Roscoe Tanner’s book, Double Fault: My Rise And Fall, And My Road Back, written with Mike Yorkey, is a redemption book, a genre of Christian publishing that tells the story of people who accept Jesus Christ and come to terms with their past, sinful lives. A minister gave Tanner a bible during his stay in a German jail. Reading the bible led to Tanner’s conversion experience.
The book is written as a confessional. The problem is that a confessional tells only half the story, the half of the person that commits the transgressions, not those who are affected by them. When do you ever believe only one side of the story, even when it’s as bad as Tanner describes it? Tanner’s life would make a good television show: My Name is Earl without the restitution. The list of sins includes, but is not limited to:
Cheating, repeatedly, on his fiancée.
Cheating on his wife.
Divorcing his wife to be with another woman.
Cheating on his second wife.
Impregnating a woman from an escort service during his second marriage.
Marrying a third wife and writing a bad check to pay for their honeymoon.
Writing a bad check to buy a $39,000 boat then getting a $10,000 loan with the boat as collateral.
Skipping out on his debts by moving to Europe.
Spending ten months in jail in Germany, Florida and New Jersey for failing to pay child support and an outstanding debt.
When I wrote about Tanner in a column called Roscoe falls again, a number of people left comments because they wanted to tell the other side of the story. Two of Tanner’s daughters, a friend of Tanner’s ex-wife Charlotte, the man who received the bad check for the boat, and even a bounty hunter who has arrested Tanner, all weighed in on Tanner’s character. The bounty hunter calls Tanner “Runnin’ Roscoe”.
According to Tanner, he had an accountability group composed of friends and religious advisers when he was a tennis instructor living in Southern California. Tanner made an agreement with his accountability group that he would work towards building a relationship with his daughters, who lived nearby. According to a comment left by his daughter, Anne Monique, “My sister Tamara and I did try to rebuild our relationship with our father, but the only time we ever saw him was at court, and I don’t mean the tennis court.”
And sometimes they didn’t see him there. After the book was written, Tanner skipped out on a California court hearing for nonpayment of child support and went to England to appear in a tournament. The next time I have to take my shoes off in the security line at an airport, I will ask myself how a fugitive managed to get on an airplane and fly to a foreign country.
Another problem with the book is a lack of analysis, the Freudian kind. It’s unlikely that such a pattern of behavior started suddenly. Yet Tanner tells of an idyllic family life growing up in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. His father hectored him because his junior career was not going well but Tanner made an agreement that if his father didn’t bother him for one year, Tanner would win a national junior tennis event. Tanner won two.
There are clues. Tanner was given the name Short Fuse for his temper on the court. In one memorable incident, Short Fuse retaliated against Brad Gilbert after Gilbert taunted his female teammates in a World Team Tennis event. Tanner hit a serve on the fly that landed, well, as Tanner says, “let’s just say I hit him where it counts.”
Tanner shunned his sister and brother-in-law because they had the temerity to visit with one of his rivals, Stan Smith, a college teammate of his brother-in-law. He refused to spend time with his parents when they came to see him play at the US Open.
Tanner blames selfishness for his chronically bad behavior: “The most important person in my life was Roscoe Tanner.” You can hear the follow-up coming a mile away: “instead of Jesus Christ.” Such long-term behavior suggests a deeper problem than selfishness born of a professional athlete’s privileged lifestyle. There are many cases of domestic abuse and drunken behavior in today’s sports pages, but the behavior generally has roots in family dynamics and personal problems, not the perks of being a star athlete.
In front of him, Tanner has a line of people willing to help him by providing jobs, money and counsel. Behind him, there is a group of angry people asking for their due.
Tanner’s life has not been easy. After he divorced his first wife, all he had left of his career earnings was $100,000; his wife had the $700,000 house. By the time he divorced his second wife, Tanner owed alimony to two women and child support to three. This set him on a cycle of robbing Peter to pay Paul, not the ideal relationship between a born again Christian and the apostles.
It’s a testament to Tanner’s consummate ability to charm people that many of his supporters also wrote comments. A tennis pro left a comment offering Tanner a job. A religious adviser described a “great time of fellowship” with Tanner who had just left his house. In front of him, Tanner has a line of people willing to help him by providing jobs, money and counsel. Behind him, there is a group of angry people asking for their due.
As far as his helpers are concerned, Tanner can’t earn money for child support sitting in jail so they are doing him a favor. But Tanner does not pay his debts unless he has to pay them to get out of jail. If you give him cash, it doesn’t make its way back to his children. As one of the commenters said, “true friends try to help their friends get better, they shouldn’t facilitate dysfunctional behavior.”
After Tanner returned to the United States to face the court hearing in Southern California, he moved back to Tennessee. The aforementioned bounty hunter, Mark Regan, discovered Tanner’s whereabouts by reading comments on this site left by Tanner’s well-wishers, including his daughter Lauren. Regan called the authorities in Florida and New Jersey, where Tanner still has outstanding debts and unpaid child support, and Tanner was in jail once again.
Changing dysfunctional behavior is never an easy task. Addicts know, for instance, that they are likely to slip back into old behavior at some point. Ten months in jail wasn’t enough for Tanner to change his behavior. He probably needs psychological help in addition to jail time. I hope, for the sake of his family, that he gets it.
On the book jacket there is a blurb from former tennis professional Michael Chang: “…no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, it’s never too late to seek redemption.” That’s good news for Roscoe Tanner.