Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Serena’s 92K mission: Charity or passive-aggro?

Serena has just announced on her blog the launch of her new 92K mission. The figure refers to the actual amount she was just fined by the ITF (having already paid $10,000., only 82K was reported in the media). Serena says that she plans to match her fine by raising another $92,000. towards her Africa school project. She plans to auction off personal clothing items to include some of the outfits she has worn at Slam events. I wonder if that will include the cat suit? I know some men who would pay for that.

You would be forgiven if you missed the anger underlying Serena‘s statements of generosity. This is an angry woman. She seems to be seething actually. But it is all couched in such passive-aggression that I would not at all blame you for mistaking her charitable fronting for real compassion. Serena seems to be settling a score.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out where she is quoted as making a more honest and direct statement. She claims that she faced “the biggest fine EVER in tennis” for an incident that was “dubbed” an “outburst” during which she was accused of “getting mad and using the F-bomb at a line Judge“.

OK you know I love me some Serena but let’s clear some things up. First of all, what happened in New York wasn’t dubbed an outburst. It was called a complete loss of control. Second, Serena wasn’t accused of merely getting mad and dropping the F-bomb. She was alleged to have threatened to ram the ball down the diminutive line judge’s f**king throat and of wanting to kill her. Look up the clip yourself on you tube.

But even if we go with the unsanitized version of what went down in New York, does this justify Serena being charged a historic fine? Is she the victim of sexism? She seems to believe this as she proceeds to compare her situation to that of two men who behaved badly but were fined less than she was.

First there is the HE who was fined less than half of what she was after “someone in his camp” attacked an official. She is of course referring to Jeff Tarango whose wife once famously slapped a chair umpire. Serena fails to mention that this happened in 1995. Fourteen years ago, Tarango’s fine for his wife’s behavior was considered historic.

Then there is the HE who made arguing with officials “cool”, which can only be a reference to John McEnroe. Except that as far as I can recall, Johnny Mac has paid out countless fines in his career despite never having threatened to kill anyone. Yes he did once accidentally hit a kid with a water bottle which is the moment for which I will personally never forgive him. But Serena doesn’t mention this.

Instead she lapses into self-pity. She had me until she lapsed into self-pity. Serena proceeds to recount the countless unfair experiences she has suffered in tennis to include being robbed of a US Open trophy because of bad line calls, and being unfairly booed by the Indian Wells crowd. Serena then becomes enthralled in her self-pity. She goes from being the strong warrior female making her case of unfairness, to being a sniveling, histrionic victim. She encourages the reader to imagine what it must be like to work day in and day out for 20 years only to see yourself denied a much deserved promotion, which she imagines would drive anyone to their “boiling point”.

She then concludes:  “Well this is what happened to me, and to be honest I believe I reached my boiling point. After yet ANOTHER wrong call I began to wonder- Was I being ‘overlooked’ or wrongly judged on purpose!??? Is this being done to keep me from achieving my best? Why does this keep happening at the same place?”

Serena says she doesn’t mind being fined, that “if” she did wrong she is willing to "accept the repercussions", and all she asks for "is to be treated equal". Earth to Serena: You did wrong, you were fined, and being charged a hefty fee is actually a marker of equality. Deal with it.


Karen said...

TC, you know I love your blog, but I disagree with your take on this. She is mad, yes, but self pity. No. She is, as we say in Jamaica, reached the end of the rope and she is making sure everyone knows it. I know where she is coming from as it does seem as if she has been the target of some really unjust line calls. Up to today I was watching a youtube match of her A005 semis with Sharapova, and there were a few really bad line calls. I also watched youtube clips of her match against Clijsters at the AO03 and she was booed by sections of the crowd after coming back from 5-1 down in the third set. This girl has suffered a lot and has usually kept her cool. I can see why she went ballistic at the Open. Sometimes I too wonder whether there is a plot afoot to get her out of the game (I know that comes to my mind like 5 seconds and then disappears), but you have to see her point. I think of any player in this sport Serena has been the most castigated in terms of how her career has been viewed. She has knee surgery in 2003, her sister is killed and she basically abandons tennis and when she returns fat and out of shape, all you hear is people in the commentary booth and in the blogosphere and so called journalists who call her out of her name and write and speak disparaging things about her. Compare that to Sharapova who just had shoulder surgery and all you hear is sympathy. Henin decides to retire as does Kim and all you hear is sympathy about how tough this sport is and how you need everything and everyone commisserates and talks about how much the Tour needs them, yet Serena gets called out worldwide for trying to make it as an actress and designer of clothes, something that Sharapova seems to get a pass on and they laugh about Henin finding herself and how Kim has found herself as a result of getting married and having a child and coming back to beat both WS. Unless you are a diehard fan of Serena or do not read the nonsense being spouted by all and sundry about the demise of this girl's career, you have to wonder about the intentions behind some of the commentary. I strongly believe everyone should move on. It happened. She apologised and she is trying to find the platinum lining within the dark clouds. We should all do that.

The tennis establishment, and that usually includes media personnel have never been big fans of the WS. One would have thought that with American tennis in the doldrums American media would at least try to rally behind the WS, however, in reviewing the year end standings of the Top 10 women this is what Abigail Lorge wrote about Azarenka. "The Belarusian's play in the first half of the year announced her as a starlet in the making, and the poise she showed in defeating Serena Williams in the Key Biscayne final seemed to clinch her status as the "next big thing" in the women's game: She's athletic and powerful, blond and bubbly.

I have no idea what blonde and bubbly have to do with playing tennis (and frankly speaking Azarenka is certainly not bubbly), but this is only one of many articles that are written playing up not the attributes of players who have beaten Serena, but pointing out that said person is blonde, bubbly etc. You hardly see anything that mentions that Serena was basically hobbling around on one leg and yet Azarenka was beating herself up still trying to win the match. In addition, everyone states that had Azarenka not fallen ill in Australia she would have won that match. Hmm. I guess that is why they play the matches because we all saw what happened at Wimbledon later in the year.

tennischick said...

Guest column coming right up! :-)

Gizelle said...

J, I have to say that I am baffled by this perspective of yours. Weren't you the same one who said in this very blog that you understand why Serena blew a fuse, how she was the victim of so many bad calls that this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back? Okay, not exactly your words, but the essence is there. So it's okay for you (and other people who shared your perspective) to advocate, protest, rationalize or whatever you want to call it for Serena, but not okay for Serena to do so for herself - and in a more detailed, if not spirited way that any fan could ever do it? I'm truly baffled by this shift. What gives?

tennischick said...

Not a shift at all. I totally supported Serena at the time and I stand by that. However if she herself is going to talk about what happened in NY, she needs to speak the truth. I didn't sanitize the event in order to support her. Neither should she.

But mainly I think that she should just let it go. Starting up a charity based on the amount of her fine is pointless passive-aggression in my opinion. Serena is larger than life. She is the AP Athlete of the Year -- and well-deserved. I don't like seeing her stoop to petty pointless digs.