10 June 2016

Yo, Meatless Friday: Old Coot Edition up in Here

Dear Readers, 

I have charmed you in the past by posting an essay of the great Taki Theodoracopulos in which he lamented the demise of professional football.

Now, stand amazed, as I post an essay by the same Taki, lamenting the demise of professional tennis! Excerpts:

A former model by the name of Géraldine Maillet has made a documentary about the 2015 French Open, not exactly a stop-the-presses kind of story as it hit the video shops just as the 2016 Open began. The French Championships, as they were back then before the Open era of 1967, was my favorite tournament—Paris being Paris, the Parisian girls being, well, beautiful and easier than most, and a very laissez-faire attitude among tennis officials making it so.

Needless to say, the French Open is now a very different affair. Top players are multinational corporations, marketing is a sine qua non, and if one wants to speak to a player, one goes to his agent’s agent and negotiates an appointment. Everything is machinelike: the play, the way players act, their training, even the umpiring, with Cyclops overruling the human error. Players are protected from prying eyes inside the locker room, and from getting in each other’s heads by their limited access to them. Coaches, trainers, gurus, and dietitians make sure of it. Tennis is a soulless game made so by technology and hucksters who sell it to advertisers who in turn sell it for big corporation dollars. Hype rules supreme and debases the game. Everyone, with very few exceptions, looks and plays the same. The most banal questions precede and follow the matches by hacks who are basically cheerleaders. Welcome to the modern game of pro tennis. And we also have the elephants on court: doping and betting. The last two were Greek to the old-timers. No longer.


My story begins back in 1956, when I first hit the circuit, when money was paid to the stars under the table and players had no chairs between games, no umbrellas to shield them from the fierce sun, no bathroom breaks, no injury time, no masseurs, no tie-breaks, and no ball boys to hand them a towel between points. The big names were Rosewall, Hoad, Laver, Emerson, Newcombe, Drobny, Patty, Fraser, Krishnan, Washer, Pietrangeli, Santana, Osuna, I could go on. The atmosphere was one of youth, athleticism, good sportsmanship, fun, and long lazy hours waiting to play a match in country clubs, except for the four Grand Slams, which were played in stadiums.


We were all friends, traveled together, and only the Australian team had a coach, Harry Hopman, who was there to keep the boys out of trouble. Here’s an example of how raw things were back then: My doubles partner, Nico Kalogeropoulos, and I faced the top American team, Richey-Froehling, in the first round of the French. We won the first two sets and were in a long third one when Richey decided to break into the drinks container that no one had bothered to unlock before the match. While doing it he sprained his hand. Nicky and I decided that if he defaulted we would be robbed of a victory, so we gave him twenty minutes to fix his hand. They then proceeded to win 6-4-in the fifth set. Rafael Osuna, who had won the U.S championship in Forest Hills the year before, beating Frank Froehling in the final, loathed Richey, a Texan with no manners but a great fighter on court and almost as great a whiner. Rafe was so upset that I had lost—and seeing Richey not even thanking us for the break we gave him—he took out a knife and advanced towards Richey. I threw myself between them, telling Rafe that “a piece of s*** like Richey wasn’t worth jail time.” Richey apologized and we all shook hands. Rafael Osuna died soon after in a plane crash.

Yes, they were innocent, beautiful days—an Eden, as far as I’m concerned. But now let’s see the replay and listen to a message from our sponsor.


There.  Now be quiet, or I'll post on bullfighing again, with Bob Dylan signing in the background!

No comments: