Tag Archives: John McEnroe

Bjorn Borg in a Sports Bar in Kansas, With a Beer and Cigarette, Singing Karaoke. . .

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe

“Love me Tender.’’

Huh? I asked Bjorn Borg over the noise, as he was jabbing his elbow into my ribs.

“If you write about this. I sang “Love me Tender.’’ OK?

Uhh. What are you supposed to do when you’re standing in a sports bar in Wichita, Kan., talking to your childhood sports hero?

Well, let me get back to that story in a minute. Bjorn Borg is back again. Two books and an HBO documentary are out now telling his story. His and John McEnroe’s. It was one of the great all-time rivalries in sports. But it lasted only 14 matches. Each won seven.

I don’t read a lot of sports books. And oftentimes, I like to take two or three books with me on the road to have a little variety, depending on my mood. At this moment, I’m going back and forth between two books:

One is Matt Cronin’s “Epic: John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and the Greatest Tennis Season Ever.’’ The other is Stephen Tignor’s “High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and the Untold Story of Tennis’ Fiercest Rivalry.’’

Surely you can see the variety. One mentions Borg first in the title and the other mentions McEnroe. Now, on Saturday we get the HBO Documentary “McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice.’’

I know Tignor and Cronin, like both, respect both. So far, these are both excellent books, though I’m a little disappointed to hear that Borg’s famously low pulse rate might not have been true. It was a great day in my teen years when my doctor suggested I wear a medical tag around my neck telling people that my pulse was 45, 46, or whatever it was. If I passed out or something, people might think I’m dying.

It was my connection to Borg.

That and my $8 Fila socks.

Well, I also used the Bancroft Borg racquet, which was a beautiful thing until the laminated throat would start breaking apart. Once, the head fell off. And while I was a big Borg fan, I’ll admit I did switch to the Dunlop Maxply McEnroe after that. Still, the looping topspin forehand and two-handed backhand were almost Borg-like.

Yeah, right.

With all this Borg talk lately, my wife dragged out a picture of my old high school tennis team. And it’s uncanny: I looked absolutely nothing like Borg. Continue reading

How Not to Develop a Prodigy, Part III: Patrick McEnroe Gets His Apology, Makes Donald Young Dance. Now What?

Donald Young

So Patrick McEnroe has Donald Young’s apology. He and the USTA have Young’s  words of appreciation for what they’ve done. And now, we forgive and forget.

Everyone loves a happy ending. Everyone loves a smiley face.

Young had a temper tantrum. McEnroe’s little feelings were hurt. It’s all over.

And how do things move forward? They go back.

Same spot they were before. And by that, I mean they go back to a relationship so bitter between aging prodigy and governing body that it can’t keep from bubbling over, out into the public.

What an amazing fail. Young was hyped from the age of 10, way before you can tell anything about the future of a male tennis player. But he was sold as tennis’ Tiger Woods. Instead tennis’ Tiger wrote on his Twitter account Friday, “FU—USTA!’’ He wrote that the USTA is “full of shi—! They have screwed me for the last time!’’

Now, Young has apologized. But what could have been a constructive, learning moment over the past few days turned instead into a little superfluous spat. By not doing the hard work that could go to mend this relationship, both sides, basically, are just trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Not possible.

“Basically, I want to just apologize for what I said and the way I said it,’’ Young told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “It wasn’t the right way to say it, at all. I appreciate the USTA’s support over the years. It helped me out a lot.’’

That was an excellent apology, but Young was forced into it. McEnroe made Young dance by appealing to the public to apply pressure. That’s all that was accomplished. Young had to dance because he needs the USTA. The USTA, meanwhile, continues down a path with a zero success rate, not realizing how much of its reputation hinges on Young. Continue reading

Who to Blame for Failed Prodigy Donald Young? Start with John McEnroe

My column on AOL Fanhouse

The legend of Donald Young is that it all started when a 10-year-old ball boy at a senior tennis tournament in Chicago asked John McEnroe if he would hit tennis balls for a few minutes. McEnroe agreed. They hit, and McEnroe was so shocked at how good the kid was that he went straight to his cell phone, called his agent at IMG and told him to sign Young.

What a story! It tells of a selfless legend, but even more so offers hope that we might be discovered someday, or our children might be. Also, it suggests that Average Joes walking the streets might have greatness.

Count me as a former believer of that story. Now, I’m hearing the story debunked, that maybe IMG had already spotted Young, a marketing dream. Young was a good-looking black kid from a huge inner city, a city with loads of potential corporate sponsors, playing a traditionally white, suburban sport. Could he be the men’s version of the Williams’ sisters?

And maybe IMG asked McEnroe to hit with Young, staging the whole legend.

Donald Young has had enough staging, enough agents, enough John McEnroe.

Way more than enough John McEnroe.

This is the story about a prodigy lost. And there is enough blame to spread all over the place on Young. McEnroe gets my vote for the biggest share, over-hyping him, pressuring him, and getting people to believe too much, too soon. Was it all a marketing plan? Continue reading