- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2000

Venus Williams overcame the trash-strewn, graffiti-marred, bullet-riddled tennis courts in Compton, Calif., to take her place among the champions of Wimbledon.

The shabby tennis courts in Compton do not improve with each reference, possibly because all the references have added up to a journalistic lack of imagination.

It apparently takes a village to convey the terribleness of these courts. They just weren't bad. They were the worst. Duck. There is a bullet in the vicinity.

Race, it seems, is an awful story line to waste, however predictable and Pavlovian the presentation is.

The quest for racial meaning is difficult, given the statistically insignificant numbers at the highest levels of sport.

Bill Gates keeps hope alive a whole lot better than the 348-player NBA, and nothing against the NBA, the best league there is.

The NBA's leading figures are mostly black, and how unimportant, thank goodness, is that? The NBA rises or falls, in almost imperceptible increments, on its own merits.

White men can't jump, and that is hardly a worrisome social issue, and shouldn't be. It is intended to be funny anyway. So laugh. There is plenty of seriousness to go around already.

The bank that holds the title to your vehicle is serious enough. The bank expects its monthly allotment of Benjamins and change, the outcome at Wimbledon notwithstanding.

The fallout from John Rocker has followed the politically correct conventions of the day. He is an intolerant white man, condemned from all the usual places, even in locker rooms, some of the most intolerant places around.

All Richard Simmons jokes aside, the exercise guru might feel incredibly lonely in a crowded locker room. The same goes for the shower facilities, too.

Yet it is easier to deplore Rocker than to say nothing at all. Group think is a powerful conditioner. Belonging to a group is reassuring, confirmation of your worthiness.

Charles Barkley was at his best when addressing topics outside the margins of acceptance. He said what he thought, lots of it politically incorrect, and you could take it however you liked. He pushed all the buttons, and best of all, he pushed both sides, liberals and conservatives alike.

Hyperbole is part of the game, no matter the game, much of it benign, as long as the focus is the best this or greatest that. They do this with senior superlatives in high school, too. The coveted most-likely-to-succeed title never hurt anyone.

The tennis courts in Compton are an obsession and a metaphor, and neither is especially illuminating. You might as well take it one forehand or backhand at a time.

The outdoor community tennis and basketball courts in this space's neighborhood have only anecdotal value. The brothers fill the basketball court, the pale faces the tennis courts. The next Grant Hill could be out there.

The Great White Hope in boxing, of course, is a buffoon. That, too, goes with the territory.

And let's leave the WNBA's contradiction out of it. For some reason, this opportunity is beautiful. Yet the basketball is ugly. You are required to overlook the latter.

The Williams sisters, not just sisters of color, are rivals, too. They have a number of compelling dynamics in their favor, starting with their athletic excellence. Their father is fairly interesting as well.

He had it right all along in how he coached, trained and managed their careers. The commentators and writers who dispense the hackneyed view of tennis parents had it wrong.

That should not be surprising.

This is a group still stuck on the trash-strewn, graffiti-marred, bullet-riddled tennis courts in Compton.

Hard is relative, and relatively defined, if you ask Elian, and really, you can't beat the weather in California.

The Williams sisters are advancing to the top of the game, and good for them, despite the overwrought sociological blather dispensed in their behalf.

For the record, the public courts in this space's neighborhood are not too good, either.

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