Serena Williams would like to embrace the line judge she verbally assaulted in a “big ol’ hug.”
Would the hug be any more sincere than the belated and orchestrated apology to the woman she humiliated on national TV, threatening to stuff the ball down her throat while spewing the F-word and thrusting her racket like a club?
With Williams, aspiring actress, it’s hard to tell. She probably still sees the questionable foot fault call in her U.S. Open semifinal as the predominant issue — not her reaction to it.
A stiffer penalty is coming soon, and Williams deserves to be suspended not only for what she did to the linesperson but to Kim Clijsters, the tournament and the sport of tennis. The $10,000 fine was automatic but meaningless. Williams spent more on the outfit and accessories she wore to the MTV Video Music Association Awards show, where she made a lame joke about the incident. She introduced Pink — who was lip-syncing on a trapeze — by saying, “And because she’ll be soaring high above Radio City’s stage, she won’t have to worry about stepping over any lines.”
Williams stepped way over the line, further than John McEnroe ever did when he belittled umpires for years, calling them “pits of the world.” He was suspended for two months after cursing at U.S. Open officials in 1987.
Williams’ meltdown was the abyss in a streak of bad behavior in our increasingly uncivil society. We saw Oregon football player LeGarrette Blount punch an opponent after losing a game. U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” at President Barack Obama on the floor of Congress. Kanye West grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift at the Video Music Awards so he could tout Beyonce’s video over hers. Michael Jordan took cheap shots at foes real and imagined during his Basketball Hall of Fame speech.
Jordan showed that he has to win at everything — hoops, golf, cards and induction ceremonies. Jordan was grinning, the same way a shark grins, as he thanked those who motivated him by slighting him, including the high school coach who cut him as a sophomore. He thanked Bryon Russell, who told Jordan he would shut him down if Jordan came out of retirement. Four years later, Jordan sank the winning championship shot for the Bulls over Russell. He needled the Bulls’ Jerry Krause, who once said organizations win championships. He jabbed Pat Riley, Jeff Van Gundy, Isiah Thomas.
It was sort of sad to see that Jordan is still keeping score, all these years later.
His speech was entertaining and revealing but laced with bitterness. What if another great one, Muhammad Ali, obsessed on a checklist of slights in his life?
Jordan has been criticized for being Mr. Bland Nike Corporate Image Protector, nothing more than a logo who never says or stands for anything. Defenders of his speech say he was letting down his shield and giving his public the real, ruthless MJ.
Defenders of Williams say she was being the real, ruthless Serena, who has lifted women’s tennis to new heights, just as Jordan lifted basketball.
But their rants — although different in tone and circumstance — oozed selfishness.