Saturday, September 18, 2010

Did Johnny Mac cost his brother a job?

Andy Roddick of the U.S. reacts to a call in the fourth set of his match against Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)During the US Open 2010 second round match between Andy Roddick and Janko Tipsarevic [the match that Roddick lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (4)], John McEnroe became lethal in his criticism of Roddick. Throughout the match Johnny Mac kept up the negative comments on Roddick’s crappy shot selection, defensive baseline play, and unintelligent court positioning. And at the lowest moment he noted that Roddick was playing like a 14-and-under player. Every single word of criticism was accurate and precise. In fact, Johnny Mac’s observations helped prepare the viewing audience for the fact that Roddick was about to lose the match. And he did.

Sitting next to Johnny Mac in the ESPN commentator booth were two men with conflicting interests. The first was Pat McEnroe, John’s brother and the Captain of the Davis Cup Team of which Roddick has been a reliable and dependable member for many years. Indeed, Roddick helped the US Davis Cup earn a Championship in 2007.

Which is probably why Pat seemed so uncomfortable and frozen, caught in the middle of an alliance to his player and the reality of the accuracy of his brother’s pin-point comments. It’s not that Pat was being baited into making negative comments himself. Johnny Mac was running his own show, telling the truth as he saw it. But Pat may have felt in a conflicted position. Nothing else explained why he tried to make such a big deal out of Roddick getting called out for three foot-faults. It’s like Pat was looking for a redemptive moment and grabbed on to it like a man drowning.

In the meantime, Johnny Mac kept up with the lethal commentary on Roddick’s sucky play and bratty behavior. And Johnny Mac should know. He wrote the book on Bratty-ism.
The other man in the ESPN booth was Brad Gilbert, Roddick’s former coach. Ever since they parted ways, Brad has seemed to go to lengths to be circumspect in his comments about Roddick. He doesn’t blast him. On the contrary he often recalls their glory days – and they were. Gilbert is the only reason Roddick has a Slam win under his belt. Knowing this may be a factor in why Brad always tries to find good things to say about Roddick’s play.

But I have long had the impression that Andy Roddick is the elephant in the room that you’re not allowed to talk badly about if you work for ESPN. He has been America’s great tennis hope. He attracts huge corporate endorsements, the type that allowed him to pick his wife out of a Sports Illustrated catalog. He is a powerhouse in American tennis.

But in my opinion, The Boor is an abusive bully who repeatedly disrespects and sarcastically insults umpires (“Call 1-800-ref”) and gets away with it. He seems to get linespersons changed at will – the poor woman who called the correct foot-fault but named the wrong foot was soon sent summarily packing. (If only a woman tennis player had that power!) Roddick is in my opinion an undisciplined arse-hole whom coaches seem to soon find unmanageable. No wonder he’s been through a string of them.

But we’re not allowed to say any of this about darling Andy. We’re supposed to talk about how charitable he is (never mind the negative whispers), and about how beautiful his wife is, and about how great and exciting he is for American tennis.
So when John McEnroe decided to blast through the bullshit and speak the truth about the horridness of tennis he was observing – when he pointed out that all Roddick did was grind the ball endlessly back and forth, had no tactics or shot variation, remained planted well behind the baseline from, and took no chances (you know, the way 14 and under players tend to do) – well John seemed to have broken a cardinal rule about tennis commentary when The Boor is on the court. And my theory is that this is what cost Pat McEnroe his job.

I am not saying that Pat McEnroe got fired as Davis Cup Captain. He gave as his reasons for resigning that he wants to focus on his family and on his job as head of player development for the United States Tennis Association.

But I find it interesting that he announced his resignation a mere four days after the Roddick-Tipsarevic commentary drama. And I also find it interesting that he announced his resignation before completing the mission to Columbia where Querrey – another player who also plays Roddick-style, 14-and-under tennis – has already taken a drubbing against some nobody named Santiago Giraldo.

And to round out my conspiratorial thinking, isn’t it interesting that Andy Roddick has also withdrawn from the Davis Cup Team? He says his knee has a boo-boo. But I can’t help but wonder if he may have felt betrayed by the brothers McEnroe and may have demanded Pat’s head on a platter.


TennisAce said...

Hey chica, I just saw your post over at my blog. I usually just write my thoughts on tennis there as it prevents me from filling up other people's blogs with my never ending thoughts. Most of my rantings have to do with the lack of women's matches on tv, as against the ATP so nothing too earth shattering there.

Thanks for the read and I hoped you found it enjoyable.

I want to think that JMac had something to do with PMac stepping down but not for the reasons that you have stated. There was an article in the NYT sometime ago about JMac wanting funding for his own academy and PMac was not open to the idea as he did not think it was worthwhile for the USTA to be funding a private coaching facility.

In the end JMac got his way. He picked the players that he wanted in his academy and he will be providing coaching at his own academy independent of the USTA system. Not sure how that would work but there you go.

For all the talk about how much money is being put into tennis by the USTA, save and except for when the US Open rolls around, you do not see these talents that people are speaking about. Hopefully they will manifest themselves before too long.

tennischick said...

That makes sense that Pat Mac would want to dedicate his energies to developing the USTA program. And certainly there is no arguing that after 10 years, he has given Davis Cup his best. But I prefer my theory for the simple reason that there are enough tennis students and tennis schools that the opening of another tennis academy is not an earth-shattering development. That said, I've been shocked that ESPN has been allowing Johnny Mac to plug his school so openly. I wonder who's funding this endeavor?

TennisAce said...

I think it is actually the USTA which is funding it, which is why both brothers were at odds because PMac did not think that USTA funds would be best served to invest in an academy for developing players when that is the mandate of the USTA. I will see if I can find the article. Not sure if it was one of Pete Bodo's articles or what.

tennischick said...

I'm talking about something different though. Pat hasn't quit his USTA job. He quit Davis Cup. I am openly speculating as to why.