Monday, September 04, 2006

Commentators say the darndest things

There is one good thing about the commentator line-up this US Open--no Brad Gilbert. Since he got his coaching gig with Andy Murray the commentating has been just a little bit better. Now if only someone would hire away John McEnroe.
But Gilbert's absence doesn't mean all is well in commentator-land. Last night Tracy Austin, in a discussion about Benjamin Becker, was dismayed by all the European players coming to the United States to play collegiate tennis--coming and taking up all the scholarships that should go, Austin reasons, to American players. She wants a limit of 2 "foreign" scholarships per team.
Hmmm...interesting. Sport is, theoretically, a "may the best person win" kind of endeavor--so if the Europeans are doing the best job then they should get the scholarships. And given Americans' love of (the myth of) meritocracy, one would think Tracy Austin would appreciate that these young Europeans are coming over and working hard for their place on the team. But I guess meritocracy only applies to those already living here. All the hard work one may put in in another country just doesn't count.
But in the end Austin's comment really just reads as highly xenophobic. Despite our immersion in a global economy, Austin believes that Americans deserve (whether they have earned it or not) preferential treatment in American colleges. She fails to see the benefit of non-American students attending American universities. She also clearly does not understand that European recruiting is one of the least egregious aspects of the current win at any cost philosophy of big-time collegiate athletics.


Diane said...

Tracy Austin, though a good tennis commentator, is not someone with whom I'd like to have dinner, if you get my meaning. At least she is less offensive than Pam Shriver.

Tennis commmentators, as I'm sure you know, are on my last nerve. Drysdale and Shriver and Carillo live for gossip; Shriver is a sexist, trouble-making busybody; Dick Enberg doesn't even bother to hide his sexual interest in the young women players. Mary Joe Fernandez and Drysdale have drunk so much Sharapova Kool-Aid, their faces are purple.

Fernandez, however, is a pretty good commentator when she stays away from the subject of Sharapova. I can live with Chris Fowler, too. And Brad Gilbert, though his personality is off-putting, at least added some interesting analysis.

John McEnroe is okay when he sticks to tennis, but alas, he doesn't. His brother is one of the most annoying people on TV; if I hear him say "droppa!" one more time, I may have to damage my television screen.

ken said...

Yes, someone should start a blog about the evils and annoyances of commentators.
Shriver is so disappointing to me. Here is a woman who played with Martina, was a peer of BJK, got married and had a kid later in life and she still attempts to conform to and of course perpetuate all these normative ideas about femininity and female athletes.
Today I heard John McEnroe say something about the men in mixed doubles partnerships having to do more work.
That's why going to the Open is so nice--a pleasant reprieve from commentators.

Diane said...

Johnny Mac should have been in Charleston this year--Rennae played in an exhibition match with Pat Cash, and he finally just stood by the fence and let her do the whole thing herself.

I watched a lot of the Wimbledon matches on the Web, and it was such a relief to hear commentators who talked about tennis the entire time.

I forgot to mention it, but I'm okay with Ted Robinson, too. He sticks to tennis and doesn't get involved in gossip and put-downs and games.

Anonymous said...

I also found Tracy's unabashed xenophobia deplorable, but to offer her a sliver of defense: To the extent she was talking about UCLA, her primary example of a tennis team with too many "foreign" scholarships -- she pointed out that the school has only 3% out of state students overall. One doesn't have to be xenophobic to impute some hypocricy on an institution that apparently lives to serve its state-taxpaying population but makes an exception for athletes.

But I don't think Tracy has to worry too much -- at the rate universities are going, bloated football teams and budgets will eventually swallow D1 intercollegiate men's tennis.

Last -- I agree with Diane that Ted is the least objectionable tennis commentator on the air today. It's unfortunate that he is always given the degrading chore of talking up the stupid sitcoms and other shows on CBS.