Saturday, October 13, 2007

RANT: What Scandal?

In case you've been living under a rock for the last few months, tennis is dealing with a gambling scandal right now. But don't worry, no money ever changed and, according to every player and every official, things have just been blown a little out of proportion.

Wait, am I reading this right? Or perhaps I should say 'Am I writing this right?'

The thing is, tennis is taking this serious, or at least as serious as the sport knows how to take anything.

You see, tennis has always been (and maybe always will be) that country club sport. There's been slaps on the wrists and wagging of fingers, but minus a few rather insignificant steroid bans, tennis hasn't had to deal with scandal the way the rest of the sporting world has.

Just this past week, Marion Jones bared he soul (and some tears) for the entire world to witness. She had confessed that she had, indeed, taken steroids, and she was returning her Olympic medals and asking for forgiveness.

But forgiveness for what, Marion? For lying? For cheating? For stealing?

If she's as sorry as she says she is, she wouldn't have ever done any of what she did. You see, sport encourages athletes to cut corners. It asks them to be the best and make it look easy. Winning is everything.

But in life, there's something called respect. And dignity. And legacy.

Marion Jones has tattered all of that. And for what? A couple of gold medals?

Before tennis players, officials, coaches, agents and fans can start running to the press and saying how innocent we all are, about how are sport is 'respectable' and how such activity will 'not be tolerated', maybe we should take a look at who we are and what we stand for?

We let Maria Sharapova march he way through the 2006 US Open with Yuri practically as her side every change over, giving all his words of wisdom.

We let Justine Henin cheat against Serena Williams at the 2003 French Open. And we let Ted Watts and Mariana Alves screw up in front of thousands of fans just to smile at the players minimal interest.

We let Jon McEnroe embarrass himself on the court for decades, Irina Spirlea and Lleyton Hewitt be blatantly racist during matches and Martina Hingis be homophobic during a press conference.

Tennis is far from perfect, but so too, is sport...and, dare I say, the world we live in, too. Yet there has to be a time where we all say, 'Wait a minute, this isn't right.' Instead of doing our best to sweep it under the carpet, forget it all happened and smile when the season ends, so proud of our achieving crooks.

Are they crooks? I certainly hope not, and my gut tells me no. But can we trust our guts? Or should the press, the players and the governing bodies of tennis step up and do a little gut check. Just to be sure.

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