Programming note: Tonight, Monday, I'll be joining Tucker Carlson live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific â€“ with a rerun at 12 midnight Eastern. I hope you'll dial us up.
~As the Bard has it, Henry V did not take a joke gift of tennis balls from the Dauphin of France terribly well:
Tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
Hath turn'd his balls to gun stones.
At the US Open, a twenty-year-old upstart became the first woman from her country ever to win a Grand Slam tournament, but in so doing she mocked the queen and turned Serena's balls to gun stones. Miss Williams is what we used to call a "bad sport" (have you heard that expression this millennium?) and the sorest of sore losers. The defense of her behavior by the likes of the entitled tsesarevna Chelsea Clinton on the grounds of "sexism" and "racism" and whatever other isms might be appealed to is hardly serious when you're the bigshot and you're playing an unknown girl from Japan who's half-Haitian and dark-skinned and even the umpire you're abusing isn't one of those hoity-toity Wimbledon types who used to enrage John McEnroe but a fellow called Carlos Ramos.
Had she won, Miss Williams would have tied the great Aussie champ Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles. Instead she played badly - and beating up the umpire testifies not to your greatness but only to self-indulgence and ill-discipline: it's the consolation of losers. But so what? Aside from being singularly ill-named, Serena is merely the latest raging boor and narcissist who failed to (as I was saying only the other day) keep her head and play the game. What made the weekend's fiasco depressing and unnerving was the reaction of almost everyone else.
Naomi Osaka played a beautiful match and deserved to savor the fruits of victory. Instead, the disgraceful and contemptible President of the US Tennis Association, Katrina Adams, chose to praise to the skies a player whose appalling behavior had contributed to her defeat and diminished her sport. "It's not the finish we were looking for today," Ms Adams announced, apparently speaking for the entire crowd, "but Serena, you are a champion of all champions.... This mama is a role model and respected by all."
Was there anyone else on the court? Not so's you'd notice from the graceless head honcho of American tennis. That's why the New York Post headline gets it right:
It's shameful what US Open did to Naomi Osaka.
Not what one rampant psychodrama queen did to Naomi Osaka, but what Katrina Adams and all the other Serena enablers did to pile on. Stephen McIntyre is well-known round these parts as the scourge of Michael Mann's hockey stick but he also knows how to bandy a racquet (if memory serves, he plays fairly regularly with my old comrade from Canada's "human rights" battles, Julian Porter, QC). Steve was scathing about the baying goons of the crowd:
New York spectators were despicable, beyond despicable.
They were - well beyond. They weren't there to watch a sporting contest; they were celeb groupies in love with the swagger and attitude of Miss Williams' branding. The actual match mattered less to them than the Chase Bank ad endlessly played throughout, in which Serena kisses her baby daughter and struts cocksure onto court to taunt an unseen opponent: "I'm gonna knock you out. Mama said knock you out."
Don't you find this sort of posturing tinny, hollow, faintly repulsive and butt-numbingly clichĂ©d? Even before the no-name opponent knocks you out.
Afterwards, denied the honor and glory of her victory by Katrina Adams, USTA and the jeering mob, Naomi Osaka pulled her visor down over her face and sobbed. She had withstood Serena and the crowd point by point through the match, but the post-match contempt knocked the stuffing out. She bowed her head to a worthy opponent, but Miss Williams did not reciprocate.
One hardly needs to note the aptness of Chelsea Clinton coming to the defense of a wretchedly bad loser. First, you assume you'll win; then you figure you should have won; and from there it's a small step to figuring you did win and someone - a Portuguese umpire, the Macedonian "content farmers" - stole it from you. And so sport - in which points are won according to objective measures such as balls clearing nets and falling within painted lines - is now just another outpost of the great festering grievance culture:
No, this wasn't just about a code violation. Rules derive, essentially, from a system, an implicit covenant that all shall be treated equally, and all shall have the same opportunities. But what happens when the covenant is broken? What happens when the system doesn't work for you? Perhaps then, your norms diverge from mine. Perhaps neither of us has the monopoly on morality...
Indeed. Perhaps neither of us won, or lost, or played at all. Perhaps, as I had cause to remark many years ago, your ace is just a social construct:
Yet again, alas, a whimsical throwaway gag of mine has become depressingly literal in no time at all:
The lie is that you can treat Serena as if she were anybody else, when all the available evidence suggests otherwise. The hypocrisy is in demanding that humans abide by values they had no part in defining and often work actively against them. The incongruity arises when you expect a force of nature to behave like a man-made object. After all, the same river that irrigates our fields also floods our houses.
In fact, if you don't treat Serena as.if she were anybody else, you won't have a sport - as we saw this weekend. Long ago - so long ago that he had in mind "real tennis" (or royal tennis) rather than its modern incarnation - William Lathum compared life to a tennis court:
All manner chance are Rackets, wherewithall
They bandie men, from wall to wall;
Some over Lyne, to honour and great place,
Some under Lyne, to infame and disgrace...
But what is "infame and disgrace" to a force of nature that floods your rec room? We sneer at the old-school conflation of the sporting ethos and life's virtues. But, whether or not "the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton", something was lost on the center court of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, and it was larger than merely Serena Williams' next endorsement deal.
~We had a busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with my thoughts on space, human capability and the flagless final frontier. Our Saturday movie date mourned the passing of Burt Reynolds with his breakout movie Deliverance, and our Song of the Week celebrated the 75th anniversary of a belated Sinatra hit. If you were too busy this weekend being tied to a tree by stump-toothed mountain men, we hope you'll want to check out one or two of the foregoing as a new week begins.
~Tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, we'll be attempting another one of our Clubland Q&As, in which I take questions from Mark Steyn Club members live around the planet. It kicks off at 4pm Eastern in North America. That's 5pm Tuesday in the Maritimes, 5.30pm in Newfoundland, 6pm in St Pierre et Miquelon - and, beyond the Americas, 9pm in the British Isles, 10pm in Western Europe, 11pm in the Middle East, midnight in Moscow, 1.30am on Wednesday in Delhi for all you Newfoundlanders who move to India for the half-hour time-zones, 4am in Singapore and Western Australia, a 6am daybreak breakfast in Sydney and Melbourne, alas, and a rather more civilized hour for the kedgeree and eggs Benedict in New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu et al. I do hope you'll join us.
Speaking of the The Mark Steyn Club, the inaugural Steyn cruise sets sail next month from Montreal to Boston. We hope you'll want to join me and Michele Bachmann, John O'Sullivan, Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, and special musical guest Tal Bachman, as we attempt some seaboard versions of The Mark Steyn Show, Tales for Our Time, our Sunday Poem and other favorite features. If you're thinking of joining us, don't leave it too late, as the price is more favorable the earlier you book.
Thank you so much for all the Steyn Club subscription renewals over these past few weeks. As our second year cranks into top gear, we look forward to welcoming many more into our ranks - and hope you'll do so in time for our brand new Tale for Our Time starting in a few days. For more information on The Mark Steyn Club, see here - and don't forget our limited-time Gift Membership.
Catch you on the telly tonight with Tucker live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific.