Once again John McEnroe, the former combustible tennis player and now analyst for CBS, has had a problem with his mouth. Sometimes he has his foot in it; other times a tennis racket. While he has proven to be a savvy and insightful commentator during tennis tournaments, he also has the track record for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and now he has gone and done it again.
Mac is in trouble for saying that professional female tennis players are playing too much tennis. “I think that it’s asking too much of the women,” McEnroe said. “They shouldn’t be playing as many events as the men … The women have it better in tennis than in any other sport, thanks to Billie Jean King. But you shouldn’t push them to play more than they’re capable of.”
What is he talking about? The female tennis players cannot do what the males can do? Didn’t King prove that a fallacy when she beat Bobby Riggs all those years ago? What basis does he have for saying this?
Caroline Wozniacki is seeded No. 1 at the U.S. Open, in part because Serena Williams is injured and not playing, but also because she has played in enough tournaments during the year to up her ranking. I was surprised as anyone to see this, but that is the way of things.
Big Mac ought to know better, but he often shoots off his mouth and gets in trouble in the broadcast booth, just as he did on the court. He is politically incorrect to the point of embarrassment because he is making this a gender issue when it shouldn’t be. If it is an issue in tennis that players are playing too much tennis, it has nothing to do with gender. Period.
Are tennis players – male and female – playing too much tennis? How much is too much? Can we compare baseball to tennis. How about a 162-game schedule, plus spring training, and possibly playoffs? In football you have the preseason and 16-game schedule, and if you’re lucky enough to survive that without injury, maybe the playoffs.
Professional sports tend to be year round affairs at this point. Athletes are working out and honing their skills all the time. The best way to do that, I would say in any game, but in tennis especially, is to be out on that court against an opponent. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The same way you get to the U.S. Open: practice, practice, practice. This goes for both men and women, Big Mac.
Hopefully McEnroe will come out an apologize, calm down the women – and men – who are offended by his comments, and the U.S. Open will go on and be enjoyable, as it usually is, to watch, but you just never know with Big Mac. He may just say something worse in the next two weeks, so stay tuned.