Saturday, September 14, 2013


I don't want to make it sound like the sports media failed to give a decent amount of coverage to the U.S. Open championship Serena Williams won last Sunday. However, given that it happened on the first Sunday of the NFL season, it did not receive the kind of banner attention that a title of its magnitude deserves.

Sunday's championship was Serena's 17th singles Grand Slam title. In tennis's Open Era, only Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have more and they are only one ahead of her, tied at 18 apiece. Since there were not as many true contenders among the women's ranks when they played, there is a very legitimate argument to be made that Williams is the greatest female tennis player of all time.

The fact that she not only won the U.S. Open but dropped just a single set the entire tournament, and currently holds the planet's #1 ranking, is even more impressive when you consider that she is less than two weeks from her 32nd birthday. Serena is older now than Evert was when she won her last Grand Slam tourney. Steffi Graf did not win any after she turned 30, and while Navratilova earned a Wimbledon crown at the age of 33, every one of her other Grand Slam titles came when she was younger that Serena is today.

Plus, there is much more to Serena Williams than "just" her athletic excellence. She is extremely smart -- as is obvious when you watch an interview in which she opines about hard work and personal accountability. She proves that the proverbial, All-American girl next door is not a myth, because in many ways she is that girl -- as is obvious when you listen to her talk about her country (which she is proud to love) and when you think about the way she has used her own tenacity and talent to rise from the tough town of Compton to the heights of success.

To those who have frowned upon the few emotional outbursts she has had when not performing at the level she knows she is capable of, I say: Don't you want your fellow citizens to expect the most out of themselves, and don't you expect them to be unhappy when they fall short of their goals? We are a fickle society when it comes to competitors getting rankled, for sometimes we think their rancor is a sign of an admirable dislike of losing, and other times we think it is a sign of them being spoiled. In Serena's case, I am positive it's the former

To those who want their athletes to exhibit character, I say: Read everything I just wrote, and if that's not enough for you, consider that Serena has managed to coexist with her sister in an ultra-competitive individual sport where differences in trophy counts can not be blamed on teammates. Serena and Venus coexist without their relationship descending into an inferno of sibling rivalry, which is not an easy accomplishment when siblings have competitive personalities. Sports and music might not be the same, but the Williams sisters make rock-and-roll brothers like Ray and Dave Davies and John and Tom Fogerty look infantile by comparison.

And finally, while we are at it, let's be honest about something: As much as it offends some people (understandably offends them), there is no denying that sex appeal influences what we think of our athletes. I will not be called a male chauvinist for saying so, because I have heard many women speak about their admiration for Tom Brady, and let's just say that I haven't heard a'one of them talk about the way he reads defenses and checks down to his third receiver.

When it comes to sex appeal, Serena has it. I have heard some people say otherwise, but they are wrong. Yes, I know attractiveness is subjective, but I still say that those who scoff at the notion of Serena as a sex symbol are either wrong, jealous, or something else I won't bother to mention just now.

Serena Williams is still in her prime. We should appreciate it as long as it lasts, and remember it when it does pass.

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