Your Call, 3.04

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 /by

Mornin'. Today is my last day in the office until next week; I'm heading for Alabama tomorrow after dropping Luke off at school, and probably will post from there tomorrow night. BTW, TennisWorld may get short-shrift over the weekend, because I'll be covering the USA vs. Switzerland Davis Cup tie for the Tennis.com home page (which I hope is your first source for all things tennis). I'll be writing a little more formally, if that's the right word, trying to give readers good match reports and analysis.  But there will be commentary in there as well.

In event, I may simultaneously post those stories at the weblog. The important thing is that you'll have live tennis coverage of the Davis Cup. I'm going to see if Rosangel is going to be around to track the other ties, so that we can be in full Crisis Center mode.

Billie My last post, Beneath the Death Star, elicted some interesting comments and I want to thank you all for being so civil and open-minded, especially when you disagree with something I write. I try to take on tough issues and deal with them directly; sometimes I experience a mild degree of dread as I write a post, knowing the contents will invariably leave some people upset, or create controversy. Those posts, I believe, are the ones that really must be written, partly to keep someone in my shoes honest with himself.  Because while there may not be a judge at TW, there is a jury - you.

Anyway, I just wanted to follow up on a few things from yesterday's post. First, comparisons between the BNPPSFBJKC (Monday night's exo) and the Roger Federer-Pete Sampras exhibition of last year are not really appropriate or relevant. That previous exhibition was a once-in-a-lifetime type of event, and any attempt to compare it to the one Monday is an exercise in apples-and-oranges. That doesn't mean we can't ever have an exhibition with comparable degree of gravitas (something Monday's exo utterly lacked) -  just imagine Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, on New Year's Eve, in a winner-take-all match for a million bucks?

Any number of things might work, but the ones that seem realistic, for any number of reasons, are limited.

I also want to clarify a few things regarding Billie Jean King. She's no knee-jerk "progressive", eagerly pushing a familiar or special-interest agenda. I've often been struck in recent years by the way she makes a point to include boys - a sub-species often ignored by "women's rights" advocates - in her visionary wish-lists.

Billie Jean knows full well the degree to which even as worthwhile a piece of social engineering as Title IX can have painful repercussions - e.g;, successful men's athletic programs in sports including wrestling and tennis have been terminated in order to satisfy a government-legislated mandate to provide women with an equal number of scholarships, even though institutions sometimes must go searching for qualified female athletes to whom to offer those additional scholarship while eager, qualified young men are shut out of the process. It's the familiar quota problem.

Some of you also might be surprised at how patriotic Billie is - in the old-fashioned sense that so many of her supporters find repugnant. This is a woman who values and understands the unique gift of freedom, and who believes passionately in equality for all. There is still a little bit - a lot - of the blue-collar sensibility in Billie Jean, and it's one of the things I most like and appreciate about her.  But. . . my main point was that Billie Jean really needs to be careful about how her name and legacy are positioned and used.

Perhaps it's a just sign of the (economic) times, but I'm not sure that the message sent Monday night re. Bille Jean's pioneering work came off as a particularly admirable or noble one. Does the world really need to thank Billie Jean for helping create a situation in which Venus Williams earns almost half-a-million dollars for batting a ball around with her sister for about an hour? Why would Billie Jean line-up with this somewhat dodgy big-money exhibition; isn't there a better way to employ the Billie Jean King Cup concept - some event, perhaps even a professional tournament, that hits all the right notes. How about a competitive, prize-money based, mixed-doubles tournament, with a strong charity component to attract the Federers and Williamses of this world?

All other issues aside, the point is controlling the message. And if you want an appropriate comparison, just look at the late Arthur Ashe. He was a master at controlling the message, and it has helped keep his legacy absolutely sterling.

Anyway, here's the Your Call for today. Let me see if I can get a red-meat post done for you as well.

- Pete

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