A Few Observations in Lieu of In Depth Analysis

Fed Cup: USA v Belgium

I couldn’t post on Saturday because I was ill and I’ve just returned from two days in Las Vegas where my wonderful family dragged me to see the Grand Canyon – which I have now seen for the third time. All in all I’m a bit exhausted, so I’m going to pass along a few trenchant observation instead of the more in depth stuff I like to do.


Super tennis writer Matt Cronin reports that Zina Garrison has filed a racial discrimination suit against the USTA. Garrison was the Fed Cup captain for ten years before she was replaced by Mary Jo Fernandez this year. Garrison complains in the suit that she was paid less than Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe – who is white – and she was held to a higher performance standard than McEnroe.

I was wondering how such suits would be viewed now that we have a black president and so far the reception has not been good. Cronin picks apart Garrison’s arguments pretty well and here in Los Angeles, the media picked apart the racial discrimination suit filed by former basketball great Elgin Baylor against the Los Angeles Clippers for firing him from his job as General Manager.

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke is willing to agree that Baylor’s employer was racist but, if so, he also wonders why Baylor stayed at the job for 22 years when he could easily have found work elsewhere.

We’re feeling something similar in the gay and lesbian community. In some states we can now get married and we have less to complain about. On the other hand, we’re losing our special status. Some members of the gay and lesbian community don’t want marriage because they don’t want to be like everyone else, in other words, they don’t want to lose their special status.

By no means am I saying that there’s no racial discrimination or homophobia in this country, and heaven forbid you’re transgendered because you are literally taking your life in your hands. I’m sure you’ve read about the murders of transgendered people in the news. But with each new step of acceptance, cases like Garrison’s and Baylor’s are getting a much more critical response.

”It’s the economy, stupid.”

When Dubai refused to let Israeli Shahar Peer into the country to play in the Barclay’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Peer said the following in a statement she released through the WTA:

There should be no place for politics or discrimination in professional tennis or indeed any sport.

I’ll agree with the discrimination part but can we clear up this politics and sport don’t mix adage once and for all? Sport is entertainment which is part of tourism which is an important part of both local and international economies. Even more so in Dubai which is trying to build the world’s biggest and most fantastical playground to draw people to its part of the world.

The economy is often the biggest political issue of the day and not just at the moment when we are in a global recession. Bill Clinton got himself elected in 1992 by repeating to himself: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Sport and economy go hand in hand as a city decides whether it should shell out millions of dollars to build a stadium to keep its professional basketball team from defecting, and it’s always a huge part of any country’s Olympic bid.

Kudos to Andy Roddick for boycotting Dubai in protest of Shahar’s treatment, by the way. Particularly as he was defending a title during a year when rankings points are harder to come by and in a tournament with no Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer to impede his progress. Unless, of course, he had an abdominal strain and couldn’t play and just wanted to look good. I’m kidding but I brought it as a segue into the next subject.

Lie To Me

I cannot bear to miss my new favorite TV show, Lie To Me. Tim Roth stars as a “deception expert” who can read people’s facial expressions and determine, given the context of the situation, whether they are telling the truth or not.

The show is based on the work of Paul Ekman whose research verified two very important things: 1. Facial expressions are culturally independent – contempt looks the same on a face in New Guinea as it does in New England. 2. Facial expressions are involuntary – we can’t avoid expressing our emotions even if only for a fifth of a second or so.

Think about it. If Ekman had been sitting on the set when Alex Rodriguez told Katie Couric he’d never used performance enhancing drugs during that 2007 interview, Ekman could have shouted out “Cut!” then turned to Rodriguez and asked if he might want to reconsider his answer. Rodriguez not only could have told the truth or at least told a half truth (“Yeah, I used HGH a few times but stopped after some players I knew were found out.”), but he could have avoided setting in motion a domino effect that might end up implicating a whole lot of other players from the Dominican Republic.

Rodriguez implicated his cousin which implicated Rodriguez’ trainer who works with many of Rodriguez’s fellow Dominican players. The trainer was questioned by the Canadian Border Service about a gym bag full of steroids in 2001 and was subsequently banned from Major League Baseball locker rooms. I bet there are a whole lot of ballplayers very unhappy with Mr. Rodriguez right about now.

This is related to tennis because players are complaining that they’re now required to tell drug testing authorities their exact whereabouts for one hour of the day SEVEN days a week so they can be tested out of competition. Could you do that? If I was ill and housebound, maybe.

It reminds me of the wannabe terrorist who tried to set off a shoe bomb on an airplane. Now we all have to take our shoes off in the airport security line. So many athletes used performance enhancing drugs and lied about it that Andy Murray now has to logon to a website and tell someone where he’ll be at 9 am next Sunday morning. I’ll be at the farmer’s market if you’re looking for me, unless I had a late night out or got lucky.

We should clone a few thousand Ekmans or, failing that, train them and avoid all of this lab testing and A and B sample stuff. Just bring in a deception expert.

Davis Cup Emptiness

Could someone please explain to me why Israeli player Andy Ram played in Dubai this week but Israel has to play its Davis Cup tie with Sweden in an empty arena? Dubai is in the heart of the Arab region which is deeply affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet somehow it can protect Andy Ram and Sweden cannot? I’m not being entirely facetious here, I would really like one of our readers in Europe or Arabia to explain it to me.