

Guess I didn't miss too much. Sheesh Bodo, you are one contrarian curmudgeon -- but that's what we love about you.

I take it you wrote a similar piece for the Reagan funeral?

Posted by Charlie 08/29/2006 at 09:38 AM


It's nice to be able to communicate with you. I'm a 44-yr old former college player who grew up with Tennis magazine. I still remember my first issue (I started subscribing in the sixth grade; 1974, I think) It had a kid, looking up to hit his serve, that was missing his two front teeth.

I looked forward to your features every month. Glad you're still doing what you're doing.

My question to you: don't you think the tv ratings in tennis would get better if the tv directors went back to the lower court angles? It seems to me that the higher angle, while perhaps seeing the whole court better, we viewers lose all the texture. The higher angle makes it so hard to actually see how the players produce their strokes and we get no real feel of how hard they hit the ball; how high the ball is over the net, etc.

As a player, one of the best Open matches I saw was the final between Wilander and Lendl. A real chess match, the subtleties of which would have been lost with the higher angle.

Perhaps I'm just an old man pining for the old days.

Thanks again for all the enjoyment you've brought to me over the years.

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 09:39 AM

vanfan - I agree, John and Chris came across well. They're used to commentating and dealing with the public, and seemed more comfortable than Venus and Jimmy.

BJK did drag on, but it was her night and she was free to do as she pleased. It was a well-deserved honor.

tennis kad - I think you're right on about the "geek envy" as it pertains to tennis.

Posted by vanfan 08/29/2006 at 09:50 AM

At the very least The USTA BJK NTC has a better ring to it than say The Bill and Melinda Gates XBOX 360 NTC.

I agree with you Sam, Billie Jean did deserve the honour. And she was right when she said that it was great for the centre to be named after a woman.

Tennis KAD i felt sorry for Pavel too. The crowd was horrific towards him. Especially the guy that yelled out "There is only one Andre." - RUDE!

Posted by sandra 08/29/2006 at 09:55 AM

Why is it sacrosanct to have aided the cause of African-Americans, yet of less significance to have aided the cause of women? I must admit that I get tired to hearing how "obscene" it is to equate assistance of femaleness to assistance of Blackness. And yes, I am both African-American and female, and I can be equally disrespected as both as honored as both.

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 09:57 AM

Charlie - I agree about the court angle, your definitely lose some of the feel for the stroke production and other subtelties. Do you know when they switched to the higher angle?

I enjoy watching matches live on smaller courts (USO side courts, tournaments such as the women's one in Philly), where you can get really close and really appreciate how good the players are.

Posted by mainetennis 08/29/2006 at 09:59 AM

The BJK canonization ceremony was principally an exercise in the USTA patting itself on the back for its enlightenment and political correctness. To be sure, BJK has done an enormous amount of good for women's tennis, tennis in general and women's sports in general. However, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, she's no Martin Luther King. The USTA, and those who uttered the words and should know better, went way over the top in their encomiums to BJK. I think that someone in the Williams camp should be embarrassed at the utterly inarticulate and ill-prepared ramblings of Venus. I think we could have done without the pointed BJK reference to the GLBT community-- has nothing to do with tennis, and BJK was in deep denial over her sexuality for many, many years; not exactly a fearless champion for gay rights.

Posted by vanfan 08/29/2006 at 10:04 AM

Regardless of the USTA's motivation for honouring BJK they deserve some accolade for having the cajones to resist cashing in and picking someone like BJK over some homophobic male chauvinst pig.

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 10:08 AM

Tennis Kad, atleast we are gorgeus-looking, toned(atleast I am lol) geeks!
I think your "psychology" is weird, and I simply refuse to believe some people would act that strangely, other than children!
Can someone really be that geeky? I can't believe someone could behave like tennis is somehow only their ground...Even though I am a big tennis geek and not a bad player, I can't believe some people would even think like that!! I always love to have new people around, and love start geeking around telling them about tennis, and hear what they have to say, and I would never do that "psychology stuff" you described! The only few people I could imagige behave like you said are Roger Federer and Andre Agassi and few others, but they are allowed, since they have the authority! But I'm sure they have seen the world go around, you know.

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 10:22 AM

Hey Pete, wow, for once we're on the same page--my sentiments, almost exactly! I actually couldnt bear to watch tthe end of the Agassi match or the post match interview, because they've lifted Andre to such desperate hero status and importance that it's a joke-- and sorry, but does anyone find the manic, red faced spittle infused cheering of Andre's childhood bud Perry Rogers a little on the codependent, creepy side? As usual, Steffi kept her dignity -- and perspective-- intact.

Sorry but the fans' treatment of Pavel was pathetic as well- it's like, do Americans need a winner THAT badly? Now we have Blake, Roddick and Agassi, and the red white and blue, in our face for many nights to come ... and Fed playing Wednesday is a total joke ... hey USTA, tennis fans are buying your tickets, not baseball or footballs fans, ok?

I kinda dug the BJK stuff overall, thats just my sentimental side, but your points were right on -- and get ready for Andre's greatest hits, it's rain day at the Open!

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 10:27 AM

hey maintennis, i get your point, but as far as the LGBT community and such, better late than never! the BJK HBO doc was amazingly blunt about this issue, and it explains a lot (this was the 70s, give her a break!)... I think its great she specifically thanked Illana Kloss, and showed that family, and even spirituality/religion, are a big part of everyone's life, the LGBT community included...

Posted by momofan 08/29/2006 at 10:29 AM

I don't care if there's Andre's greatest hits during 8:00-10:00 AM PST just as long as it stops when I get back to my dorm room and my precious momito comes on screen. ;)

Ugh what is this unholy hour I am awake at? Morning lectures suck :(

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 10:33 AM

momo chill, its raining in nYC, and I dont see any tennis being played today...

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 10:36 AM

I have always found some things about tennis soooo corny...Agassi is just an aged tennis player who is retiring...I think it is sentimental to him and those people around him that he is retiring...I don't find it moving in anyway...can't they just let him retire in style without that corny stuff? I just really, as a tennis fan, am only interested in the tennis and Serena Williams and not in all this Billie Jean bull. I couldn't care less who they name that spot after!!! And all other behind the scenes stuff have never really interested me, if it is something negative like bashing Justine or other ridiculous waste of time... Now, who's playing today...

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 10:41 AM

no one temes, its raining in nyc! get ready for agassi-pavel, agassi-blake, and agassi in the studio, talking a bout how he feels about life, love and retirement lol

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 10:46 AM

Tim - I'm with you, especially about Perry Rodgers. When they showed him, he was listed as Agassi's manager. I'm guessing he helps with the preparatory academy?

Can't believe Fed's not scheduled till Wed.

Keeping my fingers crossed about the rain. Guess momofan might not miss the match after all ...

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 10:51 AM

And I do not give a crap about Serenas Hollywood adventures, I fell in love with her because of her tennis and spirit, in which she has let me down these couple of years...but my love for her will never die, even if she never wins anythíng again...she impressed me so much back then...Oooh the Big Crazy Mama...please don't break my heart again at this years USO...
Now that wasn't cheesy was it?

Posted by steggy 08/29/2006 at 10:52 AM

Todd: They're shutting down for Ernesto? Bit paranoid of 'em. Stay dry and (*gulp*) I hope you have Cable and not Satellite.

Posted by creig bryan 08/29/2006 at 11:03 AM

To rudy3 and the others, both in this and the other thread:

Thank you all for saying Something Positive about last night. The amount of negative pabulum generated by a ceremony honoring a past tennis player was/is appalling. BJK played tennis. She won trophies. She did what Sampras and Court and Young and Hewitt and Venus and Rod and Vitas and Goran and Althea and Martina and Bjorn and Jelena and Jimmie and Arthur and Ivan and Nicole and Chanda and Vic and Evonne and Andy and Tim did/do. Play tennis. She was good. She was honored. That was the plan.

That the honorary ceremonies were staged or staid or stale or regurgitated or boring or pontificational or manufactured or "only-in-the-USA" or even too long was entirely not the point.

We, as humans, must create some moment when we give praise to those who achieve. These moments can never be NOT staged, since they are indeed SCHEDULED to occur. Could we schedule them, then, when the time arrives, merely turn on the mikes and see what happens? You can plan to be spontaneous, no? No.

And the speeches themselves: Most people can't take the podium. (Google "Toastmasters") The majority of those who DO stand before lecterns, carry notes on 3x5 index cards (or, now, Blackberries).
Only a few can wing it. So, when James Scott or Chris or John or Venus Ebony Starr deliver moments of tribute, without visual aids (hey, not even a dais), what they say comes from inside. Who are we to judge whether it's sincere, memorized, homogenous, upchuck, phony, extemporaneous, inflated, or even pretty?

To bash ceremonies, however staged, is to bash humanity. We humans are ceremony. Births(and Birthdays), Funerals, Baby Showers, Bar Mitzvahs, Ground Breakers, Awards, Graduations, Marriages, Memorial Services (2/1/3; 9/11/1; 11/22/63,...), Holidays... Hell, Going-Away parties. We honor and celebrate anything and everything.
Did we not just honor and congratulate Pete and Steggy for the Premiere of a new format? A new format? ::

"I stand before you now to say that the true heroes in this enterprise were not me and Steggy, but the selfless, hard-working computer programmers and diligent web design gurus who, all the way down to the 11th hour, toiled, sweated and strained to make this new web experience the best it's ever been. I accept this award for them. SO, LET"S HEAR IT FOR THEM, YES?"

[Loud applause, wild cheering...slowly subsides...]

"And, now before Steggy comes up to accept, I like to also take a moment to thank the most important ones, you, the TW KAD fans. The greatest fans in the TW!!! Give yourselves a round!!!!!"

[More vicious applause.....cue Aretha....R.E.S.P.E.C.T.]

There is so much negativity in this world. A small ceremony honoring a female tennis player doesn't need to be part of it.

Keep Smiling...and...Be Positive

Posted by Jason 08/29/2006 at 11:03 AM

Thanks for a great post Pete. Being force fed sentimentality is definitely something our culture is getting a little to comfortable with. A few other observations:

1. Why was Martina not on the court during the BJK ceremony? I'm not much of a Martina fan but surely BJK has more history and more of a bond with Martina than she does with Venus.

2. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Andrei Pavel has the best one-handed backhand on the tour. Federer and Gasquet are certainly in the same league but Pavel's ability to generate incredible pace, come over the ball at shoulder height, and consistently stroke the ball up the line is unparalleled. On more than five occasions during the match I found myself stunned by what I saw from that wing - normally that feeling is reserved for Federer Moments. Where do I sign up for the Andrei Pavel fan club?

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 11:05 AM

O geez, how dull...I really hate if they have to postpone some interesting matches because of the rain...yesterday basically there came nothing for me...I have never seen anything more boring in my life than that Svetlana match...OMG! Now I just have to sing ITS RRRRRAaaining MENA! HALLEluJÁH its Rrrrrraaaaininga mena! Ok that was a bizarre reaction...I'm such a weird person I suppose...

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 11:08 AM

actually Perry Rogers runs Andre's company, but theyve been friends since childhood... I hate to be a cynic, but his hysterics to me fell into the 'get a life' category, a little too much rabid hero worship IMO ... wasnt it funny last night to see Andre's brother Phil, completely bald, when earlier that day on ESPN classics during the 92 Wimby final, he had this huge dark head of fluffy hair (I think it was a rug)!

I cant help but think of an episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, where he's accused of only hiring bald people to work for him l lol

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 11:09 AM

Jason - I was wondering the same thing about Martina. She is one of the people whom I typically associate with BJK.

I'm joining you in the Pavel fan club. What a great backhand! I'd seen him play before and noticed that he had a nice backhand, but last night I really noticed how impressive a shot it was. Plus he showed great touch on his drop shots off that wing.

Posted by Samantha 08/29/2006 at 11:09 AM

Hi Temes.Sam, I agree with you 100% on Lindsay, her shoulder seemed fine when she was playing. It's just like you said, she knew she was in for a long battle, so she cried her way off the court and everyone felt sorry for her. Of course, Lindsay won't be bashed, and she was given the benefit of the doubt. What a double standard. I have to agree with Pete, last nights ceremony went too far, and the tribute was too much. I was so bored, I found myself doing cheerleading practice. A half hour would have been enough. I'm glad Andre won, and I'll get to see the hottest guy in tennis again. Go Justine!

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 11:12 AM

temes, weird is good, so embrace yourself and fly that freak flag, pal! somehow, from the short time ive been reading your posts, I get the feeling you are a pretty self accepting person, you just let it hang out there! at least when you put your foot in your mouth, you come back and apologize later lol

Posted by Sam 08/29/2006 at 11:13 AM

Thanks for the info Tim. I knew they're childhood buddies but didn't . I was thinking the same thing about Phil (I believe he was wearing a rug for quite some time). I was interesting to see how calm Gil Reyes was compared to the others, particularly Rodgers.

LOL about the Curb Your Enthusiasm comment!

Posted by Vivien 08/29/2006 at 11:15 AM

Off topic - I saw earlier on today that Creative Sports and Entertainments are suing Brad Gilbert for alleged breach of contract with respect to his work with GB's Lawn Tennis Association. BG doesn't think the matter should unduly affect Andy Murray's performance at the USO. Well, it would be a shame if it did now that Murray is playing well and could have a good tournament.

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 11:20 AM

People, people, the reason why we all are bragging about all this ABSOLUTELY INHUMANLY RIDICULOUS stuff of Billie Jean and the opening ceremony is the fact that nothing really, REALLY good subjects happen in tennis, except for the actual Bodo has to pull these articles from nothing basically, and we have fun by talking about I see nothing wrong with that, I just laugh at it. And Pete, majority of your articles are not such comedy as this, but sometimes, understandably, you have to write-something-about-something-FAST!...=)
C'mon, it was just a little opening ceremony for a little tennis fortnight party honoring a charming little lady...nothing bad to pull out of it. But hey, I understand, Bodo, you were outta something to write about for this one time...

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 11:20 AM

Samantha, dont even start to bash Lindsay, who clearly was hurting in New haven, and luckily it was just fatigue and overuse and went away... she faked her tears? oh man, that's just absurd! your worship of Justine has just reached a new and not very attractive level ..

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 11:27 AM

But, I must add to my previous comment, I can't see why we should not talk about nothing? I love to talk about nothing! Pete, I enjoyed your article, and I enjoyed reading these comments regarding the, keep it going this way, it is fun! lol
Nothing wrong with it...and, of course, there is "something", apart from the "nothing" in there too...hallelujah! *sigh

Posted by Bobcat 08/29/2006 at 11:27 AM

Great post..........the most historical moment is "when everyone is looking at it accept you" kudos for honesty { I noticed the head myself} It was a good match but hey let's get down to earth 3 years ago it would have been Agassi 2 0 3 ....the Billie Jean hoopla is way over my head I'm bummed Ashe has to go into the sunset...what's that about........ + Mary Carillo wants to be the next Mitch Albom.........please enough already I'm sick of Tom Cruise wanna be's....
Also when Pete did his last lap Andre appeared on the teletron to give his best they said he was on an outer court practiceing at 10PM please I guess like Jimmy + Mac you never stop watching your back against an old nemesis let Andre remember that before "Iconhood"........ it will serve him best

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 11:32 AM

Temes you are hysterical man.. you are so hot, cold, black, white, and your mood just shifts with the breeze! lol ...

Posted by JR 08/29/2006 at 11:33 AM

I was a bit disappointed in AA's post match comments. He had to be prompted to say something about Pavel. I thought Andrei was a warrior out there--very impressive under difficult circumstances; he deserved more.

Posted by Todd and In Charge 08/29/2006 at 11:40 AM

Thanks Stegs -- you know the force-fed talking points about getting water, safe shelter, stay indoors, batteries, gas, gosh when will these public figures shut up with their endless praise for careful pre-storm planning....what scolds (and I thought Al Gore was bad). We know these public officials could care less about each other and us even less. It was a bit much in my opinion when Billie Jean King flew down here and asked that we stay indoors "for all the women out there who have suffered." Call me a grump, but if the goose stays outside he deserves to get wet.

How's that for an (affectionate) Pete impression?

Posted by vanfan 08/29/2006 at 11:40 AM

mainetennis and tim, you are wrong to say the GLBT community has nothing to do with tennis. The GLBT community has suffered some great blows over the years at the hands of the tennis establishment, the media, some players, some players parents and the fans. That the USTA chose an outed member of our community to honour for her contributions to a sport and to humanity and not for her sexuality provides the kind of heroes the GLBT community needs.

Samantha, wrong again about Lindsay. Sorry but Lindsay's withdrawal from New Haven was a good move for the sport. Better she is fit and ready to play at the USO than injure her self in Connecticutt. Whereas Justine's withdrawal from the AO final in front of a world-wide audience hit right at the core of the WTA's problems. No comparison.

Posted by Matt Zemek 08/29/2006 at 11:41 AM

Okay, I've slept on this issue, and gleaned a few comments from news reports, while also reading the indispensable Bud Collins...

Thanks to Daylily for expressing a lot of important thoughts with noticeable grace and elegance; thanks to Skip for his considerable contribution here, too.

Here's a fuller reaction to Pete's thoughts, which--in tandem with many provocative responses on this thread--now lead me to voice the following:

A favorite spiritual writer of mine--a Franciscan priest for the past 36 years (he's a star in the American theological constellation)--once said something to the effect of, "Jesus wanted people to follow him, not to worship him."

On the surface, this seems patently incorrect. But this is a layered, nuanced statement. What this writer meant was that in any historico-cultural context, the truly great figures of a given era are shunned and resisted by the larger culture when they try to advance their cause with prophetic courage; it's only after they get older or less threatening or more mainstreamed (or DEAD!) that the larger culture accepts them, suddenly lavishing praise on a person who was once attacked to a considerable degree.

America, as the reigning superpower in the world, is the closest modern-day approximation of a culture drunk on hubris and in love with its own national mythology. Predictably--as with other societies who sat atop the world in terms of power, wealth and influence over the centuries--this national mythology becomes its own monster, as the realities and virtues of a country's noble beginnings are transformed into ugly nationalistic sentiments and hardened ideological mutations that insult the notion of purity... even while the people and forces possessing the ugliness are the first ones to demand purity itself.

What does all this lead to? It leads to the kind of spectacle that, while I (admittedly) did not see, Pete seemed to capture with a level of honesty so high that I find it impossible to refute what came from Pete's soul, via his keyboard.

My perception of last night--again, upon reading about it (not seeing it)--was that it was very much like other typical examples of a culture laying it on thick, 30-35 years after the time when Billie Jean King was toiling, and toiling hard, in a very uphill struggle for some important social gains on the part of women and women athletes.

I can stand on pretty safe ground--despite not having seen the ceremony--in making a few comments about the ceremony itself:

First of all, no one other than Chris Evert should have been there among tennis or at-large "celebrities." This is part of cultural hyperbole way after the present moment: celebrities are trotted out here in America to somehow validate a moment that they themselves weren't part of; somehow, there's this ridiculous perception that if a big name has something (anything) to say about a big occasion, that puts a stamp of cultural significance and meaning on an event.

That, folks, is a disease we're dying of in this country, and Pete spoke to that at great length and with his typical skill.

Indeed, what the heck is Diane Sawyer doing in that ceremony? What is John McEnroe doing there? It's as though McEnroe--who did the post-match interview with Agassi last night, instead of USA's regular interviewer, Michael Barkann--is required to utter every live syllable of USA coverage, out of the sadly impoverished belief that if McEnroe isn't the mouthpiece, the meaning of the moment will evaporate or be lost on people. This elevates celebrity above the substance of the event, which is exactly what Pete was getting at. Indeed: why can't the unvarnished truth, and that alone, be allowed to speak volumes? Why can't the measure of the person stand by itself, instead of all these celebrity pile-ons? It truly is disgusting. That is not too harsh a word to use.

The second major point I have to make flows from this first point about celebrity excess and the danger of worshipping an important figure instead of doing the more substantive thing, which is to FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE of said figure (in this case, BJK).

In a culture with such hubris and excessiveness, one will often encounter this paradoxical reality--and I see it all the time in America, a land where George Orwell's and Aldous Huxley's once unfathomable visions of the future are now eerily real: the trivial and insubstantial forums are, ironically, the venues where real meaning winds up emerging (even though, in a better society, it shouldn't).

A non-tennis example: a snit about the politically correct wording of the Bush family Christmas card becomes an incident that reveals, powerfully and undeniably, the massive ideological and cultural fissures and hypocrisies that cut very deep in this country. In the world of logic, such a story should never see the light of day; but in a world of diseased cultural functioning, this is the kind of story that tells so much about where a country is... and where it's going.

Back to tennis and last night's tribute, then: I can understand why Pete would find Carillo's remarks on the two Kings--Billie Jean and Martin Luther--to be disgusting. But just as readily, I would register a personal viewpoint in which I'd say that Carillo (who, again, should not have been in the ceremony; it should have been a very closed circle; then again, that's not necessarily her call, given that she had to be invited first...) is making an important and necessary connection.

After all, if one does live in a culture where the comparatively trivial forums are, ironically but undeniably, the venues where meaning does emerge, one will constantly encounter seemingly incongruent realities.

I don't think someone as astute as Mary Carillo would dare suggest that the fight for women athletes had every single ounce of the moral urgency possessed by the civil rights movement. I DO think, however, that since sports (like fiction novels; Pete, as a fiction writer, can appreciate this to a degreee much greater than I can...) are a primary mover of truth in this country, Carillo used the largeness of Billie Jean's legacy--and the largeness of the occasion Monday night at the BJKUSTANTC--to cement some important realities about the meaning of Billie Jean's life. It doesn't diminish what MLK Jr. did, but it does affirm and magnify what BJK did, and that's a good and important thing to do.

I don't know if this was said during the tribute, but I'd surely like to know if it was: did anyone link BJK with Arthur Ashe? The fact that these two people, a woman and a black, are the named principals at this complex--one for the NTC, one for the showpiece stadium--is something that intertwines the two legacies. That the fight for civil rights was more fully momentous than the fight for women athletes--and their financial parity--does not mean that a connection made between the two must be said to diminish the former struggle. But in a culture where the trivial often reveals the meaningful, I can understand why a lot of people would perceive remarks to be tone-deaf and incongruent, even if--paradoxically--they were important and insightful contributions to a larger discourse.

Thanks again, Pete, for a soulful and witheringly honest gift of a post that more journalists--in all areas of journalism--would do well to put forth these days.

It might just be (trivial) tennis, not the realm of Middle East policy or the 2006 midterm elections, but your integrity as a tennis writer is profoundly nourishing in its depth and magnitude of authentic humanity. Thank you.

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 11:42 AM

is that true Bobcat? I dont remember Pete's ceremony that well, other than the tears of course, but given Andre's record with Pete at Wimby and USOpen, its no wonder he begged out of the festivities!

the one thing Im reminding myself during all this Agassi-Roddick rah rah mania is; if I dont like it, I can turn it off and stop being annoyed .. pretty simple really..

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 11:44 AM

Hi Samantha, our very own Pamela Anderson! I'm sorry, I insulted you again... I don't even know why I am calling you these...
Anyway, I think your Justine played very well for a first round match yesterday. She definitely has a good chance to get to the finals and even win, if her "fragile mind and body" holds up, you know.
She was hitting the ball very hard, it seems her shots just keep getting harder and harder and her great success is starting to depend on those more and more...beware, she might be turning into a ballbasher with brains! Hmmm...

Posted by Bob 08/29/2006 at 11:44 AM

Very good article. This whole thing could have been done in 20 minutes, and the idea of all this music other stuff was utterly ridiculous. As you note the total fabrication of secretaries demanding raises and refusing to make coffee never happened. It was a total fabrication, and the TV media will fabricate anything in their obsession to perform an American circus of adulation and PC nonsense. I can only imagine some executive whose time is worth $100 per hour saying, "Yes, now that some woman beat an old guy in a tennis match, I'm going to make the coffee, rather than you, who makes $5 per hour. That's certainly a rational application of resources in a fiercely competitive capitalistic world." Some of these statements were utterly ludicrous, as if when enough time elapses, we can re-write history to make this night "so special". This obsession with "gender equality" has always ignored some clear realities of life, and people like King and Steinem, for all the good things they did, were in the forefront of some pretty illogical ideas. This obsession with equal prize money over a few thousand dollars at Wimbledon is an example. King might have been in favor of requiring equal prize money in non-combined events, a ridiculous idea. I don't remember much about it, but the reality was that people didn't find women's tennis as appealing as men's, and they still don't; and she couldn't accept that. It was the emergence of great women players who captured the attention of fans, over the course of many years, which led to the equal prize money in the slams. It had nothing to do with King. I think it's appropriate, but it certainly doesn't bother me that Wimbeldon gives the men a few thousand dollars extra. Essentially, Wimbledon does have equal prize money, and they've articulated a few reasons for the tiny disparity. People like King and the media aren't interested in reasons, whether they involve who makes the coffee, or a few dollars in prize money.

She was a great role model and spokeswoman for women's tennis, but she was a bit overboard, which was one reason she was criticized quite a bit. It wasn't simply a matter of a bunch of sexist women-haters trying to keep women in their place. It was capitalism and freedom of choice in many respects. They totally gloss over that in their obsession to compare her with people who truly were influential in the fight for equal opportunity in America. To compare her with Martin Luther King is ludicrous. She was a very well-paid sports star who wanted to make more money. Her main concern wasn't for women, but for women tennis players, and her match with Riggs was nothing but a fun battle of the sexes which caught the attention of the whole nation because it was so much fun, with Riggs playing his role as the total sexist pig, all kinds of hoopla, and of other nonsense.

She deserves the honor for what she accomplished, but when it comes to world-changing figures, she was anything but that.

Posted by Matt Zemek 08/29/2006 at 11:46 AM

Creig Bryan:

See my post above.

I think there's a middle ground between your position and mine. We need ceremony and ritual, but we need authenticity within the ritual.

I say this as a cradle Catholic, for whom ritual is a tricky thing: awesome when done soulfully and mindfully, but absolutely lethal when treated in a go-through-the-motions trance.

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 11:53 AM

well thought out and genuine post, matt ... you really take the time to get your thoughts out there, with great care and precision ...

Creig, I love that youre so positive and remind everyone to focus on that, its like youre our spiritual guru lol

lets face it, the ceremony was too long, but clearly the USTA wanted to pat itself on the back here, and trot out the big names, etc. so be it ... I still say BJK rocks, Bob, and the world needs more people just like her!

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 11:54 AM

Oooh was Diana Ross on fire??!! Upside down, boy you turn meeee, inside out and, round and round ooooooh babyyy...
C'mon, didn't a little Diana Ross turn you on?? What are you darlings nagging about?? =)

Posted by Matt Zemek 08/29/2006 at 11:57 AM


In a normal, healthy society, the King-Riggs circus at the Astrodome would be a trivial, meaningless event, and all your attendant points would be 100 percent correct.

But in a cultural framework where the trivial all too often (and sadly) reveals the meaningful, and where fictional or safe events are primary movers of truth (as opposed to current events, politics, philosophy, theology, and other elevated arts and sciences), the King-Riggs event and its attached anecdotes/office skirmishes/emotions became a real and living force that did change the country.

Do remember--as we intertwine the legacies of race and gender here--that Jackie Robinson's mere presence on a baseball diamond did not integrate sports in America. No, Jackie had to be RESTRAINED, and he had to be DAMN GOOD to advance the cause of his race.

BJK didn't face quite that level of pressure, but the pressure she faced against Riggs, who--let's remember this!--destroyed Margaret Court three years earlier in the "Mother's Day Massacre," was legitimate and intense. There were real stakes in the match, even if the carnival nature of the spectacle was laughable in its garishness and tackiness. BJK was anointed as the one who would do battle on behalf of women, and she prevailed, on and off the court. She was the torch-carrier, albeit with some reluctance, and once thrust into the spotlight, she didn't shrink from the enormity of the occasion and the responsibilities it shoved into her hands. She persevered. She then toiled. She put forth a voice that, when melded with the great women's tennis talents of the 80s, gave rise to a thriving women's tennis tour. Yes, Chris and Martina elevated the sport, but King's wilderness voice needed to be there in the 1970s (not to mention her consistent mentoring of the very same Chris and Martina) to further the movement.

Posted by kiwibee 08/29/2006 at 11:58 AM

Rain delays again at the open. I guess I won't be able to watch some of the LIVE matches today because I have to work this afternoon..:(

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 11:58 AM

Bob, remember one thing, without BJK, there would be NO women's tour or WTA, and I dont think thats an overstatement ... no Virginia Slims tour, no tennis boom, probably, either... its not about equal prize money, i agree on that .. but she drummed up sponsor interest, fought for the spotlight for women's tennis and got it... no other woman player at the time, not Evert or Goolgagong or Court, had a CLUE about promoting women's tennis ... they just showed up and played and took what they got ..

its all in the history books, but i guess now its all moot, she certainly got her due last night...

Posted by steggy 08/29/2006 at 12:02 PM

kiwi: They'll be starting in about fifteen minutes.

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 12:08 PM

Tim is totally correct...they honored her and that is how it is...she certainly deserved it as much as anybody else and obviously a little more since they did name the thing after her ( I just fiqured lol)...She was a great pioneer for the sport of tennis and for that she deserves it...I don't know much about her other dues but they are a plus of course =), yet I think quite irrelevant, since this is about tennis mostly. bzzz

Posted by trich 08/29/2006 at 12:09 PM

Charlie and Sam, thanks for pointing out the high camera angles. I also picked up on this immediately and thought something looked out of place. If I wanted to feel far away from the action, I'd buy myself a ticket.

Overall, this was an awful opening to the US Open. First, they spend over an hour in prime time televising a ceremony that nobody cares about (why didn't they do this over the weekend in a small community center for those that wanted to be there?) Then they change the camera angles so that watching Agassi is even more of a bore than usual. Am I the only one that is looking forward to him giving his final kisses to the crowd?

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 08/29/2006 at 12:09 PM

I actually missed some of the match because I couldn't believe they would wait to start an actual first round five-set match until as late as they did.

Its fine to name a tennis stadium after a tennis player, especially since BJK's illustrious career spanned the amateur and pro eras, but I remember the 70's, and frankly the sport has not advanced one bit since then in terms of popularity -- multi-colored courts and playing lets had no effect at all.

That said, its hard for those who might be younger to realize how much the players of the time fought against the amateur "country-club" status of the game. BJK, as everyone must now know, came out of a public park in Long Beach, CA. At the same time this was happening, the civil rights momement, including all the gains for women was occuring. BJK was really a product of her times.

However, it could have just as well been the Jack Kramer national tennis center, because without Kramer, or Donald Dell, or Lamar Hunt, there might not be a pro tour now. BJK certainly rebelled against Kramer, but without Kramer there would have been no one to "rebel against."

Ultimately, because of the hype, I'm not sure what the honor was for. They should have let her tennis stand on its own.

Well, enough of that.

It looks like we'll get to see Andre at least once more, although I am the only one who wonders what purpose is served by a "formal" retirement? Come back and play next year in dubs or something if you feel better.

Also, I guess I am in a grouchy mood this a.m. because this taking a bow business has finally gone too far. Andre doesn't get to play this great match if Andrei doesn't show up and give his all too. Its a bit unseemly for the guy who happens to lose being shuttled off so everybody can fawn over the winner.

I could go for it after you win a grand slam, but now everybody, led by Andre and Sharapova, do it after every match they play. The spectators were there for the player who lost too.

HOWEVER, what has not gone to far is this. This may be one of the last times to see Andre do what he does best, which is time the ball. Oh, other players have good timing, but he really is the best. He is able to shorten his swing on both sides so well, you don't really see him do it if you are not looking for it. Its somewhat masked by the fact that he does not really try to mix up his shots that much, like Federer, but he's no Sharapova.

I'm really going to miss watching that.

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 12:10 PM

trich, you are not the only one...

Posted by kiwibee 08/29/2006 at 12:10 PM

steggy:thanks for telling me.Now I'll have some tennis to go with my
Hope you are feeling super duper steggy...:)

Posted by Samantha 08/29/2006 at 12:12 PM

Pete is right, Carillo was ridiculous comparing Billie Jean King to Martin Luther King. This is just another example of Carillo putting her foot in her mouth just like she did when she said Roger tanked the match against Murray. Tennis is a sport, and you can't compare it to the civil right movement. It's a little like comparing apples to oranges. Temes, you're too much, your girlfriend was a fool to let you go. God, this is starting to feel like Wimbledon with all the rain. All the major courts should have retractable roofs. Just heard Tracy Austin's comments, has she EVER picked anyone besides Sharapova has a favorite to win a slam? Give me a break. How can Sharapova be a favorite over Amelie, when Amelie has won 2 grandslams and she has never beaten Amelie, and Amelie is on her side of the draw, talk about hype. Austin and Carillo are a pain, I wish they had the hottie Cliff announce every match. I love his accent and he's such a gentleman. He never has anything bad to say about the players.

Posted by Tim 08/29/2006 at 12:13 PM

However, it could have just as well been the Jack Kramer national tennis center, because without Kramer, or Donald Dell, or Lamar Hunt..

yeah but then there would be NO women's tennis being played, because all those guys were such male chauvenists they wanted to give the women $100 and play the finals on a back court... read your history books, these guys especially Kramer hated women's tennis... geez..

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 12:16 PM

trich, I agree! I think Agassi is so incredibly boring and I wish him all the best and I hope he wins the whole thing but I don't want to watch him because he is so boring bore drop-dead boring OMG...
And I hate ceremonies I simply refuse to believe there is such thing as the academy awards can't they just hand out the trophies and say congrats you were amazing fabulous larger than life and good night? Why in heavens name they have to show it on teli and...kaput geez

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 08/29/2006 at 12:18 PM

I don't have to read any history books, because when I was a kid I went to those tournaments. Maybe you should read yours, because its not like "pro tennis" really existed other than as a total exhibition joke prior to 1968.

For that matter, it ought to be the Gladys Heldman National Tennis Center if honoring the person who was responsible for what is now the WTA tour is the goal.

Look that one up.

Posted by Fan of Tennis 08/29/2006 at 12:27 PM

I'm like a lot of you - it's just plain stupid to have the defending Champion start a tournament on the 3rd day of the tournament for his first round match!

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 12:28 PM

I still watch the red carpet part with my other eye a little, just to see how gorgeus my fav actresses look...that is the only interesting part of the Oscars...

Posted by kiwibee 08/29/2006 at 12:30 PM

Federer will only start tomorrow?Is it because there are too many matches going on?

Posted by Ruth 08/29/2006 at 12:32 PM

Well, folks, I'm leaving in a few minutes for NYC for my annual four sessions of fun at the USO. I'm so glad that the first session for which we have tickets is tomorrow's night session before the rainy weather is SUPPOSED to be all over by then. And I'm particularly pleased that I'll be able to see my man Agassi one more time.

I'll be checking in on the TW blog now and then via the computers at my hotel when I do my daily am and pm e-mail checks, so keep those posts coming!

Posted by kiwibee 08/29/2006 at 12:32 PM

Speaking of Steffi, I think she can still compete and win in some tournies...

Posted by temes 08/29/2006 at 12:34 PM

Does that mean Federer will have play some matches without a day off?! That would be totally messed up...

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