I have to tell you that I enjoyed every moment of Federer’s angry outburst during the third set of his match against Juan Martin Del Potro. It could not have been better timed. Really, I was so thrilled to see it that it didn’t bother me for a second that Federer got so rattled that he went on to lose the match. Sure I wanted him to win 16 Slams, but it’s OK with me that he made it to yet another finals. That too is a measure of his greatness.
And let me take half a minute to congratulate Del Po and all of his Argie fans. When he almost beat Federer in France, Del Po seemed barely able to contain his rage. Actually, he looked as if he could have stuffed a ball down Federer’s throat. Instead, he plotted and planned his revenge.
But enough about Del Po. I want to talk about the Serena Apology Tour, coming soon to a TV screen near you. And why she has no choice but to engage in it. And why no one will expect Roger Federer to join her despite his own potty-mouthed outburst.
If Serena Williams was truly sorry about what she did at the US Open, an apology would have been the first thing to come out of her mouth. It wasn’t. Read her first statement carefully and show me exactly where she indicated that she was sorry:
“Last night everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job. Now that I have had time to gain my composure, I can see that while I don’t agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly. I would like to thank my fans and supporters for understanding that I am human and I look forward to continuing the journey, both professionally and personally, with you all as I move forward and grow from this experience.”
And then it seemed to occur to Serena and/or her handlers that she has a book to sell, one with an unintentionally ironic title. There’s no point in writing a memoir if no one’s going to buy it. And so we have started being treated to the Serena Apology Tour. Here’s the latest version of her apology which now appears on her website:
“Hey guys!!! I want to amend my press statement of yesterday, and want to make it clear as possible - I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lines woman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA, and tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst. I'm a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I'm wrong. I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act -- win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner. I like to lead by example. We all learn from experiences both good and bad. I will learn and grow from this, and be a better person as a result.”
Part of me died inside. I get that she has no choice but to do this. I get that she will be expected to prostrate herself before middle America and beat her ample bosom many many times before she is forgiven. In fact, I expect that she will announce the formation of a new charity any day now, with proceeds from her book going to feed the hungry and starving.
In the meantime, Roger Federer cussed out the Chair for allowing Del Po to unfairly delay making a challenge call and I haven’t heard a peep about him facing fines or any punishment. And I am not for a second trying to equate the situations. Serena’s rage evidenced a loss of emotional control under pressure. Federer’s rage -- actually, it evidenced the same thing. But he did not point his racket at anyone. Or threaten to stuff a ball down the umpire’s throat, if he could.
But my main point is that the Federer outburst will not get commented on because we expect men to behave badly. That’s what makes them men. And although Serena was playing probably the most pressure-filled match of her life, we expected her to comport herself as if she was attending a garden party. And she will go on her Apology Tour to try to convince us that the Garden Party Serena is who she really is.