You’re a 30 y.o. tall dark and handsome tennis pro whose knees are shot but your other parts work just fine – so what now? Why reality TV, of course!

Rev up those libidos, folks, because last night – many thanks to NBC, or curses be upon them, depending – Mark Philippoussis began what the advertisers are calling “the match of his life.” Whew, and they ain’t kiddin’. The Scud, or Poo, or Flipper, as he is alternately called, began a life somewhat removed from tennis. He’s embarking on a new TV show about 30-something males romping with 40-something females. Can they make it work, is the premise. “Age of Love” is what they’re calling this heap of goodness.

Can we survive it, is what I’m wondering, perhaps uncharitably. Not that there is anything wrong with the Older/Younger ticket. Sounds pretty darn good to me, but then I’m a cradle-snatcher myself who happened to meet my partner when he was 30 and I was fourteen years older. So I would be first in line to pass my blessing upon the latest Poo Potpourri. It’s high-time this kind of hanky-panky made it onto the airways. After all, this Aussie was one of those blokes who got noticed off the courts too. He had a hunky charm that women liked, a basic shyness coupled with a certain intensity. Women eat that up, trust me, and let’s face it, his playing days are just about finished.

The last time Poo was in a tennis match of consequence was his 1999 quarterfinal with Sampras at Wimbledon. He’d already broken into the Top Ten in late March of that year for the first time and it looked like he would take Sampras out. But the big guy landed wrong on his left knee, and it all came crashing down around him. He suffered a cartilage tear and had surgery and, being a knee, he was never quite the same after that. I’ve always thought that size hindered Philippoussis, not just in terms of his movement but because he is so big, i.e. rather long-waisted and with a lot of heft to his upper body. So his lower body and the knees in particular bore the brunt of this weight. I’ve wondered if it would help him to slim down more, but it’s not like the guy is fat. He’s just big and long.

Given his physique and talent, Poo should have gone farther in his career, apart from the injuries. But he wasn’t always smart about his career. In fact the guy just didn’t seem too smart. My co-writer Nina and I discussed this one day. I rose to his defense, he is a Hunk after all, and he probably got the dumb label laid on him more than once in his career. I reminded Nina that women respond to his hunkiness and the last thing they want is brains getting in the way. I know all about this rant too, being blond myself, and having to cope with all the Driving While Blond jokes. So I can feel for Poo as a Hunk.

It’s interesting the ongoing love affair Americans have with Aussies. We’ve grown up with the notion that Aussie men are the REAL men. First we had Bryan Brown, then Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, then Mel Gibson in just about anything he did during his Australian period, and finally Russell Crowe in anything anywhere anytime. That’s a lot of hunkiness. Is their water better than our water?

So Mark Philippoussis comes out of a good tradition. He’s made People Magazine’s list of the top sexiest men twice. One year he had to share the limelight with his associates Lleyton Hewitt and Patrick Rafter. I suppose Hewitt is cute but he’s too much of a weasel on steroids for my taste. Rafter was much more like it. He could have done a reality TV show for sure. But Rafter ran like hell from the Hunk label. He wanted nothing more than to hang out with his family and surf. He’ll probably knock back a slab of tinnies and have a good hoot over his countryman’s new career tonight. Assuming they dare to show this show Down Under.

So how did our lad fare last night? Well, surprisingly he wasn’t too shabby. Polite, natural-seeming, a perfect boy toy. Unfortunately I had to fight my way through the show, which is actually a series. God help us. I can sit through five hours of Federer-Nadal no-sweat, but five minutes of Age Of Love and I was ready to hurl myself out the nearest open window. Mark, I’m frankly sorry your knees didn’t hold up.

A curious note: Poo is 6’5” and of Greek heritage, so I guess that inspired him to get a tattoo of Alexander the Great on his arm. It’s just that Alexander was barely 5’6”, and rather fair, and from Macedonia rather than Greece.

But I don’t have the heart to tell him. Neither should you.


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