Monthly Archives: June 2006

Early Puddles At Wimbledon

Thank God for David Beckham. The rain arrived early at Wimbledon yesterday, with none of the scheduled matches being completed. Faced with a lengthy stretch of airtime that needed filling nonetheless, the TV kids fell back happily on a World Cup match they could babble about, and babble they did. We heard and saw ad nauseum the lovely little chip shot that England’s David Beckham put into the near goal on a free kick against Ecuador, clinching a quarterfinal berth for his team. Then to cap the goal, Beckham threw up on the field. Even then he still looks beautiful. A tough act to follow. Anybody up for it?

Roger Federer stepped up to the challenge and walked out on court wearing a spiffy white blazer adorned with Wimbledon logos, his astrological sign (Leo, sign of the clothes horse), a Swiss cross and the letter F. Maybe he’ll add to it as the tournament goes along. Scalps, that’s what he’s going to start collecting.

Roger Federer provided the most eye-catching moment of the first two days, in the elan and efficiency with which he dispatched Monsieur Gasquet in straight sets. He looked smooth and unhurried, going for his shots from the first, and dominating – surprisingly – his opponent mainly from the baseline. His trips to the net were not that many, and they were judicious.

For all the people, myself included, who were looking forward to this opening match with much anticipation, and some trepidation, we can relax now. Roger’s game was as impeccable-looking as that white jacket. He went out and just dissected France’s Richard Gasquet in the opening set, 6-2. When the match was called because of more rain, the score was 2-1 in the second, 30 all with Federer to serve. They proceeded anew today, with Roger starting off by overhitting an easy forehand volley to give Gasquet a break point. That was the only ray of hope the Frenchman saw over the two days this match covered. Federer shut the door in Game Four, then swept through him with breathtaking ease, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Before the start of Wimbledon, we all wondered how Roger Federer would be in his first matches. His draw was pretty tough, with Gasquet and Tim Henman looming in the second round. Further down the road he could possibly face Mario Ancic, one of the best grass court players around, then possibly Nalbandian or Blake in the semis. After losing a tough final at the French Open to Nadal, we wondered if Federer would look insecure. His week at Halle two weeks ago was another tough draw, and Roger found himself in more three-setters than he was probably expecting. Halle annoyed Roger, I feel, he thought he should have waded through the field in more convincing fashion. Gasquet had taken him to three tough sets in Halle, two of them tiebreaks.

But today, Tuesday at Wimbledon, Gasquet had no answers. Federer was seeing the ball too well, connecting too solidly and knocking off crisp shots up the lines off both sides. His serving looked only a tad less effective, as if Roger were still getting his range. But even the serving got nailed down as the match progressed. Roger started and ended the first set with aces. He already looks so ready that it’s scary to think of anyone making a dent in his game. He’s playing like this is Monday and Tuesday of next week, not this week.

In a pre-Wimbledon TV interview, Federer talked about how it took him about twenty minutes or so to put Roland Garros behind him. And he says this with such an easy-going demeanor you almost have to take him at his word. Should it have been such an easy match to put behind? Well, that’s another matter, perhaps. The attitude that allows Roger to move along easily is also the same attitude that may not be so passionate when he plays against the white heat of Rafael Nadal. But Roger looks very comfortable on grass now. He wanted to make a statement at Wimbledon, and has he ever. He needed to come out and show a rapier-like precision, and he did.

My co-writer Nina Rota and I are nearly in agreement on our Fantasy picks.

Here are my likely eight guys to emerge into the Round of 16:

Federer to face Ancic
Blake to face Nalbandian
Hewitt against Roddick
Agassi to face Tursunov

Yes, I am going for a big upset. I think Andre could beat Rafael Nadal in the third round, this Saturday. At first, I thought I was merely being judicious in my picks in this quarter of the draw, because I have picked Ljubicic too often this year, he needs a rest on this his worst surface. Davydenko is in that corner of the draw too, and he’s been picked often. Nieminen, Tursunov and Ginepri are the three remaining guys who have a chance of life here. Nadal I wanted to save for more of the hard court tournaments. Plus I really don’t know that he’s going to advance into the second week. I have my doubts. So yes, Tursunov may just make this the weirdest corner of the draw, but he is my pick here. I think Andre is the man who can take Nadal out.

And besides, wouldn’t we all love to see that happen on Saturday anyway?

– – – – –

Raymond and Kendrick: the underdog’s lament

How tough is it for a low ranked player to beat a tennis champion? Very tough. You can stomp on them, keep them down and beat on them repeatedly, but if you let your foot up for just a second, it’s all over, the champion jumps up and takes over. Here are two examples from today’s second round matches at Wimbledon.

Lisa Raymond is the quintessential old school player. If you filmed her then removed the color so that you were left with black and white footage, you’d think you were watching Wimbledon 1946, not 2006. If she has a topspin backhand, I didn’t see it. She goes exclusively with the slice backhand and attacks with the chip and charge since she is, gasp!, a serve and volleyer. She’s one of the few players not afraid to stand at the net while Venus Williams, her opponent today, whacks away at the ball. Then again, there are few players in the WTA today who stand at the net against any player.

…his father bounced the ball off his head to show him that getting hit wouldn’t hurt. Maybe we should line up the WTA players, load up a ball machine and give it a try.

When former Boston Red Sox outfielder Fred Lynn was learning the game of baseball as a young boy, his father bounced the ball off his head to show him that getting hit wouldn’t hurt. Maybe we should line up the WTA players, load up a ball machine and give it a try.

Venus looked resplendent as usual. She had a cluster of silver sparklies glued to the inside of her right shoulder. Interesting choice. I would have preferred her belly button but it wasn’t showing. Meanwhile Raymond was wearing two sponsor labels that looked like they were attached with safety pins. Better than piercings with safety pins I suppose.

Raymond and Venus played exceptionally high quality tennis in the first set. They both had more winners than errors and their first serve percentage was over 70%. Raymond served well and was playing a tactically intelligent game by keeping the ball in the middle of the court and hitting to Venus’ forehand, her weaker side.

Up 3-2 in the tiebreak, Raymond served and volleyed and hit a stretch volley. Maybe Venus is rusty because she didn’t play any grass court tuneups or maybe it’s just that she seldom sees volleys because she hit the ball right back at Raymond who then hit it over Venus’ head to go up 4-2.

Up 5-4, Raymond came to the net again and hit a beautiful inside out slice volley for set point and took the tiebreak 7-4. Raymond beat Venus at the Australian Open, but that was in 2004, and she’s been ranked as high as number 15 in singles, but that was in 1997. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

In the second set, Raymond served even better and kept attacking till she found herself up 5-2. This definitely was not supposed to happen. Except for 2004, Venus has been in every Wimbledon final this century. Venus won her service game to get to 3-5 and it was time to see if Raymond could close out this improbable victory.

On the first point of the game, Raymond didn’t serve and volley. Not a good sign, but it was o.k. because Venus hit the ball out. Two points later, Raymond hit a service winner and she was two points away. Now Raymond couldn’t get a first serve in and she hit the ball twice in a row to Venus’ backhand resulting in two backhand winners and Raymond now faced a break point. A forehand error into the net by Raymond and the moment was over. She had let Venus escape.

Venus won the next game at love to get to 5-5 and Raymond couldn’t close the floodgates. Venus hit a gorgeous one handed backhand return down the line then an inside out forehand for a winner. Raymond’s serve continued to go downhill and Venus broke her easily to go up 6-5.

Raymond sat in her chair and shook her head. She’d lost a golden opportunity. What had happened? She’d missed a few first serves then forgot her strategy. What had been a very close, well played game turned into a steamroller f0r Venus.

By the time Venus had broken Raymond twice in the third set to go up 3-0, Raymond had won one point in the set. She raised her hands in triumph when she finally won a game, completely defeated. The final score was 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-2.

I have Nadal on my fantasy team this week but it would have been worth losing him to see Kendrick pull this off

Robert Kendrick, a twenty-six year old career minor league, had a similar situation in his match with Rafael Nadal. The American qualifier had the perfect strategy too: serve well and come to the net. It was working, he was up two sets to none. Not only that, he hit a second serve to even the third set at 3-3 that knocked Nadal down. Kendrick hit it right at Nadal’s body but all Nadal could do was swipe the ball away defensively as he fell to the grass. Nadal got up shaking his head and talking to himself.

I was a little nervous because I have Nadal on my fantasy team this week but it would have been worth losing him to see Kendrick pull this off.

Kendrick faced a bunch of break points at 5-6 but he pulled it out winning the last point on a diving backhand volley that left him sprawling on the grass. At 1-1 in the tiebreak, Nadal hit a passing shot that stayed up and Kendrick babied it too much and put it in the net. That’s what I was talking about – letting your foot up for just a second. Nadal then won both points on his serve and flicked a running forehand past Kendrick to go up 5-1. Now the floodgates opened for Nadal and he won the tiebreak 7-2.

Kendrick didn’t fold like Raymond – Nadal got one break each in the last two sets to take the match 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, 6-4 – but it’s very rare that a much lower ranked players regains the momentum after giving it away. The only person I remember doing it was Joachim Johansson during the quarterfinals of the 2004 US Open. Roddick finally made his way back into the match after losing the first two sets then Johansson got the momentun back in the fifth set to win it 6-4.

That’s how hard it is mentally when you know you’re the underdog. Raymond explained the phenomenon pretty well:

Then I guess it’s just natural. You’re about to serve for the match against the defending champion and you start rushing. I did and it cost me.

Your mind isn’t quite convinced you can win the match and, eventually, gives way to the inevitable: the underdog’s lament.

Wimbledon 2006: betting on Bloomfield

Tennis isn’t as popular as many other sports because there’s not enough controversy. Today you could read the toxicology report on former baseball pitcher Steve Howe who died in a car accident – he had methamphetamine in his system. Another baseball player, Brett Myers, has taken a leave of absence from his team, the Philadelphia Phillies, after witnesses saw him hit his wife then drag her along the ground by her hair on a Boston street. Even lacrosse has more controversy. This week’s Sports Illustrated has an exhaustive article about the ongoing controversy over the handling of rape charges against three Duke University lacrosse players.

I doubt that tennis will ever force Henin-Hardenne to admit that she has an upset tummy or require Federer to admit that he’s exhausted, but it’s reasonable to require Berlocq to disclose a foot injury.

The best that tennis can do is a mini gambling controversy. A person or group of people bet over $500,000 that Carlos Berlocq would lose to Richard Bloomfield in the first round at Wimbledon. Bloomfield beat Berlocq, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. On the face of it, the match looks like it was fixed. The Argentine Berlocq is ranked number 89 and Bloomfield, a British wildcard entry, is ranked number 259. But if you look at my Wimbledon draw, which I posted Saturday night, I have Bloomfield over Berlocq because Berlocq has played exactly one match on grass, which he lost. Bloomfield is 8-20 on grass though all of his victories came in challenger tournaments or ATP qualifying events.

There are a few possible scenarios and a few certainties.

Insider Trading: Somebody close to Berlocq could have had injury information about him and knew that it was a pretty safe bet he’d lose to Bloomfield. Berlocq said he injured his foot during his first round loss to Ivan Ljubicic in the French Open.

The Fix: Berlocq decided that he wanted to equal his career earnings in one day and agreed to throw the match for half the total bets laid down. Not likely. Too obvious.

Stupidity: It’s certain that the bettors were not particularly smart. Not smart enough to know that a half million dollar bet on one player in this match would arouse suspicion and cause problems for the players involved.

Inexperience: It also seems certain that the bettors were not experienced else they would have known that gambling organizations report betting irregularities to the sports organization involved.

Tennis has some responsibility here. Imagine betting a huge amount of money on Justine Henin-Hardenne in the Australian Open final only to have the bet nullified by her retirement in the match. You would be none too happy. And look at this quote from Roger Federer before his first round match at Wimbledon this week:

This year, I’m feeling fine. Very relieved that I didn’t have to put up the poker face and say, look, I’m feeling great, but feeling terrible. Last year that was the case.

I doubt that tennis will ever force Henin-Hardenne to admit that she has an upset tummy or require Federer to admit that he’s exhausted, but it’s reasonable to require Berlocq to disclose a foot injury.

Major league sports have rules involving injuries. The National Football League, for instance, requires teams to disclose the exact nature of injuries to players who might not be able to play in upcoming games. That makes sense in a team sport because teams can move a player to the injured list and put a replacement on the roster. But it’s also required to allow an opponent to properly prepare for the game. If Tom Brady can’t play, that affects your game plan drastically.

Tennis players should get the same consideration. It’s nice that David Nalbandian says he’s not fully recovered from an abdominal strain in a press conference after a match at Wimbledon, but that’s too late to help the player he just beat. If Berlocq discloses that he is playing with a foot injury, his opponent knows that he should run him around the court as much as possible and bettors will know what odds to lay on the match.

The ATP involves itself with gambling organizations so that it can monitor possible instances of game fixing and discourage its players from betting on tennis matches, they don’t make rules to protect a gambler’s interests, but requiring players to disclose injuries would not only be fair to their opponents, it would help discourage irregular betting patterns because everyone would know if a player was limping out onto the court with little chance of winning.

Wimbledon 2006: stranger than strange

more on the nose title: athletes and sexual assault: golddiggers, ….

Unlike sports parents today, some of whom dedicate their lives to their young athletes in hopes that they’ll be the next Tiger Woods or Michelle Wie, my immigrant parents sent me off to swimming lesson in the summer and made me find my own way there and back on foot.

I was a terrible swimmer and though I have a slight build, my backside always seemed to sink. And even though I share my given name with the Greek goddess of the sea, I’m afraid of water. (connect up this swimming part a little better) I dragged myself over the hot cement in the impossibly muggy weather of Norfolk, Virginia to take swimming lessons because there wasn’t much else to do. One day, as I was walking alone, a man accosted me and said he’d give me a dollar if I let him suck my leg.

I froze. “Suck my leg,” what did that mean? As he knelt down on one knee in front of me, I ran off losing one of my flip-flops in the process. I told my mother that I’d lost the flip-flop at the pool. That was all I said.

When I was a graduate student at Boston University, I went to a brownstone late one evening to join up with some friends who were going out dancing. The light in the entryway was broken and I had to put my face right up to the mailboxes to figure out which bell to ring. As I turned around to look at the mailboxes on the other side of the room, a big man with a broad face held up a hunting knife and stood directly in front of me about a foot away. I was dead I thought. My life was over. As he started rubbing up against me, somehow I managed to think of pretending to have an attack of asthma and I slowly collapsed to the ground wheezing more and more with every inch. When I finally reached the ground, he shook his hands in front of me as if to say, “No, no, everything’s alright, don’t do that, start breathing, get better(yuck).” He was afraid I was going to die.

He walked out of the building and I picked myself up, found my friends and called the police. It turns out that the man was a Marielits, one of the people released from Cuba by Castro and put on boats to the US during Jimmy Carter’s reign. He was later convicted and jailed for rape. He had raped a woman on campus then gone back to the scene of the crime.

I felt bad for him. I guessed that he’d probably been institutionalized in Cuba and Castro used the opportunity to get rid of some of his more disturbed citizens. I also thought that he’d have been sent to a mental institution if he’d had a better lawyer.

Many years later I walked into a cafeteria during my morning break and saw a man exposing himself as he sat at one of the stools along a counter facing a wall. I immediately told the owners of the restaurant, but afterwards, I wasn’t sure I’d seen what I saw.

In the late 1990’s I went to an event at CalArts where they showed films from the Women’s Building (a little history). The woman who had the films had put them out on the sidewalk to be picked up by the trash collectors when she received a call asking if CalArts could show the films. She had to run out and pick them up off the sidewalk.

One of the films show an abstract gooey, jello-like substance as a voice over describing an incestuous relationship with her father. She admitted that she’d flirted with him because she liked the attention.

In the discussion after the films, I said that this time in history is probably the first time that father’s are going to jail for incest, the first time that anyone has openly talked about incest and warned children of the possibility. As proof of my point, I gave as an example a recent television show with Ted Danson and Glenn Close as husband and wife in a critically acclaimed program about incest. If the star of Cheers could play and incestuous father, it was an open subject.

A young woman in the audience vehemently disagreed. “Nothing has changed!” she said rather forcefully. Afterwards I wondered if she had been sexually abused at home.

[show my further feminist principles by saying that I skipped the sixth game of the 1975(?) World Series, the one where Carlton Fisk hit the home run to send the series to a seventh game, to attend a meeting of the Massachusetts Feminist Federal Credit Union.]
Mark Sanchez: arrest April 26, 2006; charges dropped: June 2nd, 2006, lack of evidence, medical exam inconclusive. (how would this woman have made money? Suing Sanchez, he’s from a middle class family, and suing USC. Evidently Sanchez had used a fake ID to go to a bar and do a bit of underage drinking. He and the woman had gone back to his apartment and, “A D.A.’s office report said Sanchez and the woman engaged in consensual kissing and more on his bed, but he stopped each time she refused his advances to have intercourse.”
Duke case: alleged rape occurred on March 13th. Newsweek article about the rape with details of the evening: So, in the middle of March I watched to protesters and listened to a woman from Duke’s Women’s Center address the issue and I thought to myself, why are they out there protesting before the investigation is completed. They’re skewering these guys without good evidence (yuck). Never mind that I would have been right there with them in my college days and, of course, you protest to make sure that a proper investigation is carried out. The DA’s office evidently only showed pictures of lacrosse players to the alleged victim: owever, NBC News has exclusively taken a look at those documents. Dan, this is what I saw. The date, April 4: about three weeks after the alleged gang rape. The documents say the police only showed her photos of lacrosse players and they flashed the photos one at a time on a big screen in front of her for one minute at a time. And in each case they asked her, do you recognize him? In the transcripts that I read, when she saw a photo of Collin Finnerty, one of the players indicted, she said “That’s the man who stood behind me” and then she briefly described how she says he sexually assaulted her.

Detectives then asked, are you sure. Her response, yes. Then when she got to the second photo of the second player indicted, Reade Seligmann, according to the transcripts, she said he was the player who stood in front of her and forced her to perform oral sex. Detectives asked her, are you sure? And her response, yes, 100 percent.

About the third alleged attacker. The transcript shows that she thinks that there could be two other guys that possibly could be that one attacker.

When she looked at one particular photo, she said, “He looks like him, I’m not sure.” Then on the very next photo, she said that he looked like the guy who could’ve assaulted her. Dan, further down, the detectives ask her how sure she was about that guy and her response was 90 percent.
Kwame Brown case: rape: early morning of April 29th (a Saturday). The Lakers had taken a surprising 3-1 lead on the Phoenix Suns Sunday with two fantastic last minute shots by Kobe Bryant, one during regulation time to send the game into overtime and another to win it. Brown had had sex with a woman in a Los Angeles hotel and the investigation was announced on Tuesday, June 2. So, the day that Sanches charges were dropped, we had another case to take over the current “sexual assault charges against athletes” void. I was starting my car up on a Tuesday night to go to yoga class when I heard about the charges against Brown. The Lakers lost the game on Wednesday and proceeded to lose the next three games to lose the series. That’s only the eighth time in NBA history that a team has lost a seven game series when they were up 3-1. The investigation ended on July 11th and no charges filed because of lack of evidence, a medical examination showed no sign of forced sexual activity.
The Kobe Bryant case started this off. … see more info below. s&m 101.
Issues here: golddiggers, D.A.’s who want publicity and an arrest, athletes don’t realize the power they have (Bryant s&m 101), this is a culture where

Sexual assault charges against high profile athletes may be unique events but they affect public opinion. I know because now when a woman accuses a celebrity of sexual assault, I am immediately sceptical. That scepticism will eventually enter the minds of others and adversely affect women who bring sexual assault charges against any man.

S.I. article about the whole Duke thing is excellent.

Athletes under attack by women and D.A.’s. Duke accuser was driven around to 3 appt.’s at hotels the week before the alleged assault the NY Times reported. Is this trashing the accuser or is it relevant to the vaginal abrasions the accuser received. Either way, when I read it, I thought, “See, she’s set them up.” Bad me.

Sexual assault charges against high profile athletes may be unique events but they undermine the progress that’s been made iin trying rape cases because the public loses confidence in accusers.

It started when I saw groups protesting on Duke’s campus after a woman accused members of Duke’s lacrosse team of raping her. Hmmm, I thougt to myself, remembering sheepishly that I once stood in groups stood in a stood around in a group like that. Why are they protesting when the investigation isn’t yet complete? Of course they were investigating protesting for the same reason they were protesting to make sure the investigation a was carried out.

When an athlete gets is accused of sexual assault, that is often not a not a problem. Michael Nifong is the district attorney (?) for the area that Duke resides in and, it turns out, he was

That is not usually a problem. District Attorney jobs are won by election. Elected officials are unlikely to let a p.r. opportunity go by. If I sound jaded, yes, I realized I slowly realized that, yes, whereas before I was right there with the protesting groups, now I was negative and jaded. In the Duke case, the district attorney, Michael J.(??) Nifong had been appointed to his position as district attorney but he was up for election (how long after the investigation began).

When a woman in Eagle County(?), Colorado, accused Kobe Bryant of sexually assaulting her in (date?), the local police went straight to the sheriff (is that right?) instead of going to the district attorney to get permission to talk to Bryant (?) or to get a request for an arrest warrant. I suppose the connection here is weakened if they went around the district attorney. The district attorney in the case, (???), was young (how long had he been on the job) and his office was overwhelmed with the task of indicting and trying an intenational celebrity. That explained the disastrous leaks of information about the accuser. O.k., I did feel bad about that. And I felt bad that And I bemoaned (yuck) the life Lif I also was upset It was much worse I felt bad for the accuser. It was bad enough that a man has been sent to jail for offering to kiil kill her.

When Mark Sanchez, freshman quarterback for USC’s football team was handcuffed and arrested, I wondered if a perp walk was really necessary. “Poor guy,” I thought, that image is going to be beamed all over the news services and here is this eighteen year old kid who’ll be saddled with it for the rest of his life.

As I got into my car one evening and turned on sports radio, I learned

A few days after the Los Angeles Lakers had taken a three to one lead over the Phoenix Suns in their NBA first round playoff series, I got into my car and turned on sports radio. My heart sank as I heard that Kwame Brown, the Lakers’ young starting center who’d been a key part of their late season surge, was under suspicion for a sexual assault that allegedly happened the night of the overtime (?) victory that put them ahead three to one. At least he didn’t have to At least he wasn’t subject to a perp walk. And of oc course I thought, why did Sanchez have to be hadncuff handcuffed and carted off if Brown didn’t?

My heart sank because I figured that the sexual assault investigation would have was the end of the series. How could a sensitive young man, fragile you could even say – not a good thing for an athlete by the way. How could a sensitive young man – sensitive might be good for relationship material but not for an NBA player by the way, Brown had had problems at on his previous team because he was sensitive to criticism – how would he be able to play effectively in the playoffs with that hanging over his head? He didn’t play very well from then on, the Lakers lost in seven games – making Phoenix only the eleventh (?) team to ever come back from 1-3 and win a seven game series – but none of the other Lakers played well either.

I’ve looked now and then but I can’t find any information about the Sanchez sexual assault charge except that it’s still under investigation. As far as the charges against Brown, I can’t find any information about them at all.

The rape case against the Duke lacrosse players ignited a lot of discussion and hullabaloo(yuck) because it highlighted tensions between the poorer University of Western (?) Carolina that the accuser attended and the much richer, whiter Duke population. That was added to(?) by the fact that lacrosse, though it is growing by leaps and bounds, is still largely a sport at prep schools and the lacrosse players came from wealthy families and the players had a history of arrests for such things as underage drinking.

The lacrosse team’s season was canceled for the rest of the season, it was one of the top teams in the country, and Mr. Nifong went onto to win his election after giving forty (?) press conferences about the charges against the Duke players. That feeling that had been growing only got worse when the DNA tests on the team members came back negative. And a little worse, or, at the very least, puzzled when three of the players were indicted after the DNA tests came back negative.

The first thing that came to mind was the young prosecutor in Eagle County (?) giving a press conference in which he was explaining why the charges against Bryant were being dropped. The accuser was not willing to testify after all. The young district attorney looked for all the world like someone in over his head.

Bryant didn’t help his case in the least. He spoke for a long time with police officers when they came and talked to him the night of the alleged assault. The officer recorded the conversation. On the tape you can hear Bryant ask if there is any way he can make the charges go away and outs his teammate, Shaquille O’Neal for paying one million dollars to a woman to keep quiet about a sexual encounter. O’Neal is one of the most popular players in the NBA among other NBA players. Bryant is, shall we way, a loner. That was bad enough, by the way, what is Bryant’s problem – isn’t everyone in the NBA told to call a lawyer immediately???? – but Bryant has always been adamant that he is a religious, faithful husband and here he was explaining a forceful sexual move that he often used on a woman he often had sex with who was not his wife.

No one would dare say that athletes, even an athlete like Bryant. Bryant was a willful, selfish, hard-to-coach athlete but his social behavior had been impeccable.

My own opinion is that Bryant had forceful sex without reading the S&M 101 manual. You do not, under any circumstances, apply a forceful move without prior agreement. In the middle of the sex act is way too late. My friend Barbara is a lawyer. Her take on the Bryant sexual assault case was that there should be degrees of sexual assault just as there are degrees of murder. Bryant could have been tried under a lesser degree of assault and the implications would not have been as broad. The legal punishments would not have been as severe and the accuser may not have been subject to so much harrassment.

That feeling was already there when the accuser in the Bryant case filed a civil case against Bryant before the criminal case begun making her a sure target for those who said she was in it for the money.

So far, there have been no convictions in any of these cases. The Duke players have not yet come to trial.

This is all very difficult for me. I was a victim of sexual assault. As I was looking for the doorbell one night in a Boston University brownstone in which the hall light was out, I turned around the find a rather large man standing between me and the door. He held up a large hunting knife. “This is it,”I thought, “my live is over.” He unzipped his pants and rubbed up against me, I wonder if all sexual assaulters have a hard time getting it up, and I managed to gather myself quickly enough to pretend to have an attack of asthma. He waved his hand as if to say, “It’s o.k., I’m leaving, don’t do that….” and walked out the door.

He was later arrested for returning the scene of a crime. It turns out that he was a Marielito, one of the many people herded onto boats are released from Cuba by Castro during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Evidently Castro used the opportunity to get rid of some undesirables.

Even before I got over the shock I felt bad for the guy. He clearly just wanted to be back in an institution, why else would he go back to the scene of a crime, and when they sentenced him to jail for the rape, I wondered why he wasn’t in an institution for the insane. They say that victims of crime often feel that they brought it on themselves and here is the deepest divide I experience when I hear that another athlete has been arrested for sexual assault and I wait for yet another charge to dissolve under investigation: I should have felt enraged at the guy but I felt bad for him. That was my version of feeling that I brought it on myself.

Victims of assault should not feel that way. They do feel that way because they get a humongous amount of shit when they bring charges against someone and so did the accuser in the Bryant case. There still needs to be a shift in this country so that a victim of sexual assault (picked up Sande’s cousin, here mother did not want her to pursue charges – the rapist(?) spoke to her mother on the phone…..anyway, the fact that she was doing drugs doesn’t mean that it was o.k. for him to force her to have sex. Poor woman, she got back to my house and called up her boyfriend who immediately broke up with her.)

I wondered if it was really necessary to handcuff Mark Sanchez and put him through the perp walk – an image that would make it’s way into newspapers across the country. Wasn’t the sexual assault still under investigation? Was he a candidate for skipping town? Not likely. You could say, understandably, athlete’s don’t deserve special priveleges. Anyone else would have been carted off in handcuffs. And anyway, athletes at times act as if they own the world.

But then you look at Kobe Bryant’s arrest for sexual assault. The usual procedure after sexual assault is to go to the local sheriff. In Eagle County, (don’t I have notes or something for this?), the police went directly to the prosecutor. …

Ivan Lendl and the Daughters From Hell

When Lleyton Hewitt nearly decapitated Frenchman Moncourt at the net during an early round at the French Open, I smiled to myself and thought of Ivan Lendl. He would have appreciated that attempt. Lendl was always up for giving an opponent a “fuzz sandwich” at the net, as Bud Collins termed it. Or emergency dental surgery, if you have even more of a sense of humor, or how about plastic surgery on the run?

Now I almost miss those days throughout much of the 80s when I would be yelling at this guy on my TV screen. Who was going to be his next crush job on court, and was there anybody who could pulverize him for a change? And why did he have to be nearly the fittest thing around at that time?

But I never requested of Ivan that he be a nicer guy. Because what we loved about Lendl – such as we can capably love the guy – is that he was not the nicest man.

Baleful is the word that perhaps best conjures up the essence of Ivan. Particularly when he gazed at you over the net as he prepared to serve. This is one of my favorite moments in tennis, at least in the Intimidation Department. That stare down some guys give you when they are ready to serve. Roger and Rafa do it, but it’s more a look to see where you are, just checking things out. With Hewitt, there is more the flavor of “Yeah, I’m fixing you with a stare, gonna do something about it?” Kiefer relies on looks a lot too, but I don’t even want to ponder what takes place in that head.

Lendl was always the master of Filthy Looks. You felt he’d rip your heart out and send it gift-wrapped to your mom on Mother’s Day.

Lendl’s trademark was partly that ferociously competitive spirit, as well as a keen interest in fitness. He was as tough at shaping his body as he was on crushing opponents. It said something to me personally that Lendl, in his other life, wanted to ride in the Tour de France. For a tennis player to aspire to that I thought was impressive. Usually tennis players are more on the wimpy side when it comes to serious suffering in training. Cycling would be way way out in left field for most of the tennis pack. They’re not into suffering like that. That’s why they’re playing on a tennis court instead.

But Ivan wanted that kind of physical intensity. In his training and on the court. You always got a bill when you played Lendl. He paid, he figured you should too.

What ever happened to the Iron Man of tennis, I wondered. I knew he had married the long-haired brunette, Samantha, whose beauty graced the Players Box for many a tournament, next to Coach Roche. He had retired somewhere in the green expanse of Connecticut, and rarely, if ever, did he venture forth to take up anything at all regarding tennis.

Then my mom sends me an article from the May 15, 2006 issue of the New Yorker. Cut and Paste is a literal thing with my ancient mom. I get five pages of a story all about Ivan Lendl and his family. It seems that Ivan the Terrible has…well, gone into the girly business.

You see, Ivan ended up having daughters. Five of them. Lord have mercy. So God has a sense of humor after all, and rewarded Lendl with daughters. I chortled with glee when I heard this. What a perfect fate!

But then I started reading about these daughters, and it appears they are indeed ferocious chips off the old block themselves. But not in tennis. Three of the girls are already well advanced in the game of golf, and looking to weave as much destruction over the LPGA tour as their father did in his game.

The article is quite interesting as a look into the competitive psyches of up and coming female golf players, but it also reveals how Lendl as father has passed on to them some wise and trenchant expertise.

One part of us could look at the family (I hesitate to use the term, “The Brood,” but it’s somewhere close by) as an extension of Lendl’s own controlling personality. He wanted to win, at any cost. These girls do too.

The article points out that the girls took up tennis when they were younger, but for some reason they segued into golf. No reason offered. I would have been curious as to their reasons for giving it up, but maybe it is nothing more mysterious than that their father loved golf too and now spends a lot of time playing the game. You would have hoped though that Lendl could have channeled one or two of them at least our way, given the sad paucity of rising new female tennis players in this country. We need all the babes we can get.

But golf it is. And golf on the women’s side is probably getting as physical as the men’s game. Everyone’s gymming themselves to death nowadays, and before long a few female players other than Michelle Wie are going to be knocking the ball 300 yards off the tee.

Ivan’s girls started off shoving each other out of the way in their haste to beat their siblings to the top of the stairs. Never mind that they are barely past toddler stage at this point. For Lendl as father, it was important that they all learn to compete early on. It may not even have been his intention to direct them into golf; he seems to feel that competition is the staff of life, and they will need to learn it anyway.

My co-writer, Nina Rota, has discussed this Lendl story with me. She feels he is the ultimate control freak. Alright, I tend to agree. But in among the rather cold calculations, I find the hints of a personality truly invested in giving his children the best start possible. He is trying to inculcate an awareness in them, a sense of taking responsibility for their lives and their games.

Most importantly, I feel, Lendl is aware of how his own role should be in all of this.

He says, “There is a time–which is a very hard time to pinpoint, I think-when the parent must step back. I’m trying to make sure that I’m not too early, so that the girls are not lost, and not too late, so that I’m not in the way. I think that when Earl Woods stepped back a little bit was when Tiger really took off as a golfer. It’s a delicate balance.”

Delicate indeed, and one not often recognized in time.

The article features an illuminating photo of Lendl and the three older daughters who are nearly ready to take their golfing act now on the road. All standing at the edge of a forest. They’re holding golf clubs and look ready to play. They’re looking at the camera with intent looks. Determined but wary. Like a family of large, feral cats, ready to pounce from out of this forest. It seems a profoundly anti-Rousseau moment.

Hhmmm, what would have happened had Ivan had five boys instead?

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