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Serena’s Meltdown

September 25th, 2009 No comments

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days at the US Open this year. Alex and I snagged courtside seats to some of the play, and less-than-courtside seats to other matches. But despite the superb seats we enjoyed for the women’s final, it couldn’t possibly match the excitement of Serena Williams’s much-discussed meltdown in the semifinals. Just in case you aren’t a tennis watcher, I’ll give you a quick recap. A linesman called a foot foul on Serena bringing the game to match point. Serena berated the linesman. Serena got a point penalty and thus lost the match.

Obviously, the details complicate the situation. Serena had already been issued a penalty for breaking her racquet on the court out of frustration earlier in the match. Thus, there was little room for the officials to look the other way when she lashed out again. The second penalty might not have forced her out of the game but its coming on match point was an unfortunate concurrence of circumstance that effectively ended the contest.

Serena has repeatedly refused to apologize to the linesman but did make a statement showing regret for disappointing her fans.

While Serena has been much-maligned in the press, I’d like to suggest her behavior, while certainly unsportsmanlike (the USTA still seems bent on using exclusively masculine pronouns for their descriptors) hardly warrants a trip to the gallows. She paid her fine, she won the doubles match the next day, let’s all move on.

But, of course, that’s not what’s happening. Interestingly, Roger Federer exhibited some not-too-sweet behavior before losing in the men’s finals. Federer seemed furious at a line judge too at one point in his match. After the judge told Federer to cool it, he said, “Don’t tell me to be quiet, ok? When I want to talk, I talk. I don’t give a f*ck what [del Potro] said.” Roger, though, received a significantly smaller penalty for his actions than Serena did for hers.

So what’s up with that? These two tennis stars were certainly both out of line (pun!). One is getting the crap kicked out of her by everyone from sports writers to announcers like former tennis bad boy John McEnroe. The other just keeps smiling down on the rest of us from a billboard advertising NetJets private aviation. We all know where this is going, right? Serena’s a black woman from Compton. Roger is a white metrosexual from Switzerland. But the difference in our perception is more complex than White European Male versus Black Female of African Descent. The other figures involved in the respective conflicts also color our understanding of the conflict and inform our understanding of the role race played in these two scenarios.

Roger’s little tirade was directed at the chair umpire, Jake Garner, a decidedly white dude. His comments were provocative but came accompanied by no correspondingly aggressive body language. Serena’s situation was markedly different. She stepped commandingly towards the linesman, pointing her racquet at her, warning her that she would, “shove this tennis ball down (her) throat.”

Let’s all agree: That’s not nice. But nor is it in any way the same as Serena threatening to “kill her” as the linesman supposedly stated. I do believe the linesman was intimidated by Serena in that moment. But was she intimidated by her actions, or by her person?

The image of a tall, incredibly muscular and strong black woman angrily approaching a diminutive, seated Asian one is rife with crucial sociological considerations. How do tennis’ (largely white) fans and commentators come to understand the strong visual contrast at play here? I suspect it’s in the nature of many to see Serena as the oppressor, the dominant force and the linesman as the victim, the meek Asian. Nothing could be further from the truth. That linesman’s call of a foot foul was a determining aspect of the match. I don’t believe the call was correct. And even if it was, I don’t think match point is the time to call a foot foul unless the transgression of the line is glaring and allows for a real and significant advantage over one’s opponent. Reasonable fans can disagree on this, of course, but an eloquent analogy for the call was drawn by Dave Zirin in his superb post on the Serena meltdown on edgeofsports. You can read his entry here. Therein he compares the call by the line judge to, “calling a technical foul in Game 7 of the NBA finals with the score tied in the closing seconds.”

The linesman made a bad call, one many would consider to be unforgivable at the very highest levels of athletic competition, and yet Serena had no recourse. There is no electronic review on a foot foul. Serena tried to maintain her composure, and then she cracked. She lashed out at the person in power who had wronged her; that response was conducted in an inappropriate and counterproductive way. Could Ms. Williams have made a better choice? Uh, yeah! And I know that is so because there too have been moments in my life when an individual in power has wronged me and I was left feeling that my only option was to admit defeat or punch that dude in the head. That line judge had swiped from Serena what little chance she had to reclaim the possibility of victory. So, Serena did some head punchin’ sans actual fisticuffs. But Kim Clijsters too was robbed, denied the ability to win her final point at play. Clijsters was left with a victory by TKO – unable to savor her justly deserved win.

In this year’s women’s semifinal, everyone lost.

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Poor Jasper

September 22nd, 2009 1 comment

This Saturday I sat through the Public Theatre’s production of Othello. In it, Philip Seymour Hoffman wears a tight green sweater. There are lots of really strangely over-amplified voices bouncing about (who is talking? Oh, its that mousy one in the corner!) and everyone dies from being impaled by a bic lighter. Also, its 17 hours long.

After that I ended up in the country at a friend’s horse farm. Jasper has a grand ol’ time until someone noticed his little right front paw was bleeding. He had torn his claw out – which is supposed to be painful – whilst running around the yard. He was unfazed. He seemed more perturbed at the fact that the game of catch had ended than at his injury.

We went to the vet today who prescribed medications and cleansing baths. Also, he is making Jasper wear this:

jasper with plastic collar september 2009

I mean, is that not the saddest thing you have ever seen? The poor guy is taking it like the l’il champ he is, but I still feel pangs looking down on him.

Today I did some tutoring and was introduced to the show “Beauty and the Geek.” Have you seen it? It was on back in the day and apparently a new season is coming out. In it, ugly guys pretend to be smart and beautiful people are shockingly, is this for real?, dumb. One girl had her occupation listed as “babysitter.” You should hire her if you want your children set on fire by a stray curling iron.

xx

-B

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Welcome back

September 16th, 2009 No comments

Summer has drawn to a close and I’m back on the blogsphere. Yes, I know, you’ve missed me. Well fear not, long and “important” reflections are coming your way in a few days. But today, lets ease back into things, shall we?

What’s the single most important moment of the week? Clearly its Kanye yelling at Taylor Swift. In case you missed it, Taylor Swift won a VMA for best something. Kanye West grabbed the mic away from her and said Beyonce should have won. Cut to Beyonce looking like a pillhead receiving a backhanded complement. Then Kanye ambled off-stage right and a bunch of people booed. Taylor Swift looked really sad, and stuff, and then something else happened but I’m not sure because Viacom pulled part II of the clip from YouTube. Apparently she performed America the Beautiful. Oh wait, that was David Archuleta at the US Open. My bad. Also, Obama called Kayne a “jackass” when he thought he was speaking off the record. Whoops.

Mike Hale responds to the controversy here. In his piece he makes some stunning discoveries. Did you know that performers sometimes fall victim to “hubris?” Or that we Americans have an “addiction to artificial drama?” You didn’t? Well, as Biggie once said, “if you don’t know, now you know [unprintable naughty word]…”

Mike Hale goes on to call Barbara Walters a “vampire” and suggests that perhaps Kayne created the whole controversy deliberately to sabotage Jay-Z’s recent album drop. Along the way, he suggests “Middle American sensibilities” were represented somehow in Kanye’s apology to Leno. Huh? I read the sentence three times and still can’t figure out what the hell he’s saying. But I do know he’s not gonna let YOU stop HIM from sayin’ it!

While Mr. Hale doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know, he does reveal that he is angry as hell, and he’s SO not gonna take it anymore. He writes about Taylor Swift like she’s an old slag whore, suggesting she’s “…obviously tough as nails.” Really? ‘Cause to me after Kanye insulted her she looked a little bit like a 19 year old girl who was about to cry. Like burst into tears, sob-fest 2009, deluge of salty salty sadness.  The fact that she went backstage and pulled it together to perform five minutes later is, I think, pretty damn awesome. Though I’m now used to anything and everything going wrong in performance (and those of you who’ve seen me on stage know calamity often ensues just as I make my grand entrance), I don’t think I could have so easily come back to pull off what she did when I was just beginning my professional career.

So Mike, if you’re reading this, we get it. Americans are, mostly, dumb. Kanye is deplorable. Taylor Swift is a shape-shifter who will go TrueBlood-style on yo’ azz. But here’s the weird thing about celebrities and award shows and talk show appearances and reality tv. Sometimes shit happens and you’re like, “oh shit, wtf is going on” and then you react, sometimes by bursting into tears or drinking too much and making a jackass of yourself. Basically, its a lot like real life. Plus cameras. Sure, there are differences. The bar is top shelf and hangers-on blow a lot of smoke up your ass. But at the end of the day you’re like, ugh I need some Pepto, and my dogs are barking, get me outta these shoes… just like the rest of us. So when I look at Taylor Swift, I think I’m seeing something different than you. Sure, the girl’s ambitious. And she’s pretty (but she does need to eat something, let’s all PLEASE agree on that). But she’s also a 19 year old young woman. And she’s a lot more like any 19 year old young woman in Idaho than she is like a bullet-proof, transformers version of Judith Regan. All I’m sayin’ is, lets keep it real.

xx

-B

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Horses stampede, but not for me…

September 1st, 2009 No comments

Well the weekend has come and gone yet again. On Friday I went to a show at Joe’s Pub with some friends and on Saturday loaded up the car with the dog and the Alex and sundry snacks and bolted out to the Hamptons. The weather was better than expected which was awesome! I contracted some sort of stomach bug though which was not awesome. So Monday was spent moaning and groaning to anyone who would feel pity for me (and maybe walk to the kitchen to get me snacks) and watching tennis. Hence the ever-so-slightly delayed posting of Monday’s musings. Apologies.

It was the Hampton classic this weekend and in many ways it was vastly different from the Kentucky Derby I went to in 2001. But in one way it was precisely the same: I didn’t really see any horses. This year they were requiring tickets to get to the grandstands (where the little people not connected enough to get a bracelet to be admitted to the tents sit). Well, those tickets were sold out. So I apparently am a member of the newest class of Classic attendee: those unworthy of even glimpsing the action. The solution, of course, was to sweep my Vuitton-clad buddy Steven into the “public bar” tent and drink. Because I am good at math, ‘n shit, I quickly realized the $39 bottle of white wine was a crappy deal against the $7 glasses of that very same white. So when Steven and I ordered 4 glasses of white and the bartender nearly drained a just-cracked bottle into said 4 glasses, I did a little victory dance before handing over my trusty Amex. Only in the Hamptons does one feel such splendid satisfaction for spending $7 per glass (plastic cup) of wine that, in all likelihood, sells for $6 a bottle in liquor stores.

After the wine, plus several vodkas, had been consumed, we made our way to Two Mile Hollow to join those gays intrepid enough to venture out despite the aftermath of Tropical Swish Dannie. The tide was high, really high, so when we ran into mutual friends on the beach we gathered near that sea grass stuff (don’t step on it – you’ll get a one million dollar fine!) and discussed how the weather was “really not that bad” as we huddled together for warmth. Mattie and Alex showed up and Jasper attempted to make friends with a dog who subsequently bit Mattie. As my bout of stomach upset was beginning to rear its ugly hyrda-esque  head, we decided to use that horrid bitch of a dog’s chomp as an excuse to make haste off the beach and eat a light dinner. One enormous pile of nachos and a pizza laden with artichokes and black olives later, a stop at the Carvel on 27 was all I needed to ensure a day of total and complete misery on  Monday. Je ne regrette rien. That chocolate shake rocked.

So today was spent suffering. But the tennis was rather good (Venus: will her knee hold up?) and tomorrow morning will hopefully bring an end to my stomach’s little rebellion. Think good thoughts, dear readers.

xx

-B

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