West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word


The other day, I was watching two college tennis players squaring off in a tournament match. It was a close one. The player that lost the first set was actually ahead in the second set. That is, until he self-destructed. First he yelled at himself for playing poorly: “Stop playing like my MOTHER!” he shouted. Then he’d kick the tennis ball when he missed a shot. Finally, his frustration built until he threw his racquet. The chair umpire calmly said: “Code violation. Racquet abuse. Game, set, match to (the other player.)” Sound familiar?

While watching this tennis match, I couldn’t help but think of Serena Williams and her own R-rated brand of bad behavior that lost her match point in a semi-final match in the U.S. Open. That also made me think of Roger Federer chastising the chair umpire and tossing a profanity in between games. Then, of course, there’s Kanye West, who used to be known for his brilliant rap recordings and will now just be known for stealing Taylor Swift’s thunder…and microphone.

Bad behavior is everywhere – especially in sports. The tennis examples I cited are especially bothersome to me because A) it involves a sport that I love, and B) it sets a horrible example for young aspiring players.

The question I have is: When did it become OK to throw a hissy fit because you don’t get your own way? What are we teaching young athletes about the joys and disappointments of playing? Somewhere along the way, it seems that kids are taught to question authority, be defiant and show anything but good sportsmanship.

What bothered me most about Serena Williams’ prime time meltdown was what she said (or didn't say) in her post-match press conference: She told reporters that she had “moved on.” She did not apologize or take accountability for her actions…until several days later.

I won’t lie. It makes great drama to watch players act out. In fact, Serena and Roger may have raised the profile of the sport of tennis several notches just by turning a generally G-rated sport PG-13. Look what Tiger Woods did for golf just by being demonstrative. (Oh yeah, and playing pretty well too.)

We like our star athletes to be like us except when they’re playing. And a lot of them are, when they’re not driving around in their Escalades. In my opinion, what makes them good or bad role models is what they do when things don’t go very well. We all have bad days. And we all lose our tempers. Stars owe it to their adoring public to own up to being human and just say that they’re sorry if they do lose their cool. Sadly, that rarely happens.

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