Answering US Open questions from the message boards and e-mail:
Q: Why are there no “US Open notes” about Roger’s shorts — huh Richard Vach?? We’ve had two postings on Maria’s red dress — why not have some discussion about Roger’s little black tuxedo shorts? There wouldn’t be a double standard here, would there?
Apologies jane, slacking on the fashion beat. Roger Federer’s “tuxedo shorts” were…heinous? Actually they grew on you as the match went on, and by the end of the match they were fun. Initially they reminded me of a few years ago when black socks and shoes were all the rage in the U.S., but instead of all-black, players were mixing them with colored shorts and shirts, so from the knees down they looked like your grandpa when he goes out in shorts with his dress shoes and socks. But the all-black worked, and afterwards in his press conference Federer acknowledged he did it for fun, which was refreshing.
Fans (and journalists) have been hammering the hubub over Maria’s dress, Bethanie Mattek’s wacky outfits, the “Maria Clones” running around the site, Hawkeye, basically anything outside of forehands and backhands, but hardcore fans who say “let’s keep it about tennis” need to realize that for years it has only been about tennis in the U.S. — and that’s why tennis is the 17th most popular sport (or whatever) on TV. If fashion brings more fans into tennis, bring on the fashion, bring on the stunts — Federer walks on court at Wimbledon in a blazer and the world sports media takes notice — even if it’s only to say “Ha! Only Roger Federer could get away with that!”
Tennis needs media attention outside of tennis to bring in casual tennis fans and new fans. At the 2008 Australian Open Federer needs to walk on court in a full spacesuit with helmet, tennis bag over his shoulder, then walk up to the chair umpire mike, take off the helmet and announce “I am miles above the Earth from anyone else in tennis!” Talk about an ESPN SportsCenter moment.
Q: Everyone is talking about what Roger Federer said about Althea Gibson, but how did he say it? What was his demeanor in the press conference?
Good question, because while it may have seemed like Federer blew off the question, there were extenuating circumstances. A journalist asked Federer what he knew about Gibson, as many journalists were asking the same question to many different players for their previews of the Gibson opening-night tribute. The problem was that Federer wasn’t familiar with Gibson so he reacted defensively, replying “You’re putting me on the spot,” perhaps thinking he was trying to be made to look foolish. Some journalists do attempt to put players on the spot if they suspect they don’t know something about a subject they should (remember back in the day with Jennifer Capriati not knowing anything about Title IX and the hammering she took?), but that wasn’t the case here.
So because of this Federer ended up making an honest, if a little chilly and clipped, response that he didn’t know anything about Gibson and the press conference moved on. Then, as you’re probably well aware, came the internet blog-o-storm from tennis fans about how Federer should be aware of such a ground-breaking piece of American civil rights tennis history — history that the majority of Americans are not aware of themselves. Hence the Althea Gibson tribute at the Open, and hence Serena William’s reply that this is why such events are important — albeit in my opinion in a better-late-than-never way, let’s not strain a muscle patting ourselves on the back. I say once we’ve found something important enough to educate more than half of our own population about, then we can expect foreigners to maybe know at least a little something. If there’s anyone to be angry with it’s ourselves as Americans, especially when you see how Gibson spent her last years.
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