As a child I used to absolutely dread 60 Minutes. Something about that ticking noise just signaled the end of the weekend and on to (what I thought at the time was) boring programming. (Let it be said that I have since had it in my DVR recording list several times — my, how time changes our tastes.) But I do recall one episode getting my attention. It was that of two young females of color swinging tennis rackets in Compton, California. At the time I remember watching and thinking — even in my early teens — “how absurd a thought…to believe that you can will and practice your kids into someday becoming great at a sport. And in an environment where they have no competition!?! What a silly, silly man.
Goes to show you how much I know.
History will reflect upon that 60 Minutes story, but my guess is the emphasis will be placed more upon what they’ve accomplished. It’s an incredible story. And as much as it flies in the face of my campaign to get parents to stop living their sports dreams vicariously through their children and, in some cases, treating them like Thoroughbred horses more so than 10 and 11-year-old kids, you almost can’t argue with success.
I’m not a huge tennis fan. I understand the game and I can hold my own on the court. I remember the days of glory with Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Borg and Becker, but I don’t understand all of the nuances of the game. Moreover, I don’t really feel that tuned into the “culture” of tennis. What are the “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to players. There seems to be this code of ethics and behavior that tennis shares all to it’s own. The relationship with the line judge. The ball people running back and forth. When you can yell and when you can’t. Very strange. But there is one thing that is universal to all of sports: good sportsmanship.
I witnessed two extremes this year at the U.S. Open. The first was a rather chance viewing of Andy Roddick in and early bracket match against Justin Gimelstob. Of course I knew who Andy was. But who was this tall guy across from him? Can’t even pronounce his name. Gimelstob?? Turns out this was Justin’s last Open and Andy was a good friend. Andy turned up the heat, but Justin was playing to win. Every point. Every serve. Right up until the break. And when Andy scored the final blow, They met in the center court. As Justin extended a very gracious hand to Andy….Andy, in a true act of sportsmanship, reached across and hugged his good friend. They did a very warm, heartfelt interview afterwards and I felt a warmness for Justin Gimbelstob that was incredibly odd considering the fact that I couldn’t say his name an hour prior. But for me it was the sportsmanship. It was the incredible way of handling victory and the even better way of handling defeat. Some folks just have it — it takes a big heart to go and hug someone else who has what you want. To be genuinely happy for them. It’s a true act of selflessness.
On the contrary, I heard the news that Serena lost her match against what appears to be her nemesis in Justine Henin. From what the news folks are saying, she just can’t figure this girl out. And once again she went down in defeat. Continue reading ‘Something to Be Said For Beauty In Defeat’