Pseudolibs and dittoheads together: At something approaching the speed of light, the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins was able to spot the sexism.
The events in question transpired late Saturday afternoon. By Sunday morning, this hard-hitting headline graced the front page of the hard-copy Washington Post:
Sexist power play ruins powerful finalThe headline appeared, on page A1, atop an opinion column by Jenkins. According to the hard-hitting headline, Jenkins had spotted a "sexist power play."
At issue was the conduct of Carlos Ramos, the tennis official who umpired last Saturday's match between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. That headline captured Jenkins' assessment of two, or possibly even three, decisions Ramos made.
Jenkins offered an instant assessment. Another part of her fiery piece made us wonder if she had actually watched the match.
We'll quote that passage below. First, let's consider a fiery assessment which appeared in Tuesday's New York Times.
Jenkins is a major sports columnist at the Washington Post. Wesley Morris is a major "performance critic" at the New York Times.
Jenkins had quickly spotted the sexism which caused Ramos to behave as he did. As part of a lengthy assessment, Morris worked in the racism too:
MORRIS (9/11/18): ''This is unbelievable. Every time I play here I have problems,'' she told Ramos, justifying the question I whisper to myself before she starts any U.S. Open: Which of the bad old times would she draw upon if things go awry?This is the way we pseudo-liberals now play the game. But as we kept reading, that basic question recurred:
You remember Serena Williams's temper for how it singes but also for its aberration. Actresses might win Oscars for emotional combustion, but there's little tolerance for a nonfictional black woman undamming herself. Black female rage is an incarcerating stereotype whose social costs remain absurdly high.
Had Morris watched the match?
In part, we wondered because, by sheer happenstance, we had watched the (rather lengthy) part of the match in question. We'd accidentally flipped to the tennis match just as the (lengthy) dispute was beginning. We sat and watched the (lengthy, multi-game) discussion, tirade or colloquy which followed.
We've often been struck by the smart, sane, sensible interviews Williams conducts on TV. (So too with her sister, Venus Williams.) But on this occasion, we thought she behaved extremely poorly, as almost everyone does at some point along the way.
In part for that reason, we found ourselves wondering if pundits like Jenkins and Morris (and quite a few others) had actually watched the match. Their accounts of what had occurred struck us as almost comically selective, except in the way they toyed with the subjects of gender and race, topics which shouldn't be toyed with.
That said, we modern liberals sometimes seem to live for the joy of toying with gender and race. We drop our bombs with lightning speed and with stunning certainty. Three days after the fact, we may compose groaners like this:
MORRIS: I've always found Williams's eruptions at the U.S. Open acutely depressing. As someone who's watched her in awe, suspense and pride, I find what's particularly awful is the way that pride—in her excellence, in her improbable historicism, in her grit—has compelled me to make excuses for her descents into viciousness. It's just ... Serena.Did Morris watch the match? Even as he seems to say that Williams may sometimes "descend into viciousness," he spots the racism in a cartoon in which Osaka was portrayed as, of all things, a blonde!
We're uneasy about how to criticize Williams's behavior without that criticism seeming racist or sexist, given the racism and sexism that Williams and her sister Venus continue to endure. You see something like an Australian op-ed cartoonist caricaturing Williams as a kind of Jim Crow-era savage and Osaka as a faceless blonde (she's the daughter of a Japanese mother and Haitian father) and have just a glimpse of what else Williams has been lugging with her onto the tennis court these many years.
Osaka's parents are Japanese and Haitian! Morris seemed to know what that just had to mean about her hair! That said:
Whatever a person may think of that Australian cartoon on the whole, it's fairly obvious why it portrayed Osaka's hair as it did. The sheaf of hair protruding from the back of Osaka's cap that day was indeed curly and blonde, just as it appeared in the racist cartoon which Morris diagnosed as he did.
Had Morris actually watched the match? Did he have the slightest idea what Osaka had looked like that day? Even as he tossed his claims and insinuations around, did he have even the first idea what he was talking about?
Morris had had several days to get his reactions together. Jenkins had spotted the sexism right away—but had she watched the match?
We wondered about that Sunday morning because her general account of what had occurred seemed cartoonishly selective. But also because she offered the highlighted claim about the way the fiendish Ramos refuses to "take it" from women:
JENKINS (9/9/18): The controversy should have ended there. At that moment, it was up to Ramos to de-escalate the situation, to stop inserting himself into the match and to let things play out on the court. In front of him were two players in a sweltering state, who were giving their everything, while he sat at a lordly height above them. Below him, Williams vented, "You stole a point from me. You're a thief."That was the proof of the sexism! When Nadal "told him he would see to it that Ramos never refereed one of his matches again," Ramos just sat there and took it. It was worse than what Williams said!
There was absolutely nothing worthy of penalizing in the statement. It was pure vapor release. She said it in a tone of wrath, but it was compressed and controlled. All Ramos had to do was to continue to sit coolly above it, and Williams would have channeled herself back into the match. But he couldn't take it. He wasn't going to let a woman talk to him that way. A man, sure. Ramos has put up with worse from a man. At the French Open in 2017, Ramos leveled Rafael Nadal with a ticky-tacky penalty over a time delay, and Nadal told him he would see to it that Ramos never refereed one of his matches again.
But he wasn't going to take it from a woman pointing a finger at him and speaking in a tone of aggression. So he gave Williams that third violation for "verbal abuse" and a whole game penalty, and now it was 5-3, and we will never know whether young Osaka really won the 2018 U.S. Open or had it handed to her by a man who was going to make Serena Williams feel his power. It was an offense far worse than any that Williams committed.
He'd tolerate that crap from Nadal. He just wasn't willing to "take it" from Williams. Except he did exactly that. In fact, he did it two times!
Sad! As Jenkins would have known if she watched the match, Williams specifically told Ramos, at two separate points, that she would never let him referee another one of her matches.
She told him this after the fifth game of the second set, then again after the seventh game of the set. The second time she made this statement, she went so far as to tell Ramos this:
"You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live.''
Williams dropped this bomb on Ramos at two separate point this day. And as with Nadal, so too here: Ramos simply "took it" each time!
He did, in fact, "allow a woman to talk to him that way;" he did so two separate times. It was only when Williams continued ranting that he charged her with "verbal abuse," as he certainly could have done long before that.
Did Williams stage a "meltdown," as some have now said? That word came to mind for us as we watched her go on, and on, and on and on, berating Ramos over the course of five games during this second set.
For ourselves, we were mainly impressed by the rudeness and disrespect Williams was exhibiting toward her 20-year-old (female) opponent, who was forced to endure a storm of shouting and booing from the crowd when Williams stopped her ranting long enough to let the match continue.
Everybody can have a bad day. As we watched the match, it seemed to us that Williams was having a corker. She said several things which made no earthly sense, and even as she insisted, over and over, that she would never cheat, her coach was telling a TV reporter that yes, as a matter of fact, he had been coaching when Ramos made that initial call. If Williams never accepts any coaching, why does her coach provide it?
We thought Williams had a very bad day. That said, Jenkins and Morris had strange days too. Had they watched the match?
No law requires the modern pundit to evaluate events in a balanced, intelligent way, but a few still manage to do so. On September 10, the New York Times' Juliet Macur reviewed the events at issue in this basically fair and balanced column. She added many of the points of complexity which most pseudo-liberal pundits quickly erased from view.
Macur engaged in something resembling traditional rational conduct. While presenting a range of possibilities about Williams' extremely long harangue, she even went so far as to perhaps suggest a possibility:
MACUR (9/10/18): [I]nstead of a match for the ages, the heralding of a young and deserving talent, it will probably be remembered for Williams's calling the umpire a sexist liar and later saying her complaints were made for the equal rights of all women. But on closer examination, it's also true that this umpire has been tough on top male players, too. The difference is that the men didn't belabor their arguments with him.Is Ramos equally "tough" and "exacting" with women and men? We have no idea, and very few of our legion of pseudo-liberal pundits seemed to worry about such niceties as they scattered their bombs about and delivered their scripted views.
Ramos officiated with his usual exacting eye. He gave Williams a warning for receiving coaching in the second set. His action was warranted because Williams's coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, admitted to coaching her.
But Williams exploded into a tantrum that included her shouting that she would never cheat because she is a mother now and wants to be a good example for her daughter. She pointed her finger and demanded an apology from Ramos.
You can argue the nuances. Lots of coaches coach and lots of players are coached from off the court. And lots of umpires don't call them on it. You also have to wonder if Williams would have gone after Ramos so relentlessly—and with such conviction to stand up for women's rights—if she were winning.
Late in that passage, Macur might even have seemed to suggest that Williams might have staged her multi-game rant as a way to stir up the crowd against Ramos (and against Osaka). As we watched the events that day, it didn't seem that Williams was trying to do that—but she did produce those showers of catcalls and boos, and she did, in the process, show gross disrespect toward her younger (female) opponent.
Osaka was able to tough it out and win the match when Williams finally let it proceed. But to our eye, Williams had a terrible day, as we humans sometimes do, in ways which were often disappeared by impassioned scribes like Jenkins and Morris.
Are we famous "rational animals" able to reason at all? As we swith the focus of this site, we're trying to explore this eternal question.
Again and again and again and again, we contemporary pseudo-liberals give our answer: no. Especially when gender and race are involved, it tends to be narrative all the way down within our impassioned ranks.
Tending toward narrative all the way down: Also from Macur's column:
MACUR: Billie Jean King, a pioneer for women's equality in sports, weighed in on Twitter.When men do that, they're called "outspoken?" We'd love to see the cite for that from within the world of tennis. The cite may exist, but no one seemed inclined to present it. There were too many bombs to drop!
''When a woman is emotional, she's 'hysterical' and she's penalized for it,' '' King wrote. ''When a man does the same, he's 'outspoken' and there are no such repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.''
Hard to argue with that. But it was disappointing that King said nothing about the poor timing of Williams's powerful voice. It made me think back to last year's Open, when the Italian player Fabio Fognini unleashed a barrage of Italian curses upon a female umpire and was kicked out of the tournament.
So sometimes, there are repercussions.
That said, many members of our tribe have followed King down that road. Inevitably, the Times felt the need to print this ridiculous letter:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (9/12/18): We should apply the same standard of sportsmanship for men and women. Women currently have much less leeway when it comes to what's considered good sportsmanship...McEnroe played long ago. He was routinely called a jerk, which is what he routinely was.
John McEnroe challenges a call and smashes his racket, and he's praised as a competitor. Serena Williams does the same and she's disrespecting the sport? Please. Not allowing female athletes to be hotheaded, fallible and unsportsmanlike fails to recognize female athletes as having a competitive spirit equal to that of their male counterparts.
S— M—, Los Angeles
Pundits branded him "McBrat." In service to current pseudolib scripts, such history must disappear.
Are we able to reason at all? Again and again and again and again, we pseudolibs join our dittohead pals. We give a loud answer: