Friday, September 28, 2018

Irish Tenors – "Off to Philadelphia" (2004)

But the tears will surely blind me
For the friends I leave behind me
When I'm off to Philadelphia in the morning

After I graduated from law school in 1977, I moved to Washington, DC, and went to work for the federal government.

Fourteen years later, I got an opportunity to become the general counsel for a direct-response marketing company located in the DC suburbs.  I was almost 40 years old at the time, and I knew that this might be my last chance to wean myself from the government t**t and get an honest job.  So I accepted the offer and said goodbye to my government colleagues.

Federal buildings in downtown Washington
After a year at my new job, our Chairman and CEO fired some people and moved everyone else to the corporation’s Philadelphia office.  

I wasn’t crazy about moving to Philadelphia.  I had never spent any time there, and I knew no one who lived there other than my co-workers.  But I had three small kids and a mortgage payment, so I sucked it up and made the best of the situation.

*     *     *     *     *

I’m sure that my employer was the only New York Stock Exchange-listed enterprise to ever have its corporate headquarters in Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood.   

Manayunk was an old working-class neighborhood that hugged the northern bank of the Schuykill River.  A dam and canal had been built in Manayunk in the early 1800s, and the water power produced by the dam attracted a number of textile mills and other factories.  

By the time I moved there, the neighborhood was beginning to gentrify a bit.  But it had a long way to go.

Manayunk’s Main Street today
Eventually a number of trendy restaurants would open in Manayunk’s 19th-century buildings.  But when I worked there, there were few places to eat other than sandwich shops and pizzerias.

The only Manayunk business that I regularly patronized was a used record and CD store.  (I had purchased my first CD player only a couple of years earlier, and there was really no reason to buy new CDs instead of used ones.)  

Manayunk had a public library, which I visited weekly.  I remember checking out the first several  volumes of Sue Grafton’s “alphabet” series from that library.  I read the 25th and final book in that series – Y is for Yesterday – earlier this year, shortly after Grafton’s death.

*     *     *     *     *

Philadelphia is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from my home in the Maryland suburbs of DC – much too far for daily commuting.  So I drove to my office every Monday morning and returned to my home each Friday.

During the week, I lived in a furnished one-bedroom apartment in a large, modern, and anonymous building that was a relatively short distance from Manayunk:

My home away from home
What did I do after work?  I listened to the used CDs I bought in Manayunk, read books from the Manayunk library, and watched HBO (which was included in my monthly rent) – The Larry Sanders Show was my favorite.

I have all 90 episodes of that show on DVD, and started re-watching them a couple of years ago.  It’s still the funniest TV comedy I’ve ever seen:

I also tried to write short stories – most of which were heavily autobiographical in nature.  (I didn’t get very far with most of them.  I was writing them by hand on yellow legal pads, and it’s extremely difficult to do revisions when you write that way – so I would usually give up when the first draft wasn’t all that I hoped for.)

It was while I was living in Philadelphia that I started cooking salmon for dinner three or four times a week.  It’s 25-plus years later, and I’m still doing that.

*     *     *     *     *

It didn’t take long to figure out that the company I was working for was a pretty iffy proposition.  I stopped looking for a house in the Philadelphia suburbs to move my family to, and started looking for a job back in Washington instead.

My Philadelphia episode lasted about two years.  I came away from it with some stock options, which I promptly cashed in.  I would have made quite a bit more money if I had waited longer to exercise them – the stock shot up from $3 a share in the fall of 1994 (a few months after I left) to $20 a share in early 1996.

A Manayunk Canal towpath mural
If I had held on to my shares that long, I probably would have held on to them even longer in hopes that the stock would continue to climb.  But the stock was at $5 a share by the end of 1996, and slid to $1.25 by June 1998.

I didn’t pay much attention to all the financial hoops that the company jumped through in an attempt to stay alive.  Everyone I had known there was long gone by then, and I think the company essentially disappeared by 2000.

*     *     *     *     *

In 2001 or 2002, I took my daughters and a couple of their high-school friends to Philly for a weekend of sightseeing.  One night, we had dinner at a restaurant in Manayunk, which had become quite chichi.  

That was my last visit to Manayunk (or to Philadelphia) until last week, when I decided to spend two days riding some of the 300 miles of bike trails in southeastern Pennsylvania.  (If all goes well, that trail network will eventually grow to 750 miles.)

After rides on the Perkiomen Trail and the Chester Valley Trail, I drove to Conshohocken for a ride on the Schuylkill River Trail (which will someday run the entire 140-mile length of the Schuylkill River). 

If I had ridden northwest on the trail, I would have been in Valley Forge National Historical Park in less than an hour.  But I went southeast in the direction of Manayunk and downtown Philadelphia instead.

The trail is paved from Conshohocken until just after you enter the Philadelphia city limits.  At that point, you’re directed on to the Manayunk Canal towpath, which is very much unpaved.  After you pass Flat Rock Dam, you ride through an old industrial neighborhood into Manayunk.

The Schuylkill River Trail didn’t exist back in 1992, but I did ride along the Manayunk Canal once a week or so on my first real bicycle – a Haro Omega hybrid with 21 speeds and grip shifters – which I purchased just after I left my government job.  

My 25-year-old Mongoose mountain bike
A couple of years later I bought a Mongoose mountain bike that I still ride from a Delaware bike store.  I passed through Delaware on my weekly commutes, and tried to do as much shopping there as I could because there was no state sales tax there.

*     *     *     *     *

The Manayunk Bridge used to carry trains across the Schuylkill river.  I t was closed in 1986, but reopened recently for use by bikers and pedestrians:

After I passed under the Manayunk Bridge, I turned off the towpath – which had become too narrow for two bikes to pass – and rode along Main Street instead.

Main Street Music in Manayunk today
The first store I saw was Main Street Music, which I thought might have been where I bought all those used CDs when I worked in Manayunk.  I went inside and struck up a conversation with Pat, the owner, who told me the store had opened the year before I started working there.

I told him I remembered the store being much smaller.  He said the old location had been much smaller, but that they had moved up to the street to a larger store several years ago.

Across Main Street from Main Street Music was the U. S. Hotel Bar & Grill, where I would occasionally eat lunch.  I don’t know where the “Hotel” in the name comes from – there’s no sign of a hotel anywhere:

It was happy hour, and they had some decent beers available, so I went inside and sat at the bar.  I waited about five minutes for a bartender to appear, but one never did, so I left.

Here’s 4360 Main Street – the site of our corporate headquarters:

Today the ground floor of the building is occupied by a fancy coffee shop and a hair salon.  

After a quick stop at Manayunk Brewing, I got back on my bike and rode back to Conshohocken.

On the way out of Philadelphia, you best believe I stopped for a cheesesteak:

*     *     *     *     *

It’s an odd feeling to return to a place where you once lived after many years of absence.

In 1999, I returned to Houston for a college reunion.  I hadn’t been back in over two decades, and the emotions I felt when I walked around my college campus and drove through the neighborhoods where I lived, ate, drank, and watched movies was almost overwhelming. 

My time in Philadelphia was a relatively brief interlude – only two years – and it didn’t represent as crucial a time in my life as my college years were.

But walking my bike down Manayunk’s Main Street was like turning the clock back 25 years. 

True dat.
And while the memories from 25 years ago were powerful, what hit me hardest was the realization of how much time had passed.

I worked in Manayunk in the June of my life.  But summer was long gone when I returned – it was September . . . possibly even October.

Possibly even December.

*     *     *     *     *

A Night to Remember is the title of Walter Lord’s 1955 book about the sinking of the Titanic.  

The 1958 movie of the same name was the most expensive movie ever made in the UK up to that time.  It’s considered by historians to be the most accurate movie ever made about what happened on the Titanic the night it sank – certainly more accurate that the 1997 American blockbuster.  

“Off to Philadelphia” is a traditional Irish song that was sung in A Night to Remember by the Irish immigrants who were traveling in steerage.

Here are some fun facts about the Titanic:  

– Of the 434 female passengers and crew traveling on the Titanic, 75% survived.  But only 19% of the 1680 male passengers and crew on the Titanic lived.

– Poor female passengers had a much higher mortality rate than wealthier women.  If you were a female passenger traveling in first or second class, you had a 93% chance of surviving the sinking of the ship.  But only 49% of the female third-class passengers lived.

– If you were male, it didn’t matter much how rich you were when the Titanic went down: 20% of the males in first and second class and 16% of the males traveling in third class survived.

Click here to listen to the Irish Tenors’ 2004 recording of “Off to Philadelphia.”

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Barbra Streisand – "The Way We Were" (1973)

Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were

When I was in high school, my English teacher asked one of my fellow students what his favorite poem was.  He responded by quoting this piece of doggerel:

No matter how you shake and dance
The last drop always falls down your pants

That teacher – a very temperamental woman who didn’t cut her students a bit of slack when it came to classroom decorum – must not have heard what my fellow student said.  If she had, I can guarantee you she would have sent him to the principal’s office toot sweet.  

*     *     *     *     *

This incident took place almost 50 years ago, but my memory of it is as vivid as if it happened yesterday.  

I’ve recounted it numerous times – most recently at a high school reunion, where half a dozen classmates who were in that same English class told me it simply could not have happened.

According to them, the smart-ass who I remembered reciting the lines quoted above couldn’t have done so because he had been kicked out of that class on the very first day of school.  As they recalled the incident, he had gotten out of his seat while the teacher was addressing the class to go sharpen his pencil.  When she told him to return to his seat immediately, he ignored her and proceeded to the pencil sharpener. 

Like I said, this teacher had a very short fuse when it came to student shenanigans.  She ordered the culprit out of her classroom, and he never returned.  (Presumably he was assigned to a different English class.)  

*     *     *     *     *

It appears that I’m guilty of the memory error that psychiatrists and psychologists term “confabulation.”

Confabulation – which is defined as the creation of fabricated or distorted memories – is distinguishable from lying because there is no intent to deceive.  To the contrary, one who confabulates is absolutely certain that his or her memories are accurate.

*     *     *     *     *

What’s the explanation for my vivid yet inaccurate memory from English class?

It’s possible that I made up the whole thing.  But I seriously doubt that’s the case.  (This is not some fuzzy memory with a lot of missing details.)

Also, where did I get the lines that I remember the student reciting?  I suppose it’s possible that I read those lines somewhere and somehow attributed them to my classmate, but that seems unlikely.

It’s also possible that the incident took place pretty much as I remember but involved a different teacher – or that it involved a different student.  If you knew the teacher and the student who I remember having the exchange I’ve described, you’d know why I find it hard to believe that I’m wrong about their identities.

But now that I think about it, there is one other classmate who might have recited the lines I quoted above.  It’s a very long shot that he was involved, but it’s not impossible.

I’m going to e-mail both the guy who I remember quoting the “shake and dance” poem and the other guy.  I’ll let you know what they say.

*     *     *     *     *

To tell the truth, a big part of me still believes that I’m right about what happened in English, and that my classmates are wrong.  

Of course, people who confabulate are typically very confident about the accuracy of their memories despite the existence of evidence to the contrary.

I don’t know if confabulation is contagious, but I’m beginning to think that it might be.  There’s seems to be quite a bit of it going around right now.

*     *     *     *     *

Barbra Streisand recorded today’s featured song for the 1973 movie of the same name, which starred her and Robert Redford.

Some critics thought Streisand sucked all the air out of the movie.  According to the Variety, “The overemphasis on Streisand makes [The Way We Were] just another one of those Streisand vehicles where no other elements ever get a chance.”

Roger Ebert admired Streisand’s performance, but thought the movie would have been better if her role has been less dominant vis-à-vis that of her leading man.  “The Redford character,” he wrote, “perhaps in reaction to the inevitable Streisand performance, is passive and without edges.”

That pretty much sums up Robert Redford’s acting career, doesn’t it?

I never saw the movie, but I just watched the trailer – which was more than enough for me.

Click here to listen to “The Way We Were.”

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Todd Rundgren – "Heavy Metal Kids" (1974)

I must have woke up this morning
With a bug up my ass
I think I’ll just haul off 
And belt the next jerk that I pass

From the Washington Post:

Google “angry people” and witness that more than 80 percent of the images are of men, mostly white men.

The Post is generally so full of sh*t that its eyes are brown, but that statement is right on the money.

I verified it by Googling “angry people,” and then clicking on “images.”  I got a couple of pictures of angry African-Americans, a few pictures of angry women, and about a gazillion pictures of angry white guys.

Like this one:

The only thing about that Google search that surprised me is that it didn't return a bunch of pictures of me.  Because I am pissed off all the time.

(What am I pissed off about?  The better question is what am I NOT pissed off about.)

*     *     *     *     *

That thing about Googling “angry people” and getting a bunch of pictures of white guys came from a recent Post piece titled “Five Myths About Anger.”

Every Sunday, the Post runs an article by some self-proclaimed expert that lists five things about some random subject that most people believe, and then explains why those beliefs are all wrong.

In recent weeks, the Post has published articles titled “Five Myths About Texans” (e.g., it’s a myth that Texans love guns), “Five Myths About Infertility” (e.g., it’s a myth that stress causes infertility),  “Five Myths About Volcanoes” (e.g., it’s a myth that volcanoes are more active today than they were in the past), “Five Myths About Marriage” (e.g., it’s a myth that extramarital affairs are responsible for most divorces), “Five Myths About Pizza” (e.g., it’s a myth that pizza became popular in the U.S. because so many American soldiers ate it in Italy during World War II), and – most recently – “Five Myths About Anger.”

According to the Post, it’s a myth that men are angrier than women:

[R]esearch consistently shows that men are no more likely than women to be angry.  In fact, women report feeling anger more frequently and in more sustained ways.  In early 2016, for example, a national survey conducted by Esquire and NBC found that women reported consistently higher rates of anger.  Another, conducted by Elle magazine two years later, revealed the same pattern.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out”?  Scientists use it to make the point that if you start with incomplete or incorrect data, you end up coming to the wrong conclusion.  

The “research” cited in the “Five Myths About Anger” is a good example of garbage in, garbage out.  That’s because I wasn’t surveyed by Esquire or NBC or Elle.  If I had been, I have no doubt that I would have pulled the average male anger score up enough to beat out the ladies.

*     *     *     *     *

Of course, even if I wasn’t angry, people would say I that was.  From the Post:

A 2016 study . . .  found that most people are predisposed to associate negative and angry facial expressions with men and masculinity.  Biases that lead most of us to “see” anger in men’s faces also lead us to commonly interpret women’s faces as fearful or sad. . . . 

I don’t think I was angry when I was a preschooler, but a lot of people would have said that I was.  That’s because people perceive little boys as being angrier than little girls:

Adults are more likely to describe infants they think are boys as agitated and disagreeable.  Other studies show that both mothers and fathers are more likely, when reading to their children, to associate anger with male characters and use words making those connections. 

One more cross for my three lovable little grandsons to bear.

*     *     *     *     *

Most of the angry people in rock songs are angry at a particular person – often a former spouse or lover.  For example, Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” is directed at her ex-boyfriend, Dave Coulier.

But the singer of Todd Rundgren’s “Heavy Metal Kids” is just plain angry.

Click here to listen to “Heavy Metal Kids,” which was released in 1974 on the Todd double album.

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, September 21, 2018

Wildchild – "Renegade Master (Fatboy Slim Old Skool Mix)" (2000)

Back once again
With the ill behavior
With the ill behavior
With the ill behavior
With the ill behavior
With the ill behavior

In 2009, Serena Williams met Kim Clijsters in the semifinals of the U. S Open.  Clijsters won the first set, and was leading six games to five and 30-15 in the second set.

Williams was serving, and her next serve was long.  A lineswoman then called a foot fault on her second serve.

Serena went ballistic.  “I swear to God I'll f*cking take the ball and shove it down your f*cking throat,” she roared while shaking her racquet at the lineswoman.

Williams shakes her racquet at lineswoman
who called her for a foot fault in 2009
Verbal abuse of an official is a violation of the tennis code of conduct.  Because Williams had already committed one violation in that match – she had angrily broken her racquet earlier in the match – the rules called for her to lose a point for the verbal abuse violation.

Which meant that the match was over, and Clijsters was the winner.

Here’s a video of the whole incident:

*     *     *     *     *
Earlier this month, Serena Williams – who is arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time – faced off against Naomi Osaka in the 2018 U. S. Open women’s singles final.

Williams entered the match as the winner of a staggering 23 Grand Slam singles titles – more than Steffi Graf, or Martina Navratilova, or Chris Evert, or any other female pro – and 49 other professional singles titles.

Surprise 2018 U. S. Open winner Naomi Osaka
Not surprisingly, Williams was a heavy favorite to win over her opponent, who was a 20-year-old who had previously won exactly one professional tournament.

*     *     *     *     *

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that there was quite a brouhaha during the Williams-Osaka match. 

Here’s the Washington Post’s account of what happened:

Emotion first bubbled up at 1-1 in the second set, when Williams exchanged words with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.  

[NOTE: Osaka had won the first set, 6-2.]

Ramos had assessed Williams a coaching violation after her longtime coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, motioned from the player’s box that Williams should go to the net more.  Williams, 36, disputed the violation and then told Ramos that she is not a cheater.

Williams was under the impression that Ramos had taken back the violation, but he had not.  Mouratoglou later admitted on ESPN’s broadcast that he had been coaching.

The six-time U.S. Open champion received another code [of conduct] violation four games later, leading 3-2 in the second set.  Osaka had just broken her serve, and Williams smashed her racket onto the court so hard that it broke.  Ramos assessed her a point penalty under WTA and Grand Slam rules, the second code violation of the match.

Williams smashes her racquet
[NOTE: The relevant rule provision, which is titled “Abuse of Racquets or Equipment,” reads as follows: “For the purposes of this Rule, abuse of racquets or equipment is defined as intentionally and violently destroying or damaging racquets or equipment or intentionally and violently hitting the net, court, umpire’s chair or other fixture during a match out of anger or frustration.”  The penalty for such a violation is a $20,000 fine.  And because Williams had previously been assessed a coaching violation, the rules provided that she would also be penalized one point for racquet abuse.]

Williams and Osaka played two more games, then during the changeover with Osaka leading 4-3, Williams spoke with Ramos again, demanding an apology for “stealing” a point from her.  “You will never, ever be on a court of mine as long as you live.  You owe me an apology,” Williams said to Ramos.  “Say it.  Say you’re sorry. . . . I have never cheated in my life.”

[NOTE: Williams broke her racquet after Osaka broke her serve in the fifth game of the second set.  Williams had been leading 3-1 – if she had held her serve, she would have led 4-1.  Instead, she led 3-2.  She berated the official after losing the next two games and falling behind, 4-3.] 

Williams berating umpire Ramos
Williams called Ramos a “thief,” and he assessed her a third code violation for verbal abuse, resulting in a game penalty that put Osaka up 5-3 and one game from the championship.

[NOTE: The relevant rule provision, which is titled “Verbal Abuse,” reads as follows: “Players shall not at any time directly or indirectly verbally abuse any official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site.  For the purposes of this Rule, verbal abuse is defined as a statement about an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person that implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise abusive.”  Verbal abuse also results in a $20,000 fine.  And because it was her third violation, the rules provide for a game penalty – making the second set score 5-3 in Osaka’s favor instead of 4-3.] 

Williams only grew more irritated and said she was being treated differently from male players who, she argued, get away with much harsher language and behavior on court. . . .

Osaka won the match soon thereafter as boos cascaded from the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

*     *     *     *     *

A number of sportswriters and former players quickly echoed Serena’s “double standard” argument.

Washington Post writer Sally Jenkins’s rant about the clash between Williams and the umpire made the front page of the Post the day after the match.  (With all that is going on in Washington and the world these days, I’m a little surprised that a column about a tennis match was deemed worthy of the front page.)

Columnist Sally Jenkins
Jenkins went all in on Serena’s claim that she was the victim of sexism: 

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos . . . took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him. . . .

[Ramos] marred Osaka’s first Grand Slam title and one of Williams’s last bids for all-time greatness.   Over what?  A tone of voice.  Male players have sworn and cursed at the top of their lungs, hurled and blasted their equipment into shards, and never been penalized as Williams was in the second set of the U.S. Open final. . . .

[Ramos] wasn’t going to let a woman talk to him that way.  A man, sure.  Ramos has put up with worse from a man. . . . But he wasn’t going to take it from a woman pointing a finger at him and speaking in a tone of aggression.  So he gave Williams that third violation for “verbal abuse” and a whole game penalty, and now it was 5-3, and we will never know whether young Osaka really won the 2018 U.S. Open or had it handed to her by a man who was going to make Serena Williams feel his power. 

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan echoed Jenkins’s sentiments:

Serena is absolutely right to say that men could get away with it and women could not.  This is a sport that gave us John McEnroe, the sport that gave us Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors – I could go on and on.  Men who have gotten away with far worse.

(Brennan must have forgotten that McEnroe was once disqualified from a Grand Slam match for bad behavior – that’s a much more serious penalty than losing one game.  And later in his career, McEnroe was suspended from the tournaments for TWO MONTHS.  He may have behaved much more badly than Williams, but he certainly didn’t “get away with it.”)

Billie Jean King took to Twitter on Serena’s behalf:

Not surprisingly, the National Organization for Women jumped on the “double standard” bandwagon.  Ramos’s decision to issue the game penalty was “a blatantly racist and sexist move,” according to NOW.  “This would not have happened if Serena Williams was a man.”

I could cut-and-paste quotes like these until the cows come home, but what’s the point?  EVERYONE KNOWS that female tennis players are victims of a double standard, and that Williams was penalized by a sexist umpire for doing what male tennis players routinely get away with!  

Case closed – right?

*     *     *     *     *

While Sally Jenkins, Christine Brennan, and Billie Jean King said that Williams was a victim of sexism, others disagreed.

For example, all-time tennis great Chris Evert pointed out that Ramos had never hesitated to penalize male players for misconduct.

“No sexist issue there,” Evert said the day after the Williams-Osaka match. “His history with men players shows that.” 

Mary Carillo (left) on MSNBC
Former pro Mary Carillo – who covered the U.S. Open for CBS for almost 30 years and has also worked as a tennis analyst for NBC, HBO, PBS, and ESPN – told MSNBC that Ramos was a “very, very respected” official.  She put the blame for the kerfuffle on Williams: 

At her very best — and she is very often at her very best — I respect and admire Serena beyond measure.  She is so powerful, she’s an important voice, she’s a ferocious competitor.  But at her very worst, as she was on this night, she acts like a bully . . . you cannot talk to [bullies], you cannot reason with them. . . .

The tension got to her, the pressure got to her.  I’m sorry it ended that way . . . [but] if you follow tennis at all, you know those rules.  They are inviolate. . . . 

A lot of these people that are weighing in and saying “double standard.”  I’m saying, you know what? This is not the hill you want to die on.

If you think “bully” is too strong a word, go back and watch that video of the 2009 Williams-Clijsters that is embedded above.

*     *     *     *     *

The comments from Evert, Carillo, and others who questioned the sexism narrative helped slow down the “double standard” train.  It was derailed entirely a few days later by some cold, hard facts on the tracks.

The day after the match, New York Times tennis reporter Christopher Clarey reported that umpires called 86 code of conduct violations on male players in the 2018 U.S. Open, but only 22 violations on female players.  (Men play best-of-five matches at the Open, while women play best-of-three.  That might explain men having somewhat more violations, but it doesn’t explain them getting penalized four times as often.) 

New York Times headline
A few days later, he reported that since 1998, male players have been fined 1517 times for code of conduct violations in all Grand Slam events.  Female players have been fined only 535 times over the same time period.

Alexis Ohanian, the ultrarich husband of Serena Williams, went all Donald Trump on Clarey and the Times when he read that article.  He argued that those numbers don’t mean anything because we don’t know how many times male tennis players committed violations compared to females.

What if male tennis pros scream obscenities, break racquets, and otherwise misbehave five times more often than females, Ohanian asked?  Then they should be fined five times as often – not only about three times as often, as the data indicate.

In theory, Ohanian is absolutely correct.  The problem is that he offers absolutely no evidence that males violate the code of conduct five times more often than females.  He simply pulled a number out of thin air.  (I was going to say he pulled the number out of something else, but this is a family blog.)  

Alexis Ohanian cheering for his wife
I’m guessing that Ohanian – he’s the gazillionaire founder of Reddit (which is a social media website whose purpose I’ve never been able to figure out), Hipmunk (a travel search website), and Breadpig (which calls itself an “uncorporation,” which it isn’t) – figured that people might call “bullsh*t” on him if he posited that men broke the rules ten times or a hundred times more frequently than women.  (When you make stuff up, you can’t go overboard if you expect anyone to believe you.)

Without such evidence, his argument is worthless.  The data prove that males competing in Grand Slam tennis events have been fined for violating the code of conduct significantly more often than female players.  That calls into serious question the assertion by Williams and her apologists that male players usually go unpunished for far worse behavior than she was guilty of.

*     *     *     *     *

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova made another point in an editorial she wrote for the New York Times that criticized Williams’s “double standard” defense:

I don’t believe it’s a good idea to apply a standard of “If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too.”  I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this:  “What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?”

That is an excellent point, Martina.

Navratilova and Williams in 2015
If you get drunk at a party and get pulled over for DUI while driving home, does it matter that a whole bunch of other people got drunk at that party but didn’t get pulled over?  Of course not.  

Serena Williams thinks that she shouldn’t have been penalized because male players do what she did all the time and don’t get penalized.  That’s not true, of course – as the statistics cited above demonstrate.

But even if it were true, the question is whether Serena Williams violated the code of conduct and deserved the penalties that were assessed.  She did.

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A lot of people think that Carlos Ramos should have turned the other cheek to Serena’s outbursts – perhaps given her one or two or even three warnings before assessing code of conduct violations.

But let’s not forget that Serena Williams wasn’t the only player in the match.  A tennis umpire’s job is to apply the rules fairly and give both opponents an equal chance to win – not bend over backwards to avoid penalizing a big star (and crowd favorite) who is guilty of flagrant misbehavior.

It’s interesting that Serena’s violations all occurred in the second set of the match – after she had lost the first set, 6-2.

Osaka cries as pro-Williams crowd boos her
 after she won the 2018 U. S. Open final
Maybe she became so frustrated at her poor play that she lost control.  If that’s the case, she has no one other than herself to blame for the code of conduct violations – she has played in dozens of Grand Slam finals, and she should be able to keep her composure no matter how high the stakes are.

Or maybe she was trying to throw her inexperienced 20-year-old opponent – who was playing in the biggest match of her life in front of a large and very vocal crowd that was almost unanimously behind Serena – off her game.   

I have no evidence whatsoever that Serena’s behavior was gamesmanship intended to discombobulate her opponent.  But Carlos Ramos’s critics have no evidence that he is a sexist who applies a double standard in women’s matches.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

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Today’s featured song is Fatboy Slim’s 2000 remix of Wildchild’s 1995 hit single, which was released on the Fatboy Slim/Norman Cook Collection compilation album.  (Fatboy Slim’s real name is Norman Cook.) 

Wildchild was the nom de plume of Roger McKenzie, who died from an undiagnosed heart condition just a few weeks after “Renegade Master” peaked at #11 on the UK singles chart.  He was only 24.

McKenzie’s girlfriend gave birth to their child a few months after his death.

Click here to listen to “Renegade Master (Fatboy Slim Old Skool Mix).”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon: