. . . Tuesday July 6, 2004

McEnroe a Victim of Team Tennis?

I spent many of my childhood summers as a tennis club bum. Where I come from, the tantrum was a work of art. During the finals of tournament I once stood on my racket for an entire point to protest what I thought was a lack of effort from my partner in the match (it was supposed to be a light-hearted 4th of July tournament and my partner was my own father). The guys I looked up to hucked their rackets, had mental breakdowns on the court, and treated onlookers to numerous fits, yells and memories of broken equipment. One guy I knew was so pissed during a match that he played it wearing jeans and collared shirt and following the first set (which he lost) he warned his opponent that if he won another set, he would be severely beaten up.

So we could relate to John McEnroe. He was a hero of sorts primarily because like him, we were complete dicks. Unlike him, my self-contempt (I would regularly have fits after losing the first point of a match) always cost me the match – and along with my utter lack of talent, my career.

Love him or hate (and I’ve done both throughout the years), it was always pretty hard for tennis fans to take their eyes off of John McEnroe. He and the other heavy-on-personality players of his era (including Jimmy Conners and Ilie Nastase) have been, to a certain extent, proven correct in their approach. Tennis coverage and ratings have dropped dramtically since their departures and aside from teenagers glued to the set to watch Anna or Serena’s skirt fly up during a serve, almost no one still cares about tennis.

I think McEnroe has the chance to be equally watchable when his upcoming show hits its groove on CNBC. He is quirky, weird and uncomfortable to watch in a good way.

But I think the success of his show is a longshot. Not because of him. But because of Dennis Miller. Miller has completely traded his humor for Washington Times talking points and I find it difficult to take his hogwash for even twenty seconds. He is McEnroe’s lead-in. That may be too much to overcome.

Concentration is important!