Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Tennis Moral High Horse

So the US Open concluded last night after a weekend of rainouts. The men's final saw the end of Roger Federer's incredible win streak of 40 matches come to an end to a 20 year-old from Argentina in Juan Martin del Potro. As much as Amy's devotion to R-Fed can rival my allegiance to UK athletics -- in other words, fanatical -- I have to admit he is one gracious guy and a heck of a champion. And this shot in the semis against Novak Djokovic is one of the best tennis shots I have ever seen.

Federer did get uncharacteristically perturbed at one point and actually cursed at the chair umpire over del Potro's late challenges. But given the verbal assault that Serena Williams put on the poor linesperson from her semifinal on Saturday, Federer's outburst was incredibly tame.

Amy & I talked a good deal about the Serena tirade. For both of us it will be hard to pull for her again as a tennis player. Even though she has always been less than gracious to her opponents, Serena seemed to have grown up over the past couple of years. Until Saturday anyway...

The problem I have with the Serena situation is not so much the outburst, but the complete lack of contrition she showed until 2 days after the event -- when it was obvious that the media and fans had begun to backlash against her. Only then did she come out and apologize for her actions.

I don't mean to sound like an old curmudgeon. Nor do I like to give too much credence to the argument that our culture and society are going down the toilet. I think part of it is that times change, attitudes change, and we are slow sometimes to accept change.

But the Serena tirade, the Joe Wilson classless outburst during Obama's speech last week, and the Kanye West incident at the MTV Music Awards this week all have one thing in common -- an attitude that only takes oneself into consideration and not others. So even if we are not going down the toilet, there is certainly a lack of respect that is bothersome.

GJ called the house last night to mention that Charlie Gibson had a piece on ABC News last night about this very issue. Today, David Brooks echoes some of the same points in his column that bemoans the lack of modesty in our culture today, contrasting it with 1945 after Americans remained humble despite being victorious in WWII.

I suppose people have been complaining about the eroding respect for other people for generations. And I imagine everyone has his/her own opinion on what the solution is to turn attitudes around. For me, a starting point is teaching my kids not to tell an official in a sporting event that they'll shove an f'ng ball down the official's f'ng throat when a call doesn't go their way.

(Stepping down from soapbox now.)


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