Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can we please just talk about tennis?

Liezel Huber uses every opportunity to remind people that she is an American citizen. "I chose to play for the U.S. I think, in a way, I'm a prouder American than some people because I haven't always had the U.S.," Huber told The Birmingham News. I understand that sentiment, I suppose, but Huber really knows how to lay it on:

Coming to this land of opportunity, I'm so grateful. Coming with a suitcase and a dream and here I am today. This country has offered me so much that you will see during this week that I am the proudest American that you will meet. It gives me goose bumps every time to be representing my country and be on a team.


Perhaps Huber's rhetoric wouldn't grate on me so much if it didn't have (for me) some other contexts. In Charleston, she said she once felt she didn't belong because she was from a third world country. That's true, technically, but I wish she hadn't said it. Now, in Birmingham, her comments come at the same time that one of her teammates, Melanie Oudin, had to say about team membership, "It really shows who really cares about their country and who wants to play for more than themselves." 

It is entirely possible that these comments were made in isolation and that no reference was consciously made to players who are not on the team. But the results, PR-wise, are unfortunate. I should also add--for the sake of clarity--that while I certainly wish the USA team well, and will be in the stands in Birmingham, I am disturbed when national pride crosses over into chauvinism, as it seems to do more and more.

I have written, on several occasions, that I think the USA Fed Cup team needs to let go of its fixation on the Williams sisters, and move on. Mary Joe Fernandez has done a really good job with Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Huber and other team members. I also appreciate how exciting it must be for those team members to have played in the final last year, and to be in a semifinal in 2010. I just wish everyone would keep the conversation focused on tennis.

15 comments:

Sunny said...

As I have said in another comment I think Fernandez blew this and allowed a drama to play out in the public eye. It didn't help anybody, the athletes or her. She should just have a personal deadline for naming the team, call the players to see if they want to play and go, at that time, with whoever says yes. This is, I think, only her second year of being captain and I would hope the powers that be would give her time to develop young players. Again, it became this whole big drama.

Karen said...

Diane, I am happy that Huber feels happy to be an American. The fact that she is coming from a country which has for years practised a form of social hierachy that has led to what is happening in her native country right now is clearly not relevant to her own viewpoint. Mary Jo also had some unfortunate comments to make about Venus' non-participation in Fed Cup. No other Federation and players have come out so vociferously against 2 players like this present US Fed Cup team. I have communicated with persons who are aware of the situation and from what I gather Venus tried very hard to play the tie this weekend but her doctors really did forbid it. Venus is 29 years old as the press keeps reminding us. She will be 30 in 2 months time, yet she is being asked to do yeoman's service at this time. It is clear that Huber does not realise the true history of the country and indeed the state at which she is speaking. She and Melanie Oudin should really ask themselves why it is that the 2 of the best players that have ever played for the US are reluctant to lace up now during the twilight of their careers. The fact that Venus has withdrawn from Stuttgart is clearly not a clue as well. The good thing about all of this is that the Williams family has kept their own counsel on this but I am sure that somewhere the family is seething at the comments being made about Venus and Serena's commitment to country.

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