Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Serena. Who's 'Really' over the line?

Okay, I get it. Serena Williams is playing an important tennis match...the semi-finals at the United States Open against rival and good friend Kim Clijsters. She's smoking hot over a foot fault call which eventually gives Ms. Clijsters the match. Ms. Williams let the line judge have it with both barrels, and with no expletives deleted in the process. Game, set and match to Clijsters. Loss, infamy and a 7-figure fine to Williams. The initial punishment was fair in my mind. The premise smacked of something completely unfair.

By the book, Williams was appropriately penalized. She had already been assessed a conduct warning earlier in the match, and a second demanded the penalty she received. Williams went off on the judge in a big way, pointing a finger her way and using language unbecoming of the young lady she is known to be in tennis circles.

Williams has apologized to Clijsters, the eventual champion, and admitted poor judgement during the tirade. What I want to know is why the aforementioned blowup is such a major incident of global proportions.

I have a problem with ANY major sporting event being decided by an officials call as this one clearly was. Was the judge offended by the language and gestures? Yes. But, guess what? That's why you have the job. You should be able to take that kind of grief the way those lit up by John McEnroe took it. And, by the way, the way the officials took it when Roger Federer got a bit hot under the collar in this very Open.

I never saw Williams threaten to 'kill' the official as the assailed claimed the player did during the dispute. And, I have a very hard time thinking that Williams, in front of an international television audience and before thousands of eye witnesses, would have committed such a heinous act. Serena has nothing...not one thing...in her public record to indicate she is a batterer. She is a competitor, no more and no less.

Let's calm down, people. Heat of battle...that's it. She is not an 'Angry Black Woman' starring in the next Tyler Perry film. And, let's all of us thin skinned fans among us understand she is an athlete of the highest order, and a businesswoman who understands the fiscal repercussions which will accompany her actions, and rightly so.

Was Serena out of line and out of order? Yes. Was she contrite following her outburst and did her opponent forgive her? Yes. Was the official overactive in injecting herself into the final outcome of a major sporting event? Yes. Did the official show a stereotypical fear of a woman of color in that situation and read more into it than what was really there? In my humble opinion, the answer is again...yes.

Please remember that while we in this country now have a man of color as president, there are still many barriers to break down along the way. I have always believed sports is the flash point. It is the one common thread among all of us. Satchell, Hank, Jackie, Russ, Night Train...all were pioneers. All had drive and all had feelings, but they were not allowed the freedom of expression. Each showed extraordinary restraint in instances Serena will never know about because of them. But, she has the freedom now to let loose...right or wrong, proper or improper...and, the duty to pay the freight for her actions and reactions...without being judged for her character overall. But, Ms. Official, understand that not all Black women are out to 'kill' you because they disagree with a call. If that is your thought or predisposition, might I suggest another line of work where the pressure and tension of world class competition does not come in to play.

Perhaps, feline massage?