Friday, December 03, 2004

Deconstructing McEnroe

In the early 80s I remember watching a locally televised indoor tennis tournament - a corporate sponsored event - that had John McEnroe as its star attraction. And he was in fine form. Screaming at the top of his lungs at the hapless chair umpire about some disputed line call, McEnroe finally stalked off the court in mid-game and slouched on the sideline chairs, draping a towel over his head. He was losing, and was convinced that the umpires were incompetently keeping his tennis brilliance from registering another victory.

As the delay became lengthy, and the whole match teetered on the brink of farce, the chair umpire finally began to deduct points from McEnroe. The corporate sponsors scurried along the courtside, trying to coax the star back into the match.

Meanwhile the lowly-seeded opponent cooled his heals politely behind the service line, not sure of what to do. He finally wandered over to McEnroe to beg him to return to the match. McEnroe didn't budge.

With the crowd getting boisterous and, through the logic of celebrity, beginning to back McEnroe, he finally stormed back onto the court, receiving ovations and encouragement. He was returning to the match as the wronged competitor.

With the psychology of the match and the crowd now turned around to his favor, he proceeded to dismantle his opponent and dig his way out of his deficit, gaining the approval of the crowd who was now invested in his "comeback."

His shell-shocked opponent proceeded to fold on cue, and McEnroe stormed back to a great come-from-behind victory.

It was during this match that I came to the conclusion that this man had no redeeming qualities. And I used to place myself in his opponents shoes, fantasizing about firing blistering serves at McEnroe's head as he pouted in his sideline chair.

But I won't resort to McEnroe's tactics given his talkshow failure. And to those who think he is an interesting celebrity worthy of our attention, I can only say: You cannot be serious.