Bruce Jenkins offers the most ridiculous assessment of the true athlete in his column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He takes some of the female players to task for their "garish dresses and odd hairstyles"but sweeps the criticism aside because such things are a matter of choice. Jeez, thanks Bruce. In addition to being quite a strange comment, it's condescending. I don't think any of the outfits this year could be considered garish and I am not sure what Jenkins is thinking of with odd hairstyle. Oh wait--is he referring to the beaded cornrows Venus and Serena Williams wore a decade ago? If so he's both living in the past and being a racist.
But what's most obvious from the column is that he is being sexist.
Because the real issue he has, the thing that makes these women not real athletes is all in their head--or rather on their head--specifically their ears. Yes, the large earrings sported by Sharapova and Williams (those are the two he mentions) make them not true athletes. The younger "legitimate" players apparently have more sense than to don 4-inch earrings. This isn't exactly true, though. Julia Vakulenko (just beaten by Agnes Szavay) was wearing large hoops during her match on Thursday. Bethanie Mattek has been known to wear large earrings as well.
I personally don't know how they play with them swinging all around like that, but they seem to have mastered it, so I don't question it too much. And why does Jenkins pick on the earrings? I always wonder how some of these women with the long, long ponytails and braids manage them swinging around and hitting them in the face when they whip a open-stance forehand crosscourt. (It should be noted that Anna Chakvetadze did get her braid stuck in her racket during one of the summer tournaments.)
Jenkins's argument is not that different from those who claim figure skating is not a sport because of the costumes and the performance aspect of it. Of course in tennis the outfits that have now become fashion are still a choice to some extent so it goes then that those who choose to treat the clothes they play in as fashion, according to Jenkins, are just not as serious.
We also have to consider that some sports are just not conducive to displays of personal style. Team sports require homogeneity and of course some of them, like soccer, prohibit jewelry because of the potential danger. But that doesn't mean female soccer players deserve to be called athletes any more than hoop-wearing tennis players.