Why women's tennis is a minor sport
Women's tennis is a (very) minor sport.
I got to thinking about why that was. One think that jumps out is, women's tennis is virtually the only sport with a long history that denigrates, rather than celebrates, it's old time champions.
Few in boxing ever argue that Rocky Marciano's wins weren't worth as much as Mike Tyson's. Names like Schmelling, Graziano and Corbett still resonate in boxing circles.
Few in figure skating argue Peggy Fleming's titles aren't as significant as Katerina Witt's.
In baseball, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb played in eras where a lot of the best players weren't even allowed into the major leagues, just because they were Black. Yet no one suggests that Ruth's home run numbers don't count. No one says Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson's records were accomplished aganst inferior competition. They have too much respect for the sport.
In football, names like Ernie Nevers and Jim Thorpe are still revered.
Juan Manuel Fangio (the first) is not considered second rate compared to Michael Schumacher
In men's tennis, Bill Tilden, Fred Perry, Pancho Gonzalez, to name a few, are still respected for what they accomplished. I've never heard anyone suggest that Andre Agassi was superior to Rod Laver. If you know the history of the sport, the idea is ludicrous.
But ah, women's tennis.
Compare Margaret Court Smith to Steffi Graf and you get a very different reaction than to the Agassi-Laver comparison.
Roy Emerson still means a lot to fans of men's tennis. Maria Bueno is lost in the mists of time to fans of women's tennis.
If I ask, who was more talented, Hana Mandlikova or Justine Henin-Hardenne, the response will mostly be blank stares. (Well, I'm testing that even as we speak.)
If the fans of a sport have little or no respect for it's history and past champions, I thin it unlikely that sport will sustain popularity. So when we wonder why women's tennis can't get coverage, it isn't all bad marketing. In many ways, television shows the same level of respect for women's tennis that we fans do. We're fans of individual players. We SAY we're fans of the sport. But we certainly don't accord our past champions the respect they do in other sports.
Proud to be an American
Not blind. Not uninformed. We are party to atrocities. But the response of the world after 9/11 is worth noting. Even our most dire enemies offered aid. We should all be so lucky.