With Sham Samaroo
Bullyism seems to be alive and well at the US Open. How else could one explain Serena’s disgraceful behavior? And all because she was losing.
Desperately wanting to win her 24th title against a 20-year old Naomi Osaka looking to win her very first, Serena’s bid collapsed in a heap of tears, angry rants, blind accusations, and violations. Such an undignified display from a great champion like Serena was truly regrettable. Most regrettable was the fact that an innocent 20-year old had to stand silently and endure this abominable spectacle through no fault of her own except, perhaps, that she was unleashing a merciless thrashing on the great champion. And if that were not enough, Osaka then had to apologize for winning. Isn’t that what often happens to victims of bullying? That they are often made to feel like they were responsible somehow for the actions of the bully?
Fans worldwide watching the finals last Saturday might be excused for wondering: My God, how low can we go! After it was over, Serena desperately sought to justify her atrocious rants by playing the sexist card. I was standing up for women, she said. Really Serena? Were you standing up for women when referring to the thugs that gang raped the 16-year old white girl in Ohio? You told Rolling Stone magazine quote: “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
So Serena, lets help our young daughters understand this. Are you saying: Rape is your fault if you are 16 years old girl and you are drunk. Rape could possibly be your fault if you aren’t a virgin. Raped victims should feel lucky as it could have been much worse. Rape is your fault if your parents didn’t teach you not to take drinks from other people. Rape is your fault if you’re too intoxicated to remember it. Rape isn’t a position you should put yourself in. Rape is only a problem if you were “slipped something” … that’s different. We live in a world where women are often made to feel guilty for being beautiful, for being afraid, for being drunk, and yes, even for just being a woman. Such comments from a self-professed “defender” of women’s rights were a low blow to the solar plexus of all young daughters.
And were you Serena, also standing up for women in 2009 when you berated the female line judge telling her: “If I could, I would take this —-ing ball and shove it down your —-ing throat.” Interestingly, you were losing that game too. And were you, Serena, standing up for women when in the 2011 finals, you told the female umpire, Eva Asderaki, that she was ugly, and she was a hater. And yes, you were losing that final also. Do we see a pattern here? Starboy said to me that you are not fooling anyone: that you knew full well what you were doing. You were whipping up into frenzy an already heavily partisan crowd to unsettle the 20-year old, and then later tried to excuse it playing the sexist card (the race card seemingly unavailable as Osaka is of Haitian-Japanese descent and the Umpire was Carlos Ramos). One wonders: if available would it have been used?
Here is what happened. In the first set, Osaka thrashed Serena 6 -2 and was on course in the second with Serena desperately fighting to stay on serve. Serena’s coach admitted he was coaching her from the box for which she received a first warning. Serena immediately charged Umpire Ramos telling him she did not cheat. Having had her say, the matter ended there and Serena proceeded to serve with the second set tied at 3-3. But a cool Osaka promptly broke Serena yet again to go up 4-3. Serena, in disgust, smashed her racket on the court. This resulted in a second violation and a point deduction. Serena then approached the chair and exploded in a tirade. She berated Ramos demanding that he get on the microphone and apologize to her. “You must make an announcement”. “You owe me an apology”. “Say it, say you’re sorry”, screamed an irate Serena as if speaking to a child. “You will never ever be on a court of mine as long as you live.” Don’t talk to me”. “You are a thief”. “I told you to apologize to me”, bellowed Serena. To which umpire Ramos finally and correctly issued her a third violation.
Osaka went on to win easily, a game she dominated from beginning to end. But by then, Serena had already snatched every ounce of joy from the victory. At the presentation, USTA President, Catherine Adams, added insult to injury saying: “Perhaps it’s not the outcome we were all looking for today”. Can you believe that? Until then, Osaka, who is also American (she holds dual citizenship) and a New Yorker (she grew up in Elmont, Queens), had held her composure with dignity and grace. But that comment was just too much for the 20-year old to digest. Her face fell, and she wore the look of someone having to apologize for winning, and then the tears began to fall. One might have hoped that Serena would be gracious in defeat. But rather than immediately congratulate Osaka, Serena instead began: “I don’t want to be rude”. “It’s not what you wanted; what I wanted…” What a contrast to Osaka’s comments: “It was always my dream to play Serena at the US Open final,” she said. Osaka then turned to Serena, and in that much-admired eastern tradition, offered a slight bow of the head to Serena and said, “thank you”.
Starboy says: you cannot buy class, either you have it, or you don’t. Osaka then had to apologize for winning: “I know everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry”. Serena, it is you who should apologize for stealing: you stole Osaka’s dream. Let’s make no mistake about it: That young lady will go on to win many more grand slams. But she will never again get the chance to experience that special thrill of the first: You stole that from her. How ironic that it was the young and inexperienced Osaka who showed Serena and the world that to be truly great, champions must be both gracious in defeat and humble in victory. Now there is a lesson for all children to learn.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.