Sister Act takes its show on the road

Sep 17, 2002 10:25 AM

Of all of the errant nonsense penned about sports in this country today, some of the most inane came last week when the press-generated a hoked-up "debate" about whether the Williams sisters are good or bad for women’s tennis in America.

The Williams sisters are women’s tennis in America today. If it weren’t for them, then what? Lindsey Davenport? Lindsey’s a fine player and a good sport, but she stands out about as much as the third girl from the left in a Vegas chorus line, there but just another face and figure in the crowd.

Run through the list that follows, and let me know if CBS would devote an entire Saturday night of programming to a match between Lindsey Davenport and any of the following, and if they did, would you watch it:

Tatiana Panova of Russia.

Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

Iva Majoli of Croatia.

Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

Cho Yoon-Jeong, of South Korea.

Or even the boorish and envious Amelie Mauresemo of France or the overhyped and undertalented sex symbol Anna Kournikova. Speaking of that, where is Anna these days, besides the New York nightclubs?

All of those ladies played in the women’s division of the U.S. Open this year, and Mauresemo was the most depressing. The television award that was given to her for something ”” certainly not sportsmanship ”” was an insult to viewers. When sponsors have to pander to get their execs on television to give trophies, it is time to turn the set off, or at least boycott the sponsors, and that goes for the bankers who crow about the millions they have spent sponsoring the Women’s Open.

They get their publicity on the walls of Forest Hills, and we shouldn’t be subjected to their stilted, prepared remarks, any more than we should have to be subjected to the bigotry of a Hootie ("Nobody comes in and tells me what to do") Johnson and his anti-feminist 19th century bossism at Augusta National.

But to get back to the Williams sisters. Richard and Orecene, their parents, may not be a cuddly couple, but they did one phenomenal job with these two. Richard said when they were tiny kids they would be the two best women tennis players in the world, and they are, off by themselves.

They misnamed the girls ”” Serena is really Venus and Venus is serene ”” but those little mistakes happen. The sisters are to tennis what Tiger Woods is to golf, and Lindsey Davenport herself put it best when she said it was like Tiger having a brother and the two playing head-to-head for all the major tournament honors. Jimmy Connors, a guy who should know if anyone does, picked up on the same theme when he said, "They certainly have reconstructed the women’s game and taken it to the next level, like Tiger did in golf.

There was high drama in this year’s men’s tournament, too, of course, when Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi fought their way past brash youth to make it to the finals once again. Between those two and the Williams girls it made for a star spangled All-American sports introduction to the week of 9/11.

There also was a moment of unintentional humor to the Open this year when the hypocrites of Forest Hills told Tommy Haas to take off his tank top and put on a polo shirt to cover his shoulders, but then sat slack-jawed and silent when Serena stepped on the court with her sprayed-on, form-fitting Lycra.

During the faked "debate" about the sisters last week, a 59-year-old fan from Croton-on-Hudson, NY, told a reporter, "I hope Serena wins, but she needs a different designer," saying there was no risk of Serena’s form-fitting black cat suit flying off the retail racks. "There are probably only two other bodies who could look good in it," the lady said. Maybe in Croton-on-Hudson, but not in Vegas. There are dozens of big girls in town who would look good in it. They just can’t hit a tennis ball as hard.