Anyone remember the game of tennis in days before foul manners had yet been discovered? Seems that tennis has taken a sharp turn from the day when everything about the game referred to the color white. White trousers, white shirt, white shoes, white cap— if any head-dress at all—white ball, manners as white as the driven snow.
I don’t know that manners took a turn for the worst when colors and sloppy rags became the fashion—if fashion is the word—and began to sneak into the game, but it did seem to go downhill about the same time the fashion statements did. The balls turned to yellow. Trousers gave way to shorts and skirts skyrocketed above the knee. Other things changed around then, too – racquets came off the assembly line framed in metal – nature’s wood was out of the game. And court behavior became as sickening as a back alley brawl.
This had nothing to do with it, but the first player who showed up on court with a lot of skin showing was Gussie Moran. Gussie brought cleavage into the game, which had nothing to do with behavior, but for some reason or another, was followed by raunchy manners and foul behavior.
There were a few guys before Connors who brought rant into play. Art Larsen comes to mind. Connors, though, set the trend. Then, of course, came McEnroe, a wretch who could turn this lovely club game into an exchange of vilification. If I had never learned how to despise an athlete before, McEnroe gave me reason full blast. Connors could kind of get away with it. His act was one of a guy rebelling against authority. He gave us a feeling that he actually thought he had been wronged, and that the court authorities
were against him. Or, at least that was sort of the way I looked at it. McEnroe? An ass, a total foul-mouthed, four-letter raging ass. (No, that’s three letters, isn’t it.) He even had the gall, later in life, to make a car rental commercial based on his dreadful behavior. Years have passed but I still have no use for the miserable wretch. Bad manners didn’t
begin with him, but he perfected them, introduced a foulness to this courtly game. And if I have done a disservice to Jimmy Connors, I’m sorry. He was no sweet loving angel, but he did blow his stack with a kind of artfulness.