I’m headed across the pond on Tuesday evening to a small island in the North Atlantic. That means that this will be my last post until August. It also means that I’ve got England on the brain.
Rather than looking forward to my trip, I’d rather look back – in particular, to the “fortnight” that was Wimbledon. Whether or not you’re a tennis fan, it was quite a championship. First and foremost, most people will tell you, this will be the Wimbledon remembered as the end of an era in British futility. For the first time in 77 years, Wimbledon crowned an Englishman as champion. Admittedly, there are some Cubs fans who would die for that kind of success, but outside of the north side of Chicago, it’s considered quite the streak from Hell. Congratulations to Andy Murray for finally getting that monkey off Her Majesty’s back. And given that he has now won two major championships in less than a year, who knows? He could become the next number one player in the sport. But even if he wins four majors in a row, he won’t top last Sunday’s achievement.
So, this past Wimbledon was Murray’s tourney, right? Not for me. I’ll remember it more for the women’s side of the draw. By the semifinals, it was clear that the tournament would be won by someone who had never before won a major championship. I can’t remember the last time that’s happened. And the winner, Marion Bartoli, had played in 46 major tournaments before she finally won #47. That broke the old record by two, and established Ms. Bartoli as a true Cinderella Story.
By all rights, Bartoli should have been able to celebrate her record-setting victory in absolute peace, just like Murray did. But alas, in her finest hour, she became a victim of one of the stupidest comments I have ever heard made by a prominent broadcaster – and that’s saying a lot.
The comment reminded me of the way some of the boys spoke when I was growing up. Let’s say they saw a girl who was drop dead gorgeous. She might be called a “fox.” Now, let’s say they saw a girl was considered average looking. Her looks might be ignored altogether. (In hindsight, I call that a blessing.) And now, let’s say they saw a girl they considered less attractive than average. She was called a “dog.” It’s bad enough that one member of the canine family gets the royal treatment and the other becomes associated with sheer ugliness. But why would someone suggest that another person is sub-human simply because of her physical appearance? I can’t decide if that comment is more offensive or more stupid.
And I feel the same way about the comment made last week by BBC commentator John Inverdale with respect to Bartoli. If you were listening to Radio 5 Live in Britain, here’s what you would have heard out of Inverdale’s mouth: "Do you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little, 'you're never going to be a looker, you'll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight?'"
Come again? Methinks Inverdale was calling Bartoli a dog. Well, do you mind if I call him a pig? It’s true that Bartoli is a brunette, whereas Sharapova is a blonde. It’s true that Bartoli is 5’ 7”, whereas Sharapova is 6’ 2”. And I’ll even go a step further in recognizing that Bartoli has never modeled, as far as I know, whereas Sharapova is a stunning model. But the last I checked, Bartoli was standing with the Wimbledon trophy whereas Sharapova didn’t get out of the second round. So why is Inverdale praising Sharapova and insulting Bartoli? I thought I had been watching a tennis match. Apparently, Inverdale thought he was in a strip club – he’ll let the “dogs” in, but not without a snide comment.
And snide it was. He didn’t just suggest that Bartoli was ugly. He raised the idea that hers was a look that not even a father can love. That would have to be pretty hideous – three-eyeballs, two-noses kind of hideous. Because if there is anyone who can appreciate the beauty in a girl, it’s her father.
Maybe Inverdale didn’t have those kinds of parents. Maybe he comes from a rough family, where compliments and kindness are viewed as signs of weakness. But please, don’t try to bring another family into your Hellhole, Sir. Fortunately, the champ’s father, Dr. Walter Bartoli, wasn’t biting. Having heard about Inverdale’s comments – both he and Marion were asked to respond to them – Walter Bartoli’s words were short and oh so sweet: “I am not angry. She is my beautiful daughter.”
Indeed. Perhaps Marion Bartoli doesn’t have the face of a model. She certainly doesn’t have a model’s body. But she is by all accounts, smart, athletic, tenacious, and warm. And if you Google her when she is not pouncing on a tennis ball, you can’t help but see her beauty come through.
That is, unless you’re the type that thinks of 40% of the female gender “dogs.”
BBC – I hope that jerk is off the air by the time I arrive at Heathrow on Wednesday morning.