Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Becoming the Change
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Becoming the Change 11/29/2006 - 11:09 PM

So when I was invited to this March of Dimes annual awards ceremony at the elegant and decidedly old-school Waldorf-Astoria, I figured I'd drift on over, maybe get a word with Andre Agassi, who was being honored as Sportsman of the Year. Maybe ask Danica Patrick (the INDY car driver who selected  MoD's Sportswoman of the Year) if she has any strong feelings about him. That kind of thing.

ModWell, it turns out that this annual sports luncheon (23rd, and counting) is a pretty big deal. The March of Dimes is a great outfit; I remember collecting money for them in a tin can when I was a kid, at around the time that the organization was a driving force behind the elimination of Polio.

It wasn't so long ago that Polio was still a heartbreaking, crippling disease, and it occurs to me that  the March of Dimes campaigns may be where the expression "poster child" originated.

I can still remember the children on those "help eradicate Polio" posters - and real, live kids in the neighborhood -  hobbling around in those wretched metal leg braces and crutches.

Hats off the the March of Dimes; these days their primary mission is combating infant mortality and premature births, and the lethal dangers associated with it.

It seemed like half of Media City turned out for this event (the powerful half, including folks like Sean McManus, President of CBS News and Sports and luncheon chairman, Dick Ebersol of NBC sports, Bob Basche, of sports marketers Millsport (and a long-time NBC hand at Wimbledon), David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, Paul Tagliabue, the outgoing NFL commissioner). I got there early, but even the small room reserved for the pre-luncheon media event was soon filling up with network execs and peripheral media types. Oddly enough, there were no working representatives from mainstream media outlets.

Before things got too hectic, I bumped into Bert Sugar, the boxing icon who's a living embodiment of everything that makes The Sweet Science such a compelling and uproarious sport. "The bar isn't even open yet," Bert growled, unlit cigar in his mouth. "Five thousand of these things and I still can't get it right."

Without looking up, the bartender said: "What are you having, Bert?"

Now, that's impressive.

"Bloody." Bert growled.

And what does Bert, the Godfather of Boxing, think of Andre?

"He's not the most colorful in the crowd, but then I liked the Connors and McEnroe era myself. Mac was an okay guy but that Connors - what a pain in the ass. Tell you what I like about Agassi, though - he's one of my favorite clues in a crossword puzzle. It's all those vowels. I'm telling you, he and Felipe Alou (hall of fame baseball player) are my two favorite athletes for that reason."

Hmmmm. . .

But the celebletes were soon drifting in: Billie Jean King, Patrick, a couple of top WNBA players whose names you'll forgive me for not knowing or remembering (Donna Orender, President of the WNBA, was given the MoD Sports Leadership award), Patrick McEnroe, Jim Courier, luncheon chairman Hannah Storm, my old pal Frank DeFord. . . No Andre, though.

I worked the room a little. I got hold of Danica Patrick, an intense woman with black eyes and black hair. She said some nice things about Andre, but nothing interesting enough to quote, or even remember. I caught up with Pat Mac and Jim Courier some, talked dogs with Basche. Hannah Storm, who covered almost 10 Wimbledon tournaments for NBC, made an interesting remark about Andre: "He was a player people really invested in emotionally, he always moved emotion. That's not so common, especially among male athletes."

Billie Jean told me that Agassi's wife,  Steffi, wasn't going to play World Team Tennis next year, because she almost collapsed from nerves in her single outing this past summer. Still, Billie said, wide-eyed, "You should have seen how emotional she was.Steffi! She was running around, high-fiving everyone. In some ways, she loved it." Billie also told me that Pat Rafter probably won't play WTT next year; seems it would take too much effort to stay in shape (Lazy sack of Vegemite, that one, eh?). She said he still has that spring in his legs though; he can get to a wide serve with the best of them. "That's one of the first things that goes, you know," Billie said. "That ability to explode to either side."

Still, no Andre, but you always learn something, talking to Billie.

The room was getting more and more hot and crowded. Official luncheon time was approaching. No way I get to talk with Andre under these circumstances, I figured. Then, I spotted him. He had slipped into the room, and they had him at a table for the official awards photos with his fellow honorees (the fourth honoree was Ross Greenberg, the tennis broadcast pioneer and head of HBO Sports). When they finished with that, they hustled Andre over to do a sit down with Sports New York cable network. I stood nearby and watched. Ever notice that Andre's head is a flat as the deck of an aircraft carrier? It's kind of cool looking, actually. He was a little fidgety, toying with his ring finger, and I noticed there was no wedding band on it. Sure sign of a tennis player who actually uses his left hand.

Aa1When Andre got up, we made eye contact. I stepped forward to shake his hand and he lit up and threw his arms around me, which made me feel good. We've always had a great relationship but for one horrible episode that was no fault of my own, and not worth going into here. Andre was always an animated guy, but he seemed so relaxed and happy at the moment that I had a realization: The Andre we had seen for, oh, the last 18-or-so months of his career was not the man complete. He was operating at perhaps 60 per cent of his natural ebullience, which still throws more sparks than most of his peers in full glory.

Conclusion: The thoughtfullness that we had come to associate with Andre - Oh, those incredibly reflective ruminations on the X's and O's of the game! Oh, those sublimely diplomatic renderings of his thoughts on retirement and career! - had been for a long time colored by tristesse, a wistfulness that dampened his spirit, if not his combative verve, in those waning days.

By contrast, today he resembled a liberated man; the guy who had just completed an enormous job, and done it so well that there was nothing else he could do at this point but exude the satisfaction and pride that accompanies the successful endeavor.

I told Andre he looked great and patted his tummy.

"Oh I'm staying in shape," he said, smiling. "And I'm enjoying it."

Did he watch the ATP Championships?

"Yeah, I did. It was great, I really enjoyed it. It was all of the good and none of the bad. I didn't have to worry about how the guy I was playing next looked, or how this result is going to impact the draw or anything like that. I really enjoyed it."

A sharp-dressed guy thrust a pen and a handful of pictures between us, looking for autographs. "Not now," Andre said, politely and firmly. "This isn't the right time."

I told him about how passionateTennisWorld's readers are; how just mentioning that I might see him today triggered an outpouring of admiration and respect from you all yesterday. "Your fans are dying to hear what you're going to be doing, tennis-wise. Going into the booth to do any commentary or anything like that?"

"No, I don't think so. Not now. I love talking tennis, you know that. But it's not the vehicle for me now. But I'll be around. I'm trying to bring it all together - the business and the philanthropy, tennis and all that ties into. I'm working on bringing that all together so it can impact lives and make a real difference."

By then, a pretty big crowd had gathered around us. One lady who had visited the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy stepped forward and introduced herself. A fellow anxious to get Andre's attention tugged at the back of his suit jacket. Andre fended him off. "I hate it when people start pulling me this way and that."

And the kids? I asked.

"You know what's great? That I can see them on my own terms now. It isn't like, I have this little slot here because I have to go practice now, or go play a match. It's natural."

Someone was flicking the lights on and off, it was time to go into the ballroom for the luncheon. "I better go," Andre said. "Just stay close, we'll talk after."

By then, it was after 1 PM, and I had to be up at my boy Luke's school to pick him up at 2:30. It was going to be tight. It turned out that because I had not planned to attend the luncheon, I didn't even have a seat. So I sat on a chair, back with the wait staff. I thought about Andre, and what a remarkable, seemingly improbable role he had created for himself, carving it out of doubt, confusion, even a measure of self-loathing, it seemed, for in my experience few people who have achieved anything worth remembering have not been hard on themselves, or had someone be hard on them, a pretty good ticket to the same destination.

Mike Agassi, Andre's father, had been hard on him. Andre, from about the time he made his late career resurgence, had been hard on himself. And for all of Andre's sensitivity, and the penumbra of calmness that now surrounds him, you can see traces of, if not exactly hardness, then the smoothness that characterizes a hard object that has been buffed and polished, polished and buffed.

You can see that in the many ascetic touches: the simplicity of his clothing, the measured, almost clipped speech (is there a public man who so precisely says exactly what he means, and always with an interesting, almost epigrammatic turn of phrase?), that embrace of baldness, a condition from which so many less secure men flee. I thought about the top of his head; a stone, worn by water. I laughed to myself.

Aa2The videos and speeches went on, as they're apt to do; Andre was the last and most important person honored.

He was introduced by Jim Courier, who said: "I remember the first time I played Andre, in a 12-and-under event in San Diego. We both had soup-bowl haircuts. Even then, his strokes were so clean, so smooth, the we all knew he'd be a great player. Now we also know he's a great man."

Jim got the laugh of the day when he said that it was tough enough for Andre to be the second best athlete in his household; having seen his kids, Jaden and Jas, on the trampoline in the backyard of the Agassi's home in Las Vegas, Jim also had the feeling that "The way things are going, he'll be sliding down even further on that scale."

And as he was wrapping up his introduction, Jim talked about a visit to Agassi Prep, and how he was struck by one of the many quotations on the wall, this one from Gandhi: Become the change you want to see.

When Andre got to the podium, he said, "New York, you're going to make me cry again."

Then he did something that is typical of Agassi these days. His predecessors on the stage had made nice acceptance speeches. Greenburg spoke about his own family's experience with premature birth. Danica Patrick had spoken of what it was like to be a girl growing up wanting to be a race car driver. Donna Orender had waxed eloquent on a similar theme, but gone on too long and with too much undisguised promotion of the NBA and WBA. Andre said nothing about his career in tennis. He opened his formal acceptance by saying, "Thirteen years ago, I realized that caring isn't enough. Caring isn't doing."

Then he went on to outline his history in charitable work, about how the most important thing he had learned was that you couldn't reach a child in need early enough. He turned the attention of the guests to the March of Dimes, reminding the audience that the group has a "thankless" job, "solving problems that the world will never see." It was a command performance; the charity event equivalent of one of his better post-match press conferences.

It's all post-match for Andre now, but not post-significance. It's probably closer to pre-significance, given his intentions and dedication to fine causes.

It was almost two-thirty, and I was worried about my own child. As the luncheon broke up, I worked my way through the crowd to Andre and told him, "Andre, I've got to go pick up my kid at school, can we catch up some time soon, maybe out in Vegas or something?"

He smiled. "Sure, call me anytime. We'll knock a few down. Hey, what am I doing?"

It was, all in all, a curious thing for him to say for a man who was busy becoming the change he wanted to see.

(Photo credits: Julio Bedoya, Harold Hechler Associates; Getty Archives)

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Posted by D-Wiz 11/29/2006 at 11:15 PM

Can we get a photo of Bert Sugar? I vaguely the remember the name from my childhood, but I can't *quite* see the face in my mind's eye.

Posted by Sam 11/29/2006 at 11:18 PM


Posted by D-Wiz 11/29/2006 at 11:20 PM

G'oh boy! Thanks,, sorta. ;) (not your fault...I asked for it)

Posted by Lucy 11/29/2006 at 11:20 PM

Aww man. Thoughts later. But Pete, that made me a bit emotional. At work.

"Caring isn't doing." Andre Agassi is such a complete human being.

Posted by Tari 11/29/2006 at 11:21 PM

I really enjoyed this post, Pete. It left me with a real sense that all is very well with Andre. Very good. :)

Posted by Sam 11/29/2006 at 11:22 PM

Yeah, I guess he's not gonna win any hott contests. :-)

Posted by momofan 11/29/2006 at 11:23 PM

Thanks for this post, Pete. Andre looks happy, and I'm glad he gets to spend more time with his kids now (who, by the way, are absolutely *adorable*). Go Andre!

Posted by steggy 11/29/2006 at 11:25 PM

Is it just me, or has Andre put on a smidge of weight since September? His face looks fuller (although it could be the shirt-collar; I'm not accustomed to seeing him in one).

Anyhow, the MoD is important. My Dad had polio as a child -- a light case. Even then, he still occasionally suffers from the aftereffects. It's good that athletes are supporting such a solid, worthy organization; one that did (and continues to do) something.

Posted by Lorraine 11/29/2006 at 11:30 PM

wow, Pete, that was great. It's funny, your observation that he seems so much more himself now that he's not playing tennis doesn't seem odd to me. I sometimes think (and thought) that he didn't really WANT to be playing tennis, and that is what all his angst-filled early years were about. It was not until he embraced that THIS was what he was, for good or ill, and somehow found a way to embrace that and define it in his own way, that he found a measure of peace. I think he realized early on that he could use his stardom to accomplish far loftier goals than winning tennis tournaments, and that's what drove him in the last, oh, decade. Did he like winning? Of course. But I don't think it was EVER what he was all about, and THIS is what contributed to his genre-crossing popularity.

BTW, I would have preferred to hear that Andre would find his way into a commentator's booth sometime REALLY soon, but maybe he'll change his mind someday. I really think the game would benefit from his trenchant analysis, but then I'm a completely over-the-top AA KAD... :D

Posted by Lucy 11/29/2006 at 11:33 PM

Random thoughts.

Without meaning to get all "Cats in the Cradle", one of the things I love about retired athletes is that they seem so chuffed about getting to spend all that time with their kids. I think that's one of the reasons Agassi seems so fulfilled. That and the stellar career already behind him and the devotion to greater causes. Pat Rafter's the same, he's talked about how lucky he feels getting to be a hands-on dad, when so few men get to spend as much time with their families as they would like.

On that note, Pat Rafter isn't lazy sack of Vegemite!

It's nice that Andre was thoughtful enough to point out how unsung these people are. I just looked up the polio posters Pete mentioned - I'd never heard of them. (I can't believe that, considering they were an FDR initiative. I mean, I'm not American, but still.) Problems that the world will never see, indeed.

"Agassi" IS a pretty good crossword name.

It's nice, and fitting, that Andre still watches tennis. He did seem like that type.

Posted by Sam 11/29/2006 at 11:45 PM

Great post, Pete. It's wonderful to see Agassi and others supporting such a good cause. It's also nice to see that he understands what is truly important in life.

"Become the change you want to see" - love this quote.

Posted by Lorraine 11/29/2006 at 11:45 PM

I'm a veteran crossworder, and I can attest to the ubiquity of Agassi, which never fails to bring a smile to my lips...

Plus, Pete's right about his flat little bald head. With that, and his big eyes, he always reminded me a LOT of ET...

Posted by Lucy 11/29/2006 at 11:51 PM

Pat Cash ALWAYS pops up in our cryptic crosswords. Compilers just can't get enough of the dual meaning of his surname.

Posted by Lorraine 11/29/2006 at 11:56 PM

I have a mental block about cryptic crosswords. I can do any other kind of word puzzle or word game, but give me a cryptic and I quake before's kinda like my kryptonite.

Posted by AmyLu 11/30/2006 at 12:03 AM

Pete, that post was beautiful, and I think you captured the true essence of Andre - and why he has resonated with me for so many years.

Posted by Pete 11/30/2006 at 12:04 AM

Thanks, AmyLu, and good-nite all.

Rosia - forgive me for not returning you 'allo,'allo earlier. . .

Posted by Pete 11/30/2006 at 12:13 AM

I guess Bert isn't making D-Wiz's revised Hott-Hott list. . .

Posted by abbey 11/30/2006 at 12:14 AM

"It's nice, and fitting, that Andre still watches tennis. He did seem like that type."

you're right, Lucy. i have this feeling that tennis players, when they retire often want to get tennis out of their system (like I think Sampras and Rafter not picking up rackets for quite some time), taking a complete break from it before getting back in the loop of things. but you're right about Agassi, he does seem like the type who will always be involved even right after retirement.

Thanks for the post, Pete.

Posted by D-Wiz 11/30/2006 at 12:22 AM

Picture it: Pete, working the room. Sidles up to Danica Patrick, strikes up a convo, and she has nothing interesting to say. Gah! Doesn't it always work out that way! I'm disappointed in Danica Patrick. Actually, not really, but it really would've been cool if she *had* an opinion on 'Our Andre.' I mean, I guess I just think it would've been cool because she's an American (sorry to the non-Americans) sports figure who's gotten a LOT of attention and it would've been great if she'd noticed a tennis player (an iconic American one, at that). Oh well.

I was never an Andre KAD. I've said this before. But Andre & I grew up together, we're EXACTLY the same generation, and when we were teens we were at at opposite ends of the cultural landscape. Regardless, we both grew up. And I used to look down on him (all that neon, mullet & 'image'). I'm ashamed of that. We both grew up and he's a better person than I am. I know that we don't really 'know' these sports figures. I'm sure Andre is altogether human (read: imperfect). But this guy is truly truly special. Tennis is lucky that he represents tennis and the world is lucky he represents humanity.

Thanks, Pete, for the Andre reminder.

Posted by D-Wiz 11/30/2006 at 12:34 AM

Um....pretty much...NO. No Bert Sugar on this gal's HOTT HOTT list. Not. Gonna. Happen. (sorry, Bert)

Posted by Lucy 11/30/2006 at 12:47 AM

I thought Julio Bedoya from the photo credits sounded pretty hott.

Posted by Sherlock 11/30/2006 at 12:47 AM

Pete, tremendous piece. It's such a joy to be able to read your great writing day in, day out.

Lucy, loved the "Cats in the Cradle" reference. Makes me feel not so old. :) Reading Pete's story, I was turning to jello like I do every time I hear that song. How do you know that song, though?

D-Wiz, beautiful post on growing up with Andre. Although, I have my doubts about "he's a better person than I am", but I understand what you're saying.

Posted by Lucy 11/30/2006 at 12:52 AM

Maybe because I'm not a resident of another planet?

Also, Ugly Kid Joe covered it in the 90s.

Posted by Sherlock 11/30/2006 at 01:00 AM

Ok, point taken. :) But I would venture to say there are quite a number of folks in their early twenties who would look at me cross-eyed if I asked them about something called "Cats in the Cradle".

Ugly Kid Joe? Now I do feel old. :)

Posted by Nancy J 11/30/2006 at 02:11 AM

How Billie Jean King to be talking WTT, and how Andre to bring it all back to the main topic at hand -- the March of Dimes and doing one's part to make a difference (not just talk about about it). I can't imagine anyone who could live with Steffi Graf, not being direct and to the point.

Steggy, I agree that Andre looks a tad heavier in these photos.

I was happy to read a first hand description of Danica Patrick (she looks sooo very petite on TV). I've followed her career a bit, and look forward to her starting to win on the Indy circuit (I think she stayed with Indy cars last I heard...).

I'm still looking for that Connors Frank DeFord article, and was glad of the mention of him (I bought a SI book featuring some of their best articles ever published, and while DeFord's Connors article is not included, several others by him are -- he was and is fantastic).

You have a dream job, Pete!!!!

Posted by Juan José 11/30/2006 at 02:44 AM

Well, it has been a while, but this is a nice enough occasion.

*waves hello to the TW gang, all of whom have been missed*

The Petite Shoe Thrower wrote this earlier: "But speaking of the Internet, if you get a chance, read Pete’s most recent piece. It’s on Andre and very beautifully written.". Since she's usually right on about almost everything, I followed her advice, and I'd have to concur with her asessment. Really, really nice piece, Pete.

Argh, I too join the many who already miss Andre. I sure hope that the guys create enough fireworks in 2007 so that the nostalgia doesn't get heavier.

Take care everyone, enjoy the Davis Cup final. Down here, you can hardly tell they're about to play in the friggin' final; almost everyone believes they're doomed. Everyone except Luli Mancini, who with each day that passes seems like one of the most reasonable people wearing those colors.

Posted by chloe02 11/30/2006 at 03:25 AM

Pete - I enjoyed very much reading your post today. You can wax lyrical about Andre Agassi's sports prowess, his achievements in education, his happy home life (and that's no small achievement!), his contribution to tennis but, even more importantly in my book, he comes across as a helluva nice guy. I wanted to say it's not a bad epitaph but I'm sure for Andre, the best is yet to come.

Hey JJ, we've missed you - glad you've found some time to come back. Hope you're going to post your thoughts as the DC weekend unfolds. More importantly, do you think they are doomed?

Pete, any thoughts on what's going on with the Williams sisters and Richard in the court room?

Posted by May 11/30/2006 at 03:43 AM

Hi, JJ. I was about to email you that you must read this piece…

Posted by May 11/30/2006 at 04:11 AM

I think I can say with certainty that Agassi is one of the most eloquent, intelligent speakers I have ever heard. Not only compared to other athletes, but compared to everybody. He could have made a great commentator, but as he has always done, he will choose his own path, in his own time.

Posted by kingandre 11/30/2006 at 05:47 AM

Hey Pete
Thanks for the post.It made me very emotional.

Posted by Samantha 11/30/2006 at 07:47 AM

There is only one thing I can say. Andre is HOT, SUPER HOT and totally HOT.

Posted by Rosangel 11/30/2006 at 07:55 AM

Pete: Wow! You now know my "real" nickname. Though I'm entirely happy with my TW nickname as well. I really enjoyed this piece. The fact that I'm not American makes no difference to how I view the great American icon that is Andre Agassi: he is truly a big human being, and I'm grateful that you have shared these close observations of him. The world of tennis is truly lucky to have been graced for so long by him. One of the many things that has stuck in my mind about him is that in spite of all the adulation that has surrounded him, he has kept his personal relationships remarkably real. He did not take advantage of his fame and good looks to have a string of meaningless relationships; that kind of thing genuinely seems to have meant nothing to him; he wanted to fall in love, for good or bad, and really has lived by that, as far as I can tell. Quality over quantity. He didn't seem to care what people said about his friendship with Barbra Streisand, either (his Dad said in his book that as far as he knows, that's all it was). For all that Andre has been through, he now seems serene, from your description.

I can't wait for someone to write an up to date biography of Andre. Remarkable that no-one has. All the books I have about him are out of date to some extent (some very). The most interesting (and I think the most recent) of them was Mike Agassi's book, which is also partly about his own life. He, incidentally, raves about his daughter-in-law, Steffi. One of the lovely things about watching some of Andre's matches in recent years, especially at the last US Open, has been those shots of Steffi in the crowd, her inner glow shining out, whatever the score may be.

JJ: sorry to have missed you, but nice to see you dropping by. Hope you are keeping well. See you after your busy period is over!

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 07:58 AM

D-Wiz: Enjoyed your post on growing up with Andre. I was never a KAD of his either, and didn't think much of him at first, but really admire how he has matured and what he is doing to help children now. I also like that despite how rough his father was on him ( had a good piece on that a while back, I'll have to find the link), he seems to be a good father who really enjoys being with his children.

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 07:59 AM

JJ - Good to see you back

Posted by 11/30/2006 at 08:10 AM

Nice to hear from you, JJ, and Tim as well (saw a post of his somewhere in the mix). Hopefully, we can have the whole Tribe at some point during the holidays. Sort of a TW Holiday Party. :)

On the topic of Andre, and specifically Stefanie, it's now easy to see exactly why Andre fell for her. It seems like her whole outward expression lately says it all: strong partner, lover, friend, amazing mother to their children.

Posted by Ray Stonada 11/30/2006 at 08:27 AM

"'Andre, I've got to go pick up my kid at school, can we catch up some time soon, maybe out in Vegas or something?'

'Sure, call me anytime. We'll knock a few down. Hey, what am I doing?'"

I've gassed up my Jeep and am waiting up by 96th Street, Pete. I think we could be in Vegas inside three days. I've got two sleeping bags, some Mountain Dew, and four bags of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Pete? Pete?


PS Thanks so much for this. It made me feel surprisingly satisfied to hear about Andre's satisfaction, the general sense of groundedness. Makes sense he isn't going to jump into commentary - the philanthropy always seems to comes first to him. I hope so much he stays in the public view at least a little though, to continue to remind us of what I think he stands for: the possibility of transformation and and keeping faith in a better tomorrow.

Posted by creig bryan 11/30/2006 at 08:35 AM

Good morning, all.


Thank you for paying attention to where the devil hides.
It's always nuance, that brings truth home. Good post.

Keep Smiling

Posted by Tari 11/30/2006 at 08:39 AM

anonymous=me, again.

Posted by tennisfan 11/30/2006 at 08:46 AM

Wonderful post Pete.

I was not a Andre fan initially when he jumped onto the scene, but in his second "Avatar" I became one. What a great pair, Andre and Steffi!

Posted by Rosangel 11/30/2006 at 09:32 AM

One of the things I appreciate about America is how deeply philanthropy is embedded in its culture.

Given that it can be said that sport, in and of itself, is meaningless, it might be interesting to have a discussion in TW sometime about the rich cultural meaning of sport, and also whether the off-court philanthropic activities of someone like Andre, enabled by the living that he has gained from his sport, make sport more meaningful than it otherwise would be. We certainly like to see our stars involving themselves in charitable causes; even more so in Andre's case where it's clear that what he is doing is living it.

I'm struggling to think of a comparable example in the UK, and that's not meant to belittle anyone's charitable activities.

By the way, the Davis Cup final draw is out:

Friday - Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG) vs. Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
David Nalbandian (ARG) vs. Marat Safin (RUS)

Saturday - Agustin Calleri and David Nalbandian (ARG)
Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)

Sunday - David Nalbandian (ARG) vs. Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG) vs. Marat Safin (RUS)

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 09:40 AM

Here is a link to the article on Agassi that I mentioned. You need to have an SI subscription however, which I no longer have.

Posted by AmyLu 11/30/2006 at 09:42 AM

Ahh, Rosia, from a sociological point of view, I would argue that Sport, in and of itself, is very meaningful -- and that's a discussion I would love to have will all of you (once I finish my papers and can actually focus upon crafting arguments and thoughts).

*waves hello to Rosia*

Posted by AmyLu 11/30/2006 at 09:44 AM

If anyone wants to read the Andre article, I do have a subscription to SI and would be happy to pass it along to anyone who desires to read it.

Posted by Rosangel 11/30/2006 at 09:54 AM

Hi AmyLu: it "can be said", but that's not necessarily what I'd say either - just a "devil's advocate" question.

An article and press release about the LTA's new appointments:

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 09:56 AM

No tears in tennis, No tears in tennis!

Pete, you made my eyes well up.

Next time you see your buddy Frank. Tell him I'm a big fan!

Ray - I'm not invited? Geez.

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 09:58 AM

AmyLu - you are the sweetest!

Posted by Viv 11/30/2006 at 10:07 AM

I first heard of the March of Dimes from reading Tennis magazine, and from both my professional and personal experience (as someone who wore those type of callipers that you describe for the first twenty seven years of my life), the significance of its work is not lost on me.

I think that Younes El Aynaoui is probably the best tennis name for a crossword, especially if it's vowels that interest you.

It's great to hear that Agassi is enjoying life after tennis. Long may this continue.

Posted by AmyLu 11/30/2006 at 10:16 AM

Rosia, I figured that wasn't your view -- I can just provide theoretical arguments and have the weight of my discipline behind me to aruge that Sport is very meaningful for both society and culture. There's even a subfield within Sociology now called Sociology of Sport!

*blushes at Sanja's compliment*

Posted by Essie 11/30/2006 at 10:21 AM

Sam, perhaps is it because Mike Agassi was so tough on Andre that has made Andre a great parent. I can't imagine Andre tearing either of his children away from their mother and friends to send them miles away to live with strangers just to play tennis.

Thanks Pete. I was almost in tears reading that. Best blog you've had, ever, in my opinion. Of course, I love Andre and love reading nice things about him. I truly believe that Andre will eventually be known for his charitable work and tennis will just be a footnote in his biography!!!

Posted by marieJ 11/30/2006 at 10:37 AM

pete, glad to see you made it with andre !
well, i'm sure the guy is going to amaze us in the future with the new goals he has set down for himself...
now he can commit 100% to it, and he's lucky to have a great woman by his side...
if you happen to meet him again soon, i'd like to know how steffy did get involved in his charity, and how she back him up with his new goals...
i wouldn't be surprise if one day he embraces some politics to go further and deeper with the changes he wants to achieve...
agassi for governor sounds good ! did he ever though about it ? go and ask, pete !
we need more mans of good will like him... our worst enemy is i can't do something worth to make a difference, agassi just says the opposite... he goes one step at the time, i don't think he knows where this new road will take him, but i'm sure he'll go the further he can.
you don't get such kind of human beings with his charisma and commitment to his beliefs so often, if he can bring more men and women to his cause, then becoming the change will succed far more than anyone would expect, and if i had to bet some money on someone to get things change, it would be him...
but i'm only speculating, but when i see how agassi has changed, it impresses me...
i don't care if he never turns back to tennis, because he has more important things to do, and that's ok with me.
but if he wants to be involved, i'm sure he would be terrific as davis cup captain ! he has plenty of time to do so many things, i really hope we get some interview from agassi and his new life or just the life he has allways looked for...

Posted by Rosangel 11/30/2006 at 10:45 AM

AmyLu: let's have that discussion when we both have some time. And I would love to read the SI article. What a kind offer!

Posted by Rosangel 11/30/2006 at 10:53 AM

Diego Maradona is on his way to Moscow to support Argentina in the Davis Cup final!

I will have to avoid TW tomorrow until after watching the matches on recording. Can't be at home, unfortunately.

Posted by Lorraine 11/30/2006 at 11:00 AM

I actually saved the SI article on Andre as a Word document (altho' it's got some funky coding going on that i'm afraid to delete in case it deletes everything else!).

I'd be happy to e-mail it to anyone who was interested.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 11:12 AM

thanks very much for the offer. can i get a copy please?

Posted by AmyLu 11/30/2006 at 11:14 AM

Rosia, I just e-mailed the article to you! And looking forward to the discussion.

And ptenisnet, I will do so as well for you - I just formatted it for Rosia. You may get lucky and have two copies of it! :)

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 11:15 AM

morning all

Posted by tennisfan 11/30/2006 at 11:18 AM

I would like a copy too, please.

Posted by AmyLu 11/30/2006 at 11:21 AM

tennisfan, I just sent you a copy as well. :)

I'm off to campus and class, but I'm happy to send more copies whenever I return - or I'm sure Lorraine will send copies too.

Have a very Happy Thursday everyone!

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 11:22 AM

thanks amy. got it.

Posted by tennisfan 11/30/2006 at 11:23 AM

Thank you AmyLu. You have a great Thursday as well and good luck with your papers.

Posted by Rosangel 11/30/2006 at 11:25 AM

Thanks Amy. I will pick it up when I get home.

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 11:37 AM

AmyLu - I'd like a copy as well. I thought I saved it when I red it over the summer, but I can't find it ...

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 11:41 AM

"Sam, perhaps is it because Mike Agassi was so tough on Andre that has made Andre a great parent. "

Essie - I believe those experiences have given him a different perspective on parenting, which he has applied as a parent to the benefit of his children. I also feel that his experiences are at least part of what has driven him to help children.

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 11:47 AM

Hi Sam!

I'm actually surprised that he said he was watching tennis. I would think that that would be too much of an emotional experience, that one would want to put a little space.

The fact that he is doing that is IMO the biggest indication that he is at peace with himself.

Posted by chloe02 11/30/2006 at 11:56 AM

OK so the LTA now has on its coaching staff:

Brad Gilbert
Paul Annacone
Nigel Sears (ex-coach to Hantuchova and considered a top women's coach)
Carl Maes (ex-coach to Kim Clijsters and to Belgian Fed Cup team)
Peter Lundgren
Paul Hutchins (who he, Ed?)
and a soon to be opened £40m national tennis centre

and I read recently that there are only 8,500 under 18 yr olds playing competitive tennis in the UK (compares with 250,000 in France).

What is going to get better results for the UK? More top coaches or more kids at the grass roots playing?

For sure, the LTA have not taken any of the lessons of Mike Agassi to heart. You may be interested to see what advice they are giving to parents of potential champions...

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 11:58 AM

Hi Sanja!

It is nice to see someone at peace with himself as he is. I have come around on Andre quite a bit the past few years. I was never a big fan of him or his game (still not a fan of the latter), but after reading a few articles about his maturation and what he has done philanthropically, I developed a tremendous amount of respect for him. I think that what he has done off the court is much more impressive than what he has done on the court.

Posted by Lorraine 11/30/2006 at 12:03 PM

Sam, I just sent you the SI article on Andre. AmyLu's probably still buried in stats hell...

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 12:04 PM

I liked Andre in the early years because he made my dad mad (with the outfits, hair and earrings on of all things a TENNIS COURT! Heaven forbid).

I will forever love him for that mullet. It was extraordinary.

Owise I feel similar to you.

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 12:06 PM

Thanks Lorraine. I'll check it out when I get home (can't access that e-mail account from work ...)

Posted by 11/30/2006 at 12:10 PM

LOL about the mullet comment, Sanja.

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 12:11 PM

Oops, that 12:10 post was me.

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 12:13 PM

Sam - can't help myself:

Posted by 11/30/2006 at 12:15 PM

OMG, that was hilarious Sanja!

Posted by Lorraine 11/30/2006 at 12:15 PM

andre must have sensed he'd someday have no hair whatsoever (or just "side hair"), otherwise there's no explanation for a coif that violates every known standard of human decency...

Posted by tennisfan 11/30/2006 at 12:21 PM

Same sentiments on Andre's mullet from me too Sam. :-)

Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 12:22 PM

tennisfan: Great minds think alike. :-)

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 12:28 PM

A few years ago - Jim Courier was interviewing Agassi at Wimbledon (more like a montage) and they showed old pictures of the both of them when Andre was sporting the mullet. Jim asked something like: What do you think of that? and Andre said sometimes not having hair can be a good thing.

Posted by Pete 11/30/2006 at 01:12 PM

Sanja: no pic of you bawling for MNP, okay toots?

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 01:14 PM

Sanja caved?
very cool.

We are on a heatt wave.

Posted by tennisfan 11/30/2006 at 01:29 PM

Ptenisnet, Yeah Sanja has agreed to send her pic to be posted on Monday.

Posted by Rosangel 11/30/2006 at 01:30 PM

Did anyone see Andy Murray's recent remarks about the new National Tennis Centre the LTA is opening next February in Roehampton? On Bloomberg news he said "We don't really have the players to fill it right now, and we don't really have the players that deserve to have the best facility to train in. It's so much money to spend when it could all be spent on lower-level tennis." The new centre will have six indoor courts, 16 outdoors, and accommodation for promising juniors. Andy says; "I think it's a great facility but I don't think it's worth having a tennis facility worth £40 million". He backs the idea of more public courts, pointing out that there are hardly any kids playing. Less than 8,500 under-18s playing competitively, according to The Times.

I think I agree with Andy. I have no idea what I would have done if I hadn't (a) learned at school, where we had courts and could use them after school in the summer when it was light (b) had a nearby public park with courts for hire and a best friend to practice against and (c) had courts available on site when at university. With my eyesight I was always a bit handicapped, but even to be able to play somewhat competitively is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can't see where all these hoped-for promising kids to develop are going to come from if there aren't enough public or school-based facilities in the first place.

Incidentally, I hear that Andy Murray has finally had his hair cut, but so far have not seen a photo.

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 01:32 PM

Whoa Whoa Whoa! Who said I caved? I said I was still changing my mind like the breeze. Here and there. Who knows what Monday will bring.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 01:37 PM

Who cares about monday as long as late sunday brings a masterpiece that rivals the mona lisa :-P ? ( we can call it La Sanjaconde)

Posted by tennisfan 11/30/2006 at 01:39 PM


I too agree. Tennis needs grass roots level infrastructure for it to prosper.

Posted by tennisfan 11/30/2006 at 01:40 PM

Sanja, but the breeze is on our side, right? :)

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 01:42 PM

Ptenisnet! Being that I know you know what I think about the MonaLisa - that is NOT a compliment! grrrrrrrrrrrrr That's it no pic. It's ptenisnet fault. You will all have to settle for a pic of him on MNP.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 01:42 PM

That's a very mature outlook from Murray.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 01:48 PM

Oh come on, if you know that, you know I am teasing you.
Just quit stalling and pony up.
otherwise i might have to get steggs to put this picture up as yours.

Posted by Sanja (SSEXS) 11/30/2006 at 01:55 PM

I think that is actually an improvement on the original.

Well we'll see what Monday brings.

Anyhow I prefer to see you in my minds eye as a dark debonair handsome gentlemen stroking his moustache. I don't want this image shattered.

Your insistence on referencing yourself to Bob La Punge suggests that you are subtely trying to tell us that you had a bad adolescence.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 01:58 PM


Posted by abbey 11/30/2006 at 02:06 PM

hi, pete. since you've done andre, i would love to read a piece on steffi. *keeping fingers crossed*

Posted by mri 11/30/2006 at 02:48 PM

Thanks abbey... I second that. A piece on steffi is much deserved for all steffi fans.

Posted by Pete 11/30/2006 at 03:27 PM

Sanja - I agree on the Mona Lisa. She looks like one of those oppressed Italian mamas who wears black and still has to shake her preening, narcissitic son's willie after every time he pees. . .

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 03:27 PM


Posted by Pete 11/30/2006 at 03:28 PM

MRI, Abbey - I have nothing new on Steffi; she would be the catch of the decade for any press pariah. My history with her goes way, way back but it doesn't seem like a rehash at this point would be called for. . .

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 03:29 PM

nevertheless funny pete.
Sanja feels(and I tend to agree) that it is highly overrated and nearly not big enough

Posted by Pete 11/30/2006 at 03:31 PM

Now way, Ptenisnet, I've never even been to Gaza!!!

Posted by Pete 11/30/2006 at 03:32 PM

Yeah, Sanja and D-Wiz, our two "Go Big!" girls, right?

Posted by ptenisnet 11/30/2006 at 03:33 PM


Posted by Sam 11/30/2006 at 03:36 PM

Pete - LOL at your 3:27 post.

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