Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Defense of Serena Williams: Wouldn't You Get Angry if a "Line Judge" Cost You Over $1Million?

Serena Williams is a tennis player, and apparently a very talented and famous one. I think she might have appeared in some commercials, although I'm not much of a follower of professional sports, especially when those "sports" have judges.

Watching two people hit a ball back and forth over a net holds little appeal for me.

That said, I did hear that over the weekend there was some kind of major televised tennis "event," or "championship," at which Ms. Williams was a star attraction. During her match with a woman with a name I cannot spell (so I will copy and paste it from this article)-- Kim Clijsters-- she apparently became angry with a call made by someone called a "line judge." Here is the video:

According to this article,

Tantrums are a part of tennis. But the foot-fault tantrum appears to have a special place in the tennis world.

Perhaps this is because the rule is so inconsistently enforced. A player must not touch any part of the service line during a serve, yet line judges often ignore infractions.

What's more, some players say there is an unwritten rule that – just as hockey referees call nothing but the most blatant penalties in overtime playoff games – tennis officials should ignore seemingly ticky-tack infractions like foot faults when stakes are high.

You have an inconsistently enforced rule that is called toward the end of a competitive game. You have professional athletes who are paid to be aggressive in their competition with one another. You have an "official" who can basically make any call she wants, at any time (at the start of the first "set," or on a "match point").

And when the competitor, whose ranking and therefore earning potential is at stake, becomes angry with what she believes to be an unjust call, she is throwing a "tantrum."

Serena Williams can't believe how ridiculous this situation is.

I don't buy it. Judges, referees, and umpires have far too much power in professional sports. Criticism of them, even if it is justified, is met with fines by the professional sports leagues. Players are powerless to do anything about their antics.

Imagine your frustration if you had proven yourself as a professional athlete, risen to the top of your field, and were forced to submit completely to someone who had total authority over you. And it didn't matter how good you were- a game could hinge on an arbitrary call made by a non player. Might you say something like, "I'm going to shove this [deleted] ball down your [deleted] throat."

Do you really think you'd mean it? And if someone had just said that to you, in those same circumstances, would you think she meant it?

Now, she's offered an apology for the "incident." Apparently, it might not be enough.
Williams and sister Venus won the women's doubles crown Monday. Fans cheered the US duo but booed when award ceremony host Patrick McEnroe tried to ask Williams about her apology.

"What I think the crowd is saying, Patrick, is 'Let's move on,'" Venus said.

That could be easier said than done with a Slam suspension possible from the continuing probe and the possible loss of Slam prize money. Serena Williams won 350,000 dollars from her singles run and shared 420,000 more from doubles.

Professional athletes have a limited window in which to earn their money. Their bodies deteriorate and eventually they just can't play competitively anymore. They need to make as much money as they can, when they can.

Ms. Williams made $350K for making it to the semi-final. If she'd won, she could have gotten $1.6 million at least, and possibly $1 million more.

That's a difference of $1,250,000- minimum. On one foot fault call. If someone made a call that potentially cost you over $1.25 million, would you get a little angry?

Would you throw a "tantrum"?

And on top of that, more fines could be on the way.

Bill Babcock, executive director of the International Tennis Federation and a member of the Slam administrative committee, said it will take several weeks to completely investigate the match-ending meltdown.

"It's a legal process so there's time for notice, so there are weeks if not more," he said. "There can be suspensions from Grand Slams and fines of up to 250,000 dollars or more."

"A legal process"? Seriously? Are the police getting involved? Did the line judge really think she was in danger of having a ball shoved down her throat? Does Ms. Williams have a history of such behavior? Does she carry her racket with her to club and smack people around with it? Does she use it to hit balls with such force that they literally fly down her enemies' throats?

Tennis is, apparently, a sport for only the most delicate and genteel sorts.

For this, Serena Williams could lose millions of dollars and face suspension. For THIS.

First Pic source.
Second Pic source.


shampoo said...

didn't john mcenroe use to do the same thing all of the time? was he treated as severely (i really do not know)?

but if I had to pick between him and serena as to who would actually cram a tennis ball down someone's throat, I am going with john. haha still, I hope serena doesn't get into too much trouble.

Anonymous said...

whatever happened to sports being a "past time?" as in, a way to pass your time, not a way to lose millions of dollars...