This show is an interesting compare and contrast to my earlier breather show about the Japanese men’s World Cup soccer team, and the evolved competitive spirit of doryoku (“honor in the effort”) that is a central element of Japanese sports culture.
In America, we have the win at all cost ideal that can often run amok and reveal as disgraceful behavior by our champion athletes. Tennis players have long been known for on-court tantrums. Granted, it’s a tough environment with the 1:1 nature of the battle and the fans breathing down your neck. John McEnroe, king of tantrums, revealed that his antics help him turn up his competitive intensity and killer instinct in matches. Don’t try this at home!
At the recent US Open Tennis Championship female final, tennis legend Serena Williams came unglued and melted down en route to her loss to a young underdog named Naomi Osaka. Osaka represents Japan but hails from New York. I criticize Serena for disgracing the sport and also have some harsh words for the notoriously rowdy US Open tennis fans (event is always held in Flushing Meadow, NY). They booed during the awards ceremony, ostensibly in support of Serena’s disappointment with the match umpire. The whole scene was a disgrace to the sport of tennis and disrespectful to the great performance of Osaka. Serena does get some credit for trying to reign things in, urging the crowd to stop booing during the awards ceremony and graciously congratulating Osaka. But none of this would have happened had she been able to control her competitive emotions a bit during the match. Billie Jean King, great champion of gender equality notwithstanding, weighs in with breezy and poorly timed commentary that taints what she stands for. Yes, Billie Jean and Serena make a good point that male players seem to get away with more without sanction, but when Billie Jean makes a scene, she should remember Michael Jackson’s strong advice, and remember to always think twice (“don’t think twice, do think twice!”)
At least I end on a high note, celebrating the composure and grace displayed by Osaka during the awards ceremony, where she bowed to Serena and thanked her for the opportunity to play the match. Reminds me of the Japanese soccer team. It’s great to see a young player with a healthy competitive mindset become a champion! Maybe hyper-competitive, over-pressurized youth sports coaches and parents can take notice, get over themselves, and focus on the honor in the effort.
Was Serena treated poorly by the umpire in the U.S. Open? [02:15]
Did she disgrace the sport? [03:40}
Would male players be treated the same? [03:58]
How did this tantrum affect Osaka, her opponent? [04:45]
The coach is not to gesture from the sidelines. [05:20]
What were Billy Jean King’s comments on the matter? [06:00]
Martina Navratilova said the message was important but it was not the right time to do it. [07:00]
Serena did try to pull it together at the end. [08:30}
Osaka’s gracious speech at the awards ceremony [10:00]
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Welcome to the Get Over Yourself Podcast. This is Brad Kearns.
Breather show, Straight Outta Compton.
Not really straight out of Compton, straight out of Sacramento, California. The fabulous Northern California studios of the Get Over Yourself Podcast. But Serena Williams came straight out of Compton, along with her sister Venus; one of the greatest sports stories of all time. And wonderful cultural event that these girls came from the playgrounds, public parks and rose to the very top of the most snooty tooty traditional sport right up there with golf, the country club sport quintessential, and around the same time that Tiger Woods came on. And what an incredible run it’s been for the Williams sisters and all they’ve done to forward and transform culture and open up tennis, bringing that athleticism to the mix.
That’s what we see today, the power tennis, which is so awesome and amazing to watch. And we got to talk about Serena’s recent US Open experience. Sorry folks, got to put it on the table. Kind of a complex and interesting issue to discuss. Reflections on the state of sport and the repercussions of what Serena did out there at the tournament. In case you weren’t aware, she was playing in the championship match, trying to add to her record title of Grand Slams. The fans are on her side, they love seeing Serena here in the twilight of her career, continue to excel even after coming back from having a baby and playing strong, and going up against the young Japanese Naomi Osaka, only 20 years old.
She grew up idolizing Serena Williams – grew up in New York actually, so representing Japan, but Americanized. And there’s the battle for the finals, and what happened was Osaka played great, had a magnificent victory over the legend, her hero, her idol. And it was tainted by Serena’s meltdown and temper tantrums with the umpire arguing over a penalty she received for purportedly getting coaching advice from a coach in the stands.
This happens a lot during a tennis match. You’re not allowed to coach, you’re not allowed to yell instruction or make gestures to the player. But apparently, this rule might be pushed to the edge at times, where the coach is doing a gesture that means something to the player and helping the player out. And so, someone observed Serena’s coach in the stands doing something that they objected to. They gave her a warning, she didn’t like it. She continued to argue, she smashed a racket, she got further penalties, and she finally lost a full game penalty as a consequence of this escalating temper tantrum.
This got the fans involved. The fans started booing, made a scene. Even after Osaka won the match, the fans are continuing to boo during the awards ceremony, bringing the poor Osaka to tears because all she wanted was an epic battle against her idol. Fight to the finish, may the best tennis player win. It’s a dream come true for herself. And the whole thing is just emotionally disturbing to the poor kid here on center stage.
Oh my gosh, thank you Serena for disgracing the sport. That’s my first comment. Hey, write in if you disagree with me, but that’s the end all, that’s the biggest issue at hand here.
Secondly, she may have made a good point when she said that if a male player complained and argued in that manner, they wouldn’t be penalized. We’ve seen McEnroe and the others go crazy through the years with their intense emotional outbursts. Nothing quite like tennis where you’re contained on a court in an individual, one on one battle. The fans are breathing down your neck and it elicits a lot of intense emotions. McEnroe admitted that he would get emotional to help himself get refocused and more intense, so it was a competitive edge for him to do these outbursts on the court. And then, tune up, a way of tuning up his mindset.
But when it goes too far and you’re inappropriate and disrespectful to the extent that you potentially distract your opponent with all your temper tantrumming, and by the way, Osaka was given compliments for her ability to remain calm while all this stuff’s going on. I mean, this stuff takes time. The arguing and the antics and the other player has to stand there and get out of their peak performance mindset, their body cools down. It’s simply unfair and it’s disrespectful to the game and to the opponent. I always forget about that. It’s just poor Serena and the point that she was robbed. She called the umpire a thief.
Here’s another insight I have. The incredible intensity of her outburst, seems like we might have hit a nerve there, huh? It was reported that the coach seemed to be making a gesture to tell Serena to come up closer to the net. Probably, he did so, right? And not the hugest deal, but in tennis rules, you get a warning, if you do it again, you lose a point, etcetera, etcetera. But why would Serena go crazy if we didn’t hit a nerve and denying that she’d ever cheat. And she has a daughter that she’s trying to stand for things, and that the umpire will never again umpire one of her matches as long as he lives. She refuses to shake his hand after the match.
Oh boy, what drama. And what do we hear from Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King on the subject? Kind of interesting. Guess what? I have some opinions on that too. Here’s what Billie Jean King had to say: “When a woman is emotional, she’s hysterical and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s outspoken and there are no repercussions. Thank you Serena Williams for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”
Are you effing kidding me Billie Jean King? She told me her name was Billie Jean and she caused a scene, but Billie Jean never did. She was a respectful tennis player for her entire career. Remember how understated and respectful she was when she blew out Bobby Riggs during the famous battle of the sexes? Just a great champion all around. So, she’s giving Serena a pass to have a temper tantrum? Not feeling it there. Although, the point is well-taken. It’s just not the right time.
Guess who nailed it? It was Martina Navratilova. Much more sensible comment. Martina said, “It should have ended right there with the point warning.” That was the argument about coaching from the stands, “But Serena just couldn’t let it go. She completely had the right message about women’s inequality, but it wasn’t the right time to bring it up.” Thank you Martina, for being sensible. Billie Jean, go reflect on Martina’s comment and tone it down a little bit. This is when you give a bad name to these equality movements, when it’s misplaced or ignoring the boorish behavior that the statement came out of, the circumstances. There’s a way to protest that’s peaceful and effective and impactful, and then there’s stupid stuff.
Remember Michael Moore, when he was doing the show about General Motors, Roger & Me? And he shows up at the corporate headquarters and just walks in there with his cameras, uninvited, unannounced, and asked for a meeting with the CEO. And they turn him away and kick him out, and he gets all butthurt about that? Ridiculous, man. Just because you have a camera, you think you’re going to have an audience with the CEO coming in off the street?
Anyway, back to tennis. So, Serena wins the Get Over Yourself award for the week. May we see better behavior from you in the future on and off the court. I will give her credit for trying to pull everything back during the award ceremony. Because of this fuss that was happening with the crowd booing, she urged the crowd, she said, “Please don’t boo, let’s make the best of this, and let’s get through this together.” Whatever she said, but she said, “No more booing. Come on, come on, come on.”
So, thank you Serena for having that sense of perspective after the tennis match was over. And New York fans enough is enough. I mean, the fans are celebrated there for being freewheeling and they’ll be much more boisterous and outspoken than they are at other tennis events. And it’s all part of the crazy scene, that is the US Open, in their long home out there, Flushing Meadow-Long Island.
So yes, you pay your ticket, you have a right to do what you want when you get in there, including boo or cheer or scream. But to rain booze down on an award ceremony when a 20-year-old tennis champion wins her first Grand Slam, that’s a little bit much. And all you guys that attended that event and were booing, you guys should be ashamed of yourself.
It reminds me, reflecting back on one of my first shows, the breather show about the pristine locker room of the Japanese World Cup soccer team, after their devastating defeat against Belgium, they had the character and the presence to clean up and tidy up and leave a thank you note before they left Japan. That’s respecting the game, the world of sports, the great Japanese cultural ideal of doryoku, which translates to “honor in the effort”. And so, I want to put Naomi Osaka, the great US Open women’s champion of 2018 up here on a pedestal.
Not only for her incredible performance, but the way she conducted herself after, listened to these beautiful quotes of this young lady on the center stage, dealing with all this craziness and drama. She says, this is during her speech, which in tennis they give the champion the microphone and the winner speech is broadcast over the PA in the stadium. It’s kind of cool. It also goes to the TV viewers, but it’s echoing throughout the stadium.
She says, “I know that everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry that it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match.” Continuing. “It was my dream to play Serena in the US Open final, and I’m glad I was able to do that. I’m really glad I was able to play with you.” She said, turning toward Williams. “Thank you,” and she bowed. “I’m always going to remember the Serena that I love. It doesn’t change anything for me (what happened today).”
Oh, what a beautiful finish by Naomi Osaka. Congratulations on your US Open title and Helene Elliott of the LA Times and her great column about this matter. Also, finished up with a nice quote, which I’ll finish the show with. “Osaka’s character and talent shown through a grueling tournament.” Williams didn’t make history Sunday, but Osaka did, and that’s a happy ending. Thank you for listening to the breather show.
Send me some email. What do you think? Getoveryourselfpodcast@gmail.com.
Yeah, this is a cool newsletter; how to produce a successful pod … Are you recording yet? No, don’t push record yet, I want to read through this. Let me know what you think. It says, “If you’re going to read an advertisement, make sure it’s authentic. Otherwise, you’ll harm your credibility.” Yeah, that makes sense. And oh, it says, “If you’re asking your audience for a call to action, be sincere. Thank them from the bottom of your heart and make it short.” So, let’s try that. Okay, yeah, hit that red button, record. Yeah, right there. Okay.
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