I have a number of different thoughts today on a wide variety of topics.
The first is tennis, which I wrote about Monday prior to my annual trip to the U.S. Open. The main purpose of my trip was to run down a number of ex-players who I had covered extensively during my days on the tennis beat to set up interviews for the new book project. I won’t bore you with a lot of the details because most of those conversations were routine but I couldn’t help but laugh about my brief encounter with Patrick McEnroe.
Patrick is the youngest of the three McEnroe brothers. The best description I ever heard of Patrick came from Richard Evans, the longtime tennis observer—Richard’s been a writer, a TV guy, a PR guy, so I’ll generalize and call him an observer—who once said: “You have to give the parents credit. They got it right the third time.”
Everyone knows about John and his temper. Fewer people know about Mark, the middle brother. I think I may have met him once or twice and he seemed (like John) to be a good guy. Apparently his temper was a lot closer to John’s than to Patrick’s. In fact, until John was defaulted during The Australian Open in 1990, John McEnroe Sr. in his frequent defenses of his eldest son often said, “I’ve only had one son defaulted during a match and it was Mark.”
Patrick has all the McEnroe smarts and humor but not the angst. Ironically, it was a lot easier for me to track down John on Monday than Patrick. That’s probably because John was doing one thing—TV. Patrick was doing TV; a book-signing; his USTA development thing and his Davis Cup captain thing.
I finally found him sitting on an ESPN set, cell phone in his ear. I wasn’t going to just walk onto the set—especially given my relationship with ESPN even though Mary Carillo had slipped me an ESPN wristband so I could get into the booth upstairs while tracking John—so I waved to get his attention.
Without missing a beat, Patrick put down his phone, smiled and said, “there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”
Patrick and I have argued often the last several years about where tennis has gone and is going. Naturally, he defends his sport—as he should.
I laughed. “Maybe,” I said. “But, to quote Chico Escuela, golf been berra, berra good to me.” (For the record I think most people know I don’t think golf sucks. While we’re on the subject let’s pretend this is the point in the column where I take a shot at Tiger Woods so those of you who live to write, ‘Feinstein, you don’t like Tiger,’—no kidding, how’d you figure THAT out?’—can fire up your computers).
Patrick held up his phone. “I’m about to do radio. You need me?”
“Just your cell number,” I said. “I lost it again.”
Quick story about me and my penchant for losing phone numbers: About 10 or 12 years ago, I got a call from a woman who said she worked at Disney. I’m not sure her title but it sounded pretty high up and she apparently was involved in developing films ideas.
“I’m a big fan,” she said. “I really like your work. I just wanted you to know that anytime you have an idea for a movie or if you think one of your books would make a good movie you call me. We’ll fly you out and I’ll have you in a pitch meeting the next day.”
Wow, I thought, that’s pretty cool. I’d never even been in a pitch meeting so just being in one would be an experience. I wrote her name and number down on a scrap of paper right near the phone. And lost it. I couldn’t remember her name. Friends suggested I just call Disney and ask for anything like the ‘film development,’ department. I was too embarrassed to even try. Now of course, you can put numbers in your phone and not lose them. Except I don’t know how to do it. I have one number in my phone—Paul Goydos’s because he got so mad at me for constantly losing his number that he grabbed my phone on the range one day and put the number into it.
Anyway, I’ve got Patrick’s number in this computer now so I hope I won’t lose it again. I’m looking forward to explaining to him why golf doesn’t suck.
Andy Roddick is a tennis player I don’t know the way I knew some of the older guys. But I like him. I’ve liked the way he has handled himself most of the time in his career. The other night he lost in the second round of the Open and there were all sorts of stories about his ‘meltdown,’ over a foot fault call. You would have thought he was almost in Serena-world the way it was reported.
Roddick certainly blew up. He got frustrated because the line-judge told him he had foot-faulted with his right foot—almost impossible for a righty server—when it was his left. She had the call correct but Roddick, who was losing badly at the time, went off. There was no profanity, just a lot of wise cracks about the quality of officiating.
After the match Roddick made a point of saying that the call and the incident had ZERO affect on the outcome. “If anything I played with a little more emotion after that,” he said. He made the point repeatedly that Janko Tipsarevic, his opponent, had outplayed him. In fact, he and Tipsarevic both told the story about Roddick reminding Tipsarevic at the net that, after he had beaten him at Wimbledon, he had lost his next match. “Don’t do that again,” Roddick said.
This is a bad guy?
Completely different subject: a lot of people have asked me in the last few days how I feel about the Mike Wise twitter incident. Let me say first that Wise is both a colleague and a friend—we’re not close but we’re certainly friends. A few years ago he loaned me a jacket for a ‘Sports Reporters,’ appearance because the Final Four hotel in Atlanta had lost my jacket. (It was found eventually but too late for the show).
Mike was wrong and has said so. He made up a story that Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension would be chopped from six games to five and put it out on twitter. He did it to make a point about the internet and the social media and how almost anything gets picked up and is treated seriously. That wasn’t the way to do it. Heck, all he had to do was cite ESPN’s 409 Brett Favre ‘scoops,’ of the last two years as proof. If you are a journalist, you don’t make stuff up EVER. Mike’s been suspended by The Washington Post for a month and the entire staff has been reminded about the simple fact that you report what you know to be true—regardless of the venue: newspaper, internet, twitter, facebook.
To his credit, Mike hasn’t blamed anyone but himself for his mistake. I DO find it ironic that he has been nailed so heavily on this while Mitch Albom basically skated five years ago when he LIED in a column. Albom described how two Michigan State players looked from the stands during a Final Four game and how he felt during that Final Four game. The only problem was he wrote the column on Friday and the game was played on Saturday—and the two players in question, who had told Mitch they’d be at the game didn’t show up. Whoops. Tony Kornheiser calls what Albom did a “mistake of tense.” I call it a lie.
Let me pause HERE to say Mitch and I are not friends. We did Sports Reporters together for a long time. We never exchanged any angry words that I remember but we were never friends. I thought what he did back in 2005 was awful and said so. I thought the column he wrote when he came back from a two week, ‘vacation,’ from The Detroit Free Press was worse. It began—I’m paraphrasing but only slightly—“I don’t often talk to God. But lately I’ve been asking him to give me the grace to forgive those who have been jealous of me.”
Oh please. How about just saying, ‘Man did I screw up. I got carried away with myself and violated tenet one of journalism. I’m so sorry.’ Instead he said people had criticized him because they were jealous of his success.
Believe me when I tell you I’m not jealous of Mitch. I’m very happy with my career and my life—the Mets aside. But I thought what he did was much worse than what Wise did—a firing offense to me—and the editor of the Free Press basically gave him a free pass because he was her biggest star.
This past summer the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) awarded Mitch its highest honor: The Red Smith Award. Some very distinguished people have won this award. It’s a big deal. I thought they demeaned the award and the past winners by giving someone caught in an out-and-out lie the award. Of course the APSE is made up of a bunch of editors, it is extremely political—some very UN-distinguished people have also won the award—so it isn’t that big a deal. Except that Mitch came in and gave an acceptance speech on the subject of ethics in journalism.
As my mom used to say, oy vay.