Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jennifer Capriati: Still battling demons

As a psychologist, I tend to believe that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If for example, I were to meet a gorgeous porn star on the tennis court, my instinct would always be to assume that regardless of how much in love he may be with me, it would be just a matter of time until he goes back to his porny ways. I believe that there is sometimes a sad predictability to human behavior. We do what we know. We have an absurd human tendency to keep repeating the same habits and tendencies.

At the same time, and somewhat contrarily, I also believe in the human capacity to change. Some years ago, a couple of psychological scholars named James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente developed a theory of how people change. They claim that people often start out with pre-contemplation during which they may not even be aware of the need for change. At some point, perhaps in response to feedback, people begin to contemplate change. Once emotionally committed, they make preparations for imminent change, and move into taking action. Relapses occur when efforts at maintenance slip.

I don’t know where in this model to fit Jennifer Capriati. I don’t know if her recent drug overdose is a reflection of the predictability of her past behavior which includes drug abuse, or whether it highlights the difficulties of maintaining hard-won change. Or perhaps some other option that does not fit neatly into the either-or choices I have mentioned thus far, because people rarely fit into our nicely packaged psychological theories, do they? Certainly not when they are battling demons.

In a 2006 New York Times interview, Capriati acknowledged a poor adjustment to her post-tennis life: “I wake up every day, and my life has totally changed…You don’t know what’s your driving force. Is it sponsors, pressure, money, self-worth? Or is it that you really love the game so much that you can’t be away from it?” She admitted spending a lot of time in her head, ruminating on her unexpectedly changed life.

A year later, in a 2007 interview with the Daily News, Capriati seems worse. She admits to an ongoing battle with the twin demons of pain and depression, and sounds almost suicidal: “Sometimes you get to a point where you can’t stop what you are thinking. It’s like you’re being taken over by a demon. You just feel there’s no way out of this space you’re in. It feels like the end of the world.…I want to be off this planet right now, because I just feel disgusting inside. I can’t even stand my own skin, and I just want to get out.”

The lasting impression is of a lost soul who could not find her way following the premature sidelining of a brilliant tennis career. The kind of lost soul who ends up taking an overdose of drugs in a Rivera Beach, Florida condo. Do you know anything about Rivera Beach? Don’t let the Palm Beach County address fool you. Rivera Beach is a poor-assed town, populated mainly by hard-scrabbling African-Americans, and burdened by a crime rate that is higher than the national average. About 30 percent of its occupants live way below the poverty line. It is a sad place to end up if you are a former tennis giant.

The strongest mental images I have of Jennifer Capriati include memories of her incredible comeback win against a depleted Hingis at the 2002 Australian Open, pictures of her partying afterward in celebration of that win, and a photo of her standing next to a happily smiling porn star named Dale DaBone whom Capriati was reportedly boning from 2003 to 2009 (according to Wikipedia).

According to popular celeb gossip site TMZ, Capriati’s recent overdose may be connected to DaBone’s decision to return to doing porn after the end of their relationship. The Capriati family have not made any comments on this. They have however been busy putting out press announcements claiming that this was not a suicide attempt but an accidental overdose. Are we then to believe that the 34-year-old Capriati ended up in Rivera Beach by accident?

Because I try to make this a fairly clean blog that junior tennis players can read, I won’t give you the direct link to an interview by LA porn personality/pod caster named Jason Sechrest who runs a blog called “The Curious Hours”, and who recently did an X-rated interview with DaBone. Suffice it to say that DaBone admits that he left porn after meeting Capriati, but that the relationship was marred by the pestering of the media and by Capriati’s repeated infidelity. DaBone has recently decided to return to the world of porn. Capriati has overdosed on drugs. And the best predictor of future behavior sadly remains in the past.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10:  Jennifer Capriati  reacts to a missed point against Elena Dementieva of Russia during the women's semi-final match during the US Open September 10, 2004 at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)


TennisAce said...

Sometime ago I was watching the 2004 USO match between Capriati and Serena. I recalled saying to myself why does this woman look so manic.

On the one side of the court you had Serena just being serene and then on the other side you had Capriati, just pouncing along the baseline, sweat running down her body, so pumped. She did not look as if she was in the middle of a match. She looked like she was in the middle of a psychotic break.

When I first read the 2007 interview, I thought to myself with the way how the tennis establishment was all over her, I would have thought people like Chris Evert etc would have offered her a coaching stint at one of the academies, but perhaps they are are aware of something that we do not, or did not know.

It is a pity that such a great champion has been reduced to this. It makes you appreciate even more the excellent job that both Oracene and Richard did with their 2 young ladies. There should be something apart from tennis.

tennischick said...

That is exactly why I chose that picture. Capriati always seemed so 'on' it was at times unnatural (in my opinion). I hope she gets the help she needs. And it's time she starts growing up. I don't get why some people are so scared of just growing to f**k up.