Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Getting stuck in the same old same old

Some years ago when I lived on a small island, I used to play tennis on the public courts. There was a particular coach whose children were all super-talented players. But they all cheated. Despite being better than everyone else, they seemed unable to do anything other than cheat. They would call balls out that were clearly in, and would physically fight and beat up anyone who challenged their line calls. They were a scary family – but boy could they play tennis. Every single member had talent to burn.

Because of this I found myself reluctantly involved in helping one of the younger sons secure a scholarship to a tennis academy in Florida. To be honest I had my misgivings. But I also hoped that being transplanted to another environment with different mores and influences might help him to mature and blossom into a decent human being. After all, he was already a very talented tennis player.

But deep inside I kinda expected the worse. I knew as a psychologist that people do not really change unless they are truly motivated to do so. I believe that sometimes people get stuck and genuinely do not know how to go about creating change. Despite being miserable, they cling to the familiar and avoid taking the risks required to change.

In the end the junior was sent packing back to the island after less than a semester abroad. I never found out the official reason why because the father promptly moved his clan to another part of the island. But of course rumors abounded. The junior had beaten up the child of a US Senator. He had stolen properties belonging to other students. He was unruly and ungovernable. He had lied and cheated too much.

When I did run into the boy – it’s hard to avoid people on a small island – I was shocked to discover that he had become obese in such a short period of time. Other rumors later emerged that he had stolen so much junk food and had gotten so fat that they had kicked him out of the program. To this day I have no idea what really happened. But I believe that whatever went wrong must have involved his lying and stealing.

My point being that people don’t really change – unless they really really want to. Because change is hard. It requires much courage and introspection, qualities that I would not expect a young junior to have. If he lied and cheated on the island, of course he would lie and cheat off it.
And although Venus is not a young junior by any stretch, I found that I did not expect her to change following her return to tennis. I knew that the conversation at this year’s Wimbledon was going to be about her outfit, because Venus has had a long history of making sure that the tennis conversation is always about what she is wearing.

This year’s fashion choice, like all of the others that preceded it, is ghastly, cheap-looking, and poorly designed. That’s all I’m going to say. Find any of my previous columns ripping Venus’ fashion choices and just rinse and repeat. My point being that people do not change. Unless they really really want to.

And because so much of the conversation continues to revolve around Venus’ semi-exposed backside and the color of her panties – so what’s new – folks may have missed a far more important issue, which is that Venus almost got said backside handed to her on a platter today by the 40 year old Date-Krumm. That’s really what we should be talking about, isn’t it? 

Did you see Date-Krumm? At 40 she looks younger than 30, is fitter than 90% of the players on the WTA, actually looks like an athlete, and plays a flat but effective tennis game. It was wonderful to see her old-timey style of tennis being potent against a big hitter. Some of Date-Krumm’s returns of serve left me speechless.

But just as Venus seems to have become stuck in making sure that her clothing is always a topic of conversation, tennis commentators too seem to have become stuck in complying with said conversation. Rather than comment on the fact that Venus seems to be a step slower, her responses a tad delayed, her returns a bit less potent – once again commentators ignored all of this to focus on Venus’ knickers and her open back. Really? Was that the most important thing that happened today?


TennisAce said...

Not all tennis commentators focused on the negatives. Steve Tignor has a wonderful recap of the match and it never even mentioned what either player wore today.

I agree that Venus' return was not as potent as it usually is. She was also a step slower and some of the commentators did mention it on the TC recap. However, that may have been because Kimiko was playing lights out tennis. I have seen Venus' matches in Eastbourne and many people have said that she is playing much better than Serena. In addition, I think once she got going she was able to overcome Kimiko's kamikaze-type game and get the win. At the end of the day that is what matters. The win

Klaas said...

Who cares what they are wearing when the tennis has that quality. Anyway, Venus' dresses are designed to promote controversy, which usually translates in lots of media attention. Smart girl, that Venus.

What matters here is, that as usual, adversity brings out the best in the Williams sisters. I am pretty sure that that iron resolve was drilled into them in their young days by their remarkable father, while growing up in a difficult neighborhood. They thrive on the odds stacked against them. You have to admire them for that.