Fresh from the US Open Women’s final yesterday, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled, “The Power of Serena Williams”. The author of the article was half-right, which I suppose is better than totally wrong. Here’s what the author gets right:
Serena Williams is indeed a powerful player, both physically and mentally.
She has been a powerful influence in the sport, for younger girls, African American or otherwise, as well as tennis fans.
She has had to endure more obstacles as a woman and an African American, powerfully ploughing thru.
That’s where it stops. Some may ask, what the hell more is needed to be in awe of her power?
Normally not a lot, but the half of the story that’s missing is too large of an elephant in the room. Turn a blind eye to it or not, no one really cares. Williams will be fine, no martyr to see here folks.
During her peak, Williams was often consumed by a fragile ego, a tortured one many point out. The kind that “bad boys” like John McEnroe had. It wasn’t endearing to many back then either, I don’t care how many fans or victories MacEnroe had. The assumption that everyone agreed with McEnroe’s antics is plain and simple BS. The argument of depression, to the tune of millions of dollars in reward, is a convoluted defense that will never pass the test of time. As for the argument of discrimination, hold that thought for a minute.
The fact that McEnroe got away with it more, with less obstacles, does not mean he was liked, loved, or respected by everyone. Just like history can be harsh over what guys like Reagan or Biden said or did in the 60s or 70s, the bar stays the same here. Johnny Mac does not get a free pass.
But more important: overcoming obstacles IS the stuff that has made people great thru the ages. Serena fed on them, and it served her well. Very well.
There were two huge ironies that took place yesterday at Arthur Ashe stadium, and those two elephants will not go quietly into the night here...
One: The stadium roared pro-Serena to the tune of deafening decibels. Andreescu at one point had to cover her ears from the roar, it was a borderline frenzy. Not Serena’s fault, but the irony lies in how much Andreescu fed on being the underdog. It wasn’t Serena “Goliath” alone that “David” Andreescu was battling: it was Goliath and 20,000+ screaming fans. Blood-thirsty, like Roman Colosseum spectators who couldn’t wait for the favored gladiator to run a spear thru the heart of the lesser-known gladiator. That almost happened, by the way, as Goliath got her second wind. But David prevailed this time, with a great story to tell.
And two, the more subtle irony but running way deeper: this David and Goliath story took place at Arthur Ashe stadium. Ashe was a true American hero, a real target of racism amidst the American apartheid of the 1960s. The kind that would have destroyed the fragile ego of Serena Williams. A mere year ago, the spirit of Arthur Ashe looked down at Williams’ bratty meltdown, probably in a head-shaking, facepalm reaction. Because these words would never come from Serena Williams:
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
Give me the awe-inspiring power of an Arthur Ashe any day, over the diluted, crowd-frenzy kind from Serena Williams. The Coco Gauff’s of the future don’t need the Serena Williams kind of power: they should be told about the might of Arthur Ashe.