Enough! Shut the hell up and play and officiate properly

Sport

Enough! Shut the hell up and play and officiate properly

Blame tennis itself for devising stupid rules and appointing self-important little men to enforce them

Journalist


Carlos Ramos is a reprehensible chauvinist who seems to believe, and is ready to enforce his views beyond his station, that women must be seen and not heard – not like men are, anyway. Serena Williams is an arrogant, 36-year-old brat who couldn’t stand losing to an opponent she should have beaten, so she found someone else to blame for what was going wrong.
There. Now that we’ve established the truth of what happened in the US Open final in New York on Sunday we can get into what really happened.
And, no, the truth and what really happened are not the same thing. Not in an age when the truth isn’t what it is but what someone says it is, preferably while they have the eyes and ears – and therefore the hearts and minds – of millions of ready, willing and able believers.
So a relative nobody like Ramos, a mere tennis umpire, abusing his limited authority to punish Williams for the kind of behaviour that is routinely tolerated by officials when they are presiding over a match played by men is just as valid a nugget of truth as Williams wielding her massive celebrity like a sledgehammer in the just cause of smashing sexism, and exposing herself as a sore, sour, selfish loser.
As much as Williams had a case for calling Ramos a thief for docking her a point for smashing a racquet – an escalation of the drama that had started when Ramos accused her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, of doing his job from the stands, which is not allowed, and would lead to her having an entire game awarded to her opponent for another bilious, ill-considered outburst – Williams herself was guilty of stealing the spotlight from its rightful place.
That was to shine on Naomi Osaka, who was robbed of the public celebration she had earned by winning easily the biggest match of her 20-year-old life.
For Williams to then say “let’s not boo anymore” to a crowd she had swept into a disapproving frenzy with her outrageous tantrum smacked of Donald Trump at his worst: folks, you know what’s right and wrong (especially after I’ve told you what’s right and wrong).
It’s worth remembering that Williams took a ridiculous amount of umbrage at Ramos’s assertion about Mouratoglou’s actions.
And that Mouratoglou subsequently admitted he was guilty as charged.
And that other coaches who have been nabbed for this offence tend to have their players informally tut-tutted by the umpire, not officially warned.
And that Williams’s reaction to Ramos’ verdict on her coach was ludicrously haughty: “I don’t cheat to win; I’d rather lose.” How dare the man? Didn’t he know who she was?  
And that just days ago Alize Cornet was fined for changing her top in a few seconds during a match, and that no one blinks when men take as long as they like between games to strip off and put on a fresh shirt. 
And that Ramos is white and male and Williams is black and female and from a country where police apparently kill black people for sport.
And that she is part of a sport that is second only to golf as a foxhole in which white men can and do hide their racism and misogyny. 
And that Ramos has a reputation for being pathetically anal about enforcing the kind of rules that can make tennis seem like a nursing home for the socially inept.
And that he failed miserably in the key responsibility of defusing a ticking bomb.
And that he hasn’t taken the same action against male players who have ticked at him with similarly growing rage.
When Rafael Nadal told Ramos he wouldn’t grace his matches again after he was penalised for a time delay during the 2017 French Open, Ramos turned the other cheek.
When Williams said much the same thing, among other nasty things, on Sunday, she had a game taken from her.
It’s also worth considering the difference between Nadal’s and Williams’s comments on their run-ins with Ramos.
Nadal: “I say it with sadness but he is an umpire who scrutinises me more and who fixates on me more. He also pressured me about coaching. I have respect for him, and all I ask is for that to be reciprocated.”   
Williams: “For you to attack my character is something that’s wrong. It’s wrong. You’re attacking my character. Yes you are. You owe me an apology. You will never, ever, ever be on a court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar.”
Respect? Maybe Williams isn’t an Aretha Franklin fan.
An apology? How about: “I’m sorry that Ms Williams can, at times, be an insufferable oaf”?
Might “as long as you live” be construed as a death threat, albeit obliquely? As Williams spewed her bile, Ramos would have been forgiven for thinking her thousands-strong mob of supporters weren’t baying for his blood only in the metaphorical sense.
Note the absence hiding in plain sight in much of what has been said and written about this sorry saga.
The cause of what happened, what really happened, wasn’t what Ramos did – which as the umpire he was wholly entitled to do. Blame tennis itself for devising stupid rules and appointing self-important little men to enforce them.
That Ramos operates on a gender-biased double standard is his real sin, and it is serious enough for him to be barred from being in the chair in any match regardless of who might be playing.
The major problem also isn’t Williams’ stream of woke consciousness. Vicious verbal diarrhoea is deplorable but not a crime.
The far more serious issue is that sports stars have been given the idea that they can behave as they like towards officials, that talent, skill and millions in the bank make it OK to treat others, particularly those who have less talent, skill and money in the bank, as if they’re trash.
When Williams was railing at Ramos she sounded like nothing so much as a thoroughly Seffrican madam berating her maid for putting the tea-cups in the wrong cupboard. Again! For God’s sake!
Worse, many of those springing to Williams’s defence have done so on the grounds that “everybody does this”.
So that makes it OK? The opposite is true, and it should be what really happens. Every tennis player who is coached from the stands should have a point taken off them summarily. Every footballer and rugby player who gets in a referee’s face should be red-carded. Players should be barred from speaking to the ref unless they’re spoken to first.
Imagine the fuss if officials started telling players how to do their job the same way players do to officials: “What were you thinking taking the lineout instead of the scrum? And your tactical kicking is way below par.”
Golf, for all that’s wrong with the game of the anti-Christ, gets it right: police yourself, and properly, or the officials will smack you upside the head – as in disqualify you – for the easily made mistake of signing an incorrect scorecard.
Maybe Williams would have been a better human being had she made a career out of golf.
Maybe Ramos should be in charge of races between schools of clownfish, which change gender but are always led by a female, rather than anything involving human beings.
Maybe everybody should shut the hell up and play and officiate properly.

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