September 13, 2009

Why Serena Williams Losing Might Be A Good Thing

Serena Williams is pissed

I don’t understand tennis. But if I’m right in my analysis that Serena Williams lost the chance to defend her U.S. Open title because of a temper tantrum, maybe her losing was a good thing.

I’ve been saying for years that athletes who act like 4 year olds should be penalized. We all laugh when a baseball manager kicks dirt on an umpire, and its funny to watch. But it’s bad sportsmanship. Even more idiotic is when a batter argues balls and strikes. There is no provision for an umpire to change a balls and strikes call, which means that arguing is pointless. There is a school of thought that says if you get in the ump’s head, perhaps you get the call next time. I would argue that for every call you get because of that, you lose two more because the umpire has decided not to reward the crappy behavior of petulant bratty rich kids, aka the players.

Athletes are generally millionaires several times over. Does that mean they shouldn’t care about a bad call? Of course not. But what we like to call “fire” or “desire to win” can also be viewed as a simple lack of self-control.

When Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” at the President of the Untied States, he said that he let his “emotions” get the best of him. Why does anyone accept that as an excuse? Don’t we expect our children to be able to control themselves enough to not throw a block at another child because they were called, say, a baloney head? The issue at hand may be more important to grown-ups, but if you asked the average four year old which was more important, a perceived playground slight or national health care, I think we all know what the answer would be.

Serena Williams reportedly told a line judge that “You don’t fucking know me! You’re lucky I’m not shoving this ball down your throat!” While no athlete or sports fan wants to see an event decided by a technicality, perhaps Ms. Williams and other athletes will stop and think a moment before unleashing invective at the officials. Take a breath. Calm down. Might this take a bit off their game? Maybe. Or it might get them to focus on playing, rather than degrading someone who is only trying to do their job.

Commenters on Williams’ web site are divided, with some saying that she should apologize, some saying she did nothing wrong. One seems to blame the line judge for causing Serena’s outburst. Um, no. She did it. Whether she committed a fault or not (like I said, I don’t understand tennis) is irrelevant. Act like a grown-up. Control yourself.

Here is video of the outburst for anyone who missed it:

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Serena has reportedly been fined $10,000. I have no idea if that’s a big amount for tennis or not. She can certainly afford it. Whether or not it will drive the message home is something else. Judging by her reaction at the press conference, I’m guessing no.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Image: SportsCracklePop. The pic is from May of 2009, and apparently she told her opponent “I’m going to get you in the locker room for that, you don’t know me.” So the whole yelling at people thing isn’t exactly new.

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