Because we like baseball more than other sports, we’re going to make a baseball analogy to what happened to Serena Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals on Saturday. The Yankees are up one run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a deciding playoff game, with a runner on first base and no one out. Bobby Abreu hits a ground ball to Robinson Cano, who flips to Derek Jeter, and on to first for the double play. But it turns out that Jeter didn’t actually touch the bag on the turn — applying the “phantom” tag, which is generally acceptable and never, ever called — and the umps decide, today, for whatever reason, to call the runner safe. When Jeter and Joe Girardi argue, the umpires decide to give the Angels the run, and then another, costing the Yankees the game. If that happened, one doubts Girardi would be all that calm either.
Serena Williams, in the wake of her expletive-laden outburst on Saturday, has been fined $10,500, and there is some talk of a suspension. This is insane. Five facts:
1. There was no foot fault. Continued replays have shown that Williams’s foot was not over the line on the serve, which caused a double fault, and the outburst.
2. Even if she did foot fault, you can’t make that call. Like the phantom tag in baseball, that’s not a call you ever make on a second serve — obviously, Williams had no real advantage with her foot near the line on a serve she’s just trying to get in play — and that’s definitely a call you don’t make when someone’s serving for their life in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.
3. The line judge is oversensitive. As if it weren’t bad enough that the line judge — whose name, strangely, has not been released by the USTA — made the ridiculous call, she then, after being yelled at by Serena, scampered over to the head judge to make sure Serena was penalized another point. This happened to be match point. Now, let’s be clear: Contrary to the headlines, Serena did not tell the line judge she would kill her. She said she wanted to take the ball and shove it down her fucking throat. Not exactly charming, no, but not fatal! More to the point: Is this the first time the line judge has ever been yelled at in a match? Did she really feel so “threatened” that she had to end the match? Shouldn’t a line judge have a thicker skin that that?
4. Serena did not have a meltdown. She said a few “fucking”s and pointed a few times with her racket. Has no one ever seen Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe before? Serena, in the heat of a massively important match, lost her cool for a second, and said some things she surely regrets. But for crying out loud, what did she do that was so horrible? John McEnroe once sacrificed a goat at center court of Wimbledon after a bad call. (Note: This anecdote might be made up, but you get the point.) We’re worried about Serena screaming after a wretched call? They’re talking about suspending her? When did we become such wimps?
5. The role of a referee/umpire/judge is not to be noticed, and to let the players decide the match themselves. The line judge put herself at the middle of the action and let her own inability to handle an angry player decide who won the semifinal at the U.S. Open. We cannot fathom why she’s not taking more heat. Because if we were Serena Williams … we would have wanted to shove that ball down her throat, too.
Oh, and Kim Clijsters ended up winning the women’s singles title last night. No one will remember that, though.