Monday, September 14, 2009

Athletes and Grace

Evidently Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame speech was less than gracious. Some highlights:

Jordan spent more time pointlessly admonishing Van Gundy and Russell for crossing him with taunts a dozen years ago than he did singling out his three children. When he finally acknowledged his family, Jordan blurted, in part, to them, “I wouldn’t want to be you guys.” . . .

No one ever feels sorry for Isiah Thomas, but Jordan tsk-tsked him and George Gervin and Magic Johnson for the 1985 All-Star game “freeze-out.” Jordan was a rookie, and the older stars decided to isolate him. It was a long time ago, and he obliterated them all for six NBA championships and five MVP trophies. Isiah and the Ice Man looked stunned, as intimidated 50 feet from the stage as they might have been on the basketball court. . . .

Worst of all, he flew his old high school teammate, Leroy Smith, to Springfield for the induction. Remember, Smith was the upperclassman his coach, Pop Herring, kept on varsity over him as a high school sophomore. He waggled to the old coach, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

Which brings me to Serena's outburst in her semifinal. The entire incident was striking but the most striking aspect was that it was a woman doing the tirading. When most of the other women players on tour flip out, you'll see pouting or even crying. Serena's bad behavior was more like a guy's bad behavior than a gal's bad behavior. That's why it seemed so doubly shocking.

But let's say this for her: She took her medicine like a man, too. After the decision was made, she moved on. She was gracious to Clijsters and she faced the music in her post-match presser with a pretty fair amount of candor and perspective. She's certainly a much, much better sport than Jordan ever was.

(Also worth noting: Clijsters was going to win that match anyway.)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Is it weird that I found Serena's outburst kind of refreshing? It was actually a human moment, and it just kind of highlights that professional athletes -- even ones as phenomenally successful as Serena Williams -- actually give a crap about winning and hate losing.

Which brings me to Michael Jordan. It's long been thought that one of the reasons that he was so incredibly successful is that he was perhaps the most competitive man in the world. He seeks out competition and chances to dominate other people. There were reports coming out of Washington that after he drafted Kwame Brown, he would keep him after practice and the two would compete in shooting contests until Brown would leave in tears. This is a man built for competition who seeks out opportunities to assert his dominance. I don't know why anyone expected his induction speech to be any different.