Serena Williams’ Foul Play

I’m a female and a Jew.  I personally know something about bias, bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination.  There is no doubt in my mind that I have experienced some (shall we say) “bad luck” in my life because I fall into these two categories, but there is probably not a person on the face of the earth who doesn’t have a similar (and probably worse) story to tell with respect to the natural tendency of people to band together based on commonality, from ethnicity to gender to nationalism.  Nonetheless, we have a black President with a Jewish chief-of-staff, and a female Secretary of State.

I’m seriously tired of people pulling the race or gender card to explain away their bad behavior.  Ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions.  This brings me to Serena Williams in the U.S. Open.  Serena was losing badly in the semi-finals to unseeded, unranked Kim Clijsters, and Clijsters had just beaten Serena’s sister, Venus.  The match was at the point where Clijsters was but one point from victory, and it was Serena’s serve.  She faulted on her first serve.  Instead of just going back to the baseline to serve again, she menacingly walked toward the judge, shouting and cursing her, pointing the ball and then the racket at her, as though she were going to strike the woman.  Allegedly, she said,“If I could, I would take this [expletive deleted] ball and shove it down your [expletive deleted] throat.”

The line judge went over to the chair umpire and tournament referee as the crowd was booing.  According to news reports, Serena said,“Sorry, but there’re a lot of people who’ve said worse.  I didn’t say I would kill you.  Are you serious?  I didn’t say that.”  But the line judge said she did say that, and that with the crowd noise, it was difficult for others to hear the specifics. 

I saw that video, and having someone with that venomous rage coming at me, screaming and cursing, shaking a racket in my face (especially since Serena had already smashed a racket earlier in the game when she committed an unforced error) would have scared me too.

Serena was only penalized a point, which, by destiny of timing, turned out to be the match point.  Clijsters would have won anyway – she was playing an amazing game, and she did go on to win the U.S. Open.

So, here’s a young woman, used to success, who couldn’t handle being humbled, and she robbed Clijsters of the good feeling of trumping a tennis goddess.  This is obviously bad behavior – very bad.  The bad boys of tennis games past were also known to behave badly, but, according to news sources, they never threatened the life or well-being of a judge.  This was scary and horrendous behavior. 

The first reaction of some was to scream “racism!”  Oh puleeze.  Was anyone saying she behaved badly because she was black?  NO.  Was anyone saying she was penalized for her behavior because she was black?  YES, and that is downright annoying and dumb. 

Online, someone posted a comment after the news item, which I think is “right on.”  Here’s an excerpt:

There are reasons for rules in competitive sports or banking or finance or education or society.  The reasons [for the rules] always have to do with participants being unwilling or unable to manage or discipline their emotions when under duress of any kind.  This duress…almost always manifests poorly, but often successfully.  Serena…lost her composure in the early stages of this match, played poorly, got behind, and faced almost certain defeat.  The foot fault (which many say was correct, many say “iffy,” and some say false) was critical, but not pivotal for Serena.  She could have played through it.  She had the serve.

But she had first-serve faulted many times, and had lost every second serve point to her opponent.  So, she gave in to panic, which led her to say some astoundingly aggressive things to the line judge, who, to her credit, stayed calm, objective, and within the rules.  The referee made the proper call, and Serena lost, and then lost again by backpedaling after the match, with cover-up comments and lame excuses. 

But this is an era when elites in all walks of life take the liberty of exposing their true selves without much consequence.  It’s called “privilege,” and it is, in my mind, the downfall of the American personality, and with it, the downfall of the nation – a little microcosm on a big stage.  Pride comes before a fall.

Truth is, she knew she had lost this match, even if that one linesman’s call was bad.  Instead of letting her opponent savor the victory point, she surrendered early.  Clijster swamped her and her sister, and Williams acted like a classless brat.  And classless brats come in all colors, genders and religions.  Point…game…match.