Two Readers Have Wishes Granted Today …

A former colleague and long-term reader of these rants is a tennis player and a tennis fan.  He is not so much a football fan; and when I introduced “Football Friday” as a concept ere, he lobbied for “Tennis Tuesday”.  Another reader’s son and daughter were college level tennis players; he too has lobbied for more “tennis focus” over time.  My response to them has always been pretty simple:

  • I really do not follow tennis closely at all – – because – –
  • I really do not enjoy watching tennis.

Today, two readers will get their wishes granted.  The women’s final match of the US Open produced a controversial event that is worth a comment.  Let me do a reset for those who – like me – tend to ignore tennis tournaments.

  • Serena Williams lost the final match in the US Open to Naomi Osaka.
  • Williams received a warning and two penalties from the chair referee.

I have never officiated a tennis match, but I have officiated various other sports over a period of 37 years; my comments here come from a basis as a referee in the generic sense.

The warning to Serena Williams came when the chair told her that she was being coached from the stands and – for reasons that are not clear to me – that is against the rules.  In an interview, her coach admitted he was doing that; tennis commentators say it is done all the time.  If the coach in the stands was “coaching” and it is against the rules, then the chair was justified in issuing the warning to Serena Williams.  If the commentators are correct that it happens all the time, then the chair was being petty simultaneous to being justified.  Serena Williams did not take the warning well at all; she told the chair several times that she was not cheating and has never cheated to win.  She took the warning personally.

Later, in frustration over happenings in the match, Serena Williams took out her frustration on her tennis racket smashing it to the ground and destroying it.  According to tennis commentators, that behavior runs afoul of the “abuse rule” and since there had been a prior warning – – for coaching – – the second rules violation led to Williams losing a point.  If she took the first warning poorly, she took this one even less well.  She said that the chair had stolen a point from her.

As her “displeasure” with the way things were going grew, she took a very logical – but very wrong – next step.  Since she was convinced that the chair had “stolen a point” from her; she proceeded to call the chair referee “a thief”.  Hey, if he stole something, then he is a thief, right?  The problem there is that she now attacked the referee as a person and not his decisions and that is across the line.  The chair then penalized her a game in the set and that decision was upheld by the tournament director when Serena Williams appealed to him.

At every step in the escalation of tensions here, there was a logical/predictable set of events and outcomes.  Once the “warning for coaching” was issued, things went downhill.  The “abuse violation” was clear; there was a destroyed racket on the court in plain view of everyone; absent the “coaching warning” that would not have cost Serena Williams a point and things could well have ended on a warning for violation of the “abuse rule”.  Even at that point, things could have been contained until it all got personal with the chair referee.

I have probably officiated 2500 “games” in various sports.  I have been criticized for “missing” at least 100,000 calls; I have let the vast majority of those protests slide.  I can recall about a dozen incidents where a coach or player went beyond protesting a call and made their protest personal.  One particularly frustrated coach – a man in his 50s who was an educator in his real life – lost it and called me a fellator loud enough to be heard throughout the gym.  I tossed him from the game instantly.  There is a difference between telling me I missed a call or misinterpreted a rule and getting personal.  That was where the drama at the US Open went off the rails.

Enough tennis …  I do not want to overreact to the first game of the NFL season, but something bothered me as I was watching the Falcons/Eagles game last Thursday night.  Something seemed “wrong” with Matt Ryan; there was no zip on the ball when he threw; even his completions downfield seemed to take forever to get where they were going.  Pitchers in baseball talk about having a “dead arm”; if there is such a thing for a QB, it seemed to me that Ryan may have encountered it.

This is not an overreaction because I brought up this issue in my NFL predictions for every team.  I watched much of the Ravens/Bills debacle yesterday even though the outcome was not in doubt for the last three quarters of play.  I watched it the way one might be mesmerized by the progress of a multi-car pileup at the bottom of an icy hill.  The Bills played terribly, and I am sure that some folks somewhere have already concluded that they will be the 2018 team that goes winless for the season.  I’ll stand back from that for now, but I do have to wonder again what the thought process was in Buffalo during the offseason:

  • The Bills made the playoffs last year as the second wild-card in the AFC.
  • So, why did they blow up the team?  They let their QB walk; they did a total makeover of their O-Line; they signed AJ McCarron to a 2-year contract and then traded him to Oakland for a 5th round pick; they assembled a WR corps that cannot even be called “plain vanilla”.
  • They said that Nathan Peterman won the starting job in training camp beating out AJ McCarron.  If you watched even two series of yesterday’s game, you have to wonder what the Hell was going on in that training camp that could have led to that conclusion.  Peterman was below awful in the hierarchy of adjectives.
  • This is not a case where a new GM and a new coach have come to town and are in the process of putting their stamp on the team and the roster; those guys were there last year when the team made the playoffs.
  • To the extent that there was a grand strategic plan behind all the moves made by the Bills in the last off-season, I just do not get it.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A man and two women are on the loose in Silver Spring, Md., after they stole an $80 wig from a store.

“Police profilers describe the suspects as huge fans of artificial turf.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “Two Readers Have Wishes Granted Today …”

  1. The tennis coaching rule is stupid. If it does not delay the play, a coach should be able to call things out, and maybe talk a few seconds between games/sets. That said, a stupid rule is still a rule.

    She acted like a diva, no, a spoiled child. Terrible example of sportsmanship. She should be cited as an example of how NOT to behave. Terrible role model. And the focus should have been on this new star winning her first major…. her limelight has been stolen. It’s on Athlete Behaving Badly.

    The Bills…. I am a Jets fan ( I know….) , so I see the AFC East a lot. Tyrod Taylor is no great QB, the Packers didn’t offer Aaron Rodgers for him even-up, but he is a competent pro. Peterman.. didn’t he throw 5 INTs in a half last year? I don’t get it.

    1. Ed:

      I totally agree with you about the tennis “coaching rule”. Why is it there in the first place? Hell, in golf the caddy does a lot of coaching all during the round and no one bats an eye. Is there another sport where the athlete’s coach or the team coach is barred from any coaching participation?

      There was plenty of ignominy to spread around in the Serena Williams/Chair Referee kerfuffle. Both of them have been rightfully tarred by the incident.

      Yes, Peterman is the same guy who threw 5 INTs in a half last year. And the way he played on Sunday indicated that was not a totally fluky performance. I guess I understand that Bills decided to move on from Taylor because they wanted to try to get a young QB in a deep draft last year. What I do NOT understand is why they ditched AJ McCarron for a 5th round pick and kept Peterman as the only option to Josh Allen. If Allen is not ready to start all the time, then McCarron seems to be a much better option to Peterman as the place-holder at starting QB.

  2. Something I used to teach baseball umpires: there is a difference between a correct call and the right call. Warning Serena Williams for being coached during the match was the correct call according to the rules. However, because the rule is often ignored, making that call during the highly competitive final match of the US Open was not the right call. In my experience making a correct call in such a situation always led to an ejection in baseball. I am surprised that a highly experienced official made that mistake.
    I completely agree with your analysis of Serena’s behavior. When the complaint becomes personal, it never ends well for the complainer no matter how badly he or she has been wronged.

    1. Gil:

      Thanks for chiming in here. Your distinction between the “right call” and the “correct call” is an important one to recognize. And that distinction was center stage in this controversy.

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