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October 29, 2009

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2009 WTA Sony Ericsson Championships
October 29, 2009
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Andre's Confessions, Serena's #1 Gift
October 29, 2009 -- Here we are in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve stroll quietly. They observe the beauty of their surroundings. Lush bushes. Leaves that drape like curtains. The two soon find themselves shaded by a tree. They intuitively sense it's the one God has forbidden them. Their curiosity grows, though. Their minds imagine the taste and texture of the fruit. Their eyes meet and tug at the obvious -- should we eat from The Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil. And right then and there, instead of asking the big guy for help -- "What do you think, God? Is this a good move?" -- the two decide to exercise their free will. They snap a fat apple from the tree, thereby disobeying the highest law they have come to know in their evolving lives.
From that moment on we forever suffer the pain of sin. Or so the story goes.
Human nature is as complicated as a super nova, an interdependent network of chemical reactions, genetic hookups, and environmental conditions. To unravel these complexities and apply them to the choices we make daily is daunting.
But then we read snippets in this week's People magazine from Andre Agassi's new autobiography Open -- to be released November 9 -- and our collective jaws drop. He did what?
Seems that Andre hated tennis. His father applied a quasi tennis torture mentality on the kid from a very early age, even though Agassi would go on to win 8 Grand Slams, becoming one of two tennis players to win all four majors on four different surfaces.
Then, in 1997, his assistant Slim asks Andre, "'You want to get high with me?'" Agassi is fragile about his upcoming marriage to Brooke Shields. Is it the right move? He doesn't know, but he says, "'You know what? Yeah. Let's get high.'"
Just like that... sure, why not?
Agassi will tell you now 'why not,' but in that instant he skipped over the most important feature available to him - thinking about the consequences. He took a dive. He enters a dark zone that sounds inviting, but once there you wish you could find the light switch.
Testing positive that same year for trace amounts of crystal methylene, the ATP could have suspended Agassi for three months. But he wrote a letter and told the governing body that he'd drank from Slim's glass. He spiked his drinks with the drug. Andre proved himself an innocent bystander. It wasn't his fault. He didn't consciously choose to ingest the chemical. Or... did he?
The incident that fateful night at the U. S. Open when Serena Williams let loose on the lineswoman about a foot fault call, runs parallel to Agassi's diversion to the dark side. And her denial of wrongdoing in her press conference equals the denial shown in the letter to the ATP by Agassi.
At the time neither could have spoken honestly about their wrongdoings. Neither could have mustered the courage to enlighten themselves let alone their fans, sponsors, governing bodies, family members, and friends, about what motivated them to use an illegal substance or go berserk in front of 22 million fans and the entire world of cable television.
It would be simple to do the politically correct thing say, well, they made mistakes. They have come clean. Let's just forget it. But these are two international tennis starts that have nineteen major titles between them. Who have stood in front of us and earned our trust. Who have spoken sweetly to commentators after matches about how great the audience is, how wonderful the volunteers have been, and how they can't wait to come back next year and try to win it all again while withholding their dirty little secrets.
Here's the secret... they are flawed. Get born into a human being this time around and you, too, get smacked with the same quality -- we are all flawed. Look at it from a philosophical point of view, economic, social, technical, political, or even environmental, and the conclusion is obvious. We have dark moments. We have foibles. We rely on our own free will, which at points arcs like bad wiring and sends us to places we prefer never to think about let alone air publicly.
The ATP should tell us why Andre Agassi was allowed to slide for his drug abuse, but the eight-year statute of limitations has passed and the ATP doesn't administer its own anti-doping program. Today that's in the hands of the Word Anti-Doping Agency.
Serena was fined for her unsportsmanlike conduct and racquet abuse, "pursuant to the Grand Slam Rule Book for the maximum permissible on- site fine." The Grand Slam Committee Administrator was to "determine if the behavior of Ms. Williams warranted consideration as a Major Offence for which additional penalties would be imposed."
Serena Williams will end the year as the number one player in the world. Her behavior in New York was abhorrent. And, The Grand Slam Committee Administrator should stop dragging its feet and come to a conclusion about further penalties -- if any are in order.
To disown these two tennis stars for their flagrant fouls is extreme. The Dalai Lama practices compassion and kindness. It knows that the mind is a jungle full of slippery vines that if grabbed can swing a life outside the acceptable and peaceful norms. Serena Williams and Andre Agassi took hold of their sticky vines and only they can amend their lives to an acceptable standard, which should be good enough for fans.

Earlier Columns from this Event:
October 28, 2009 WTA Sony Ericsson Championships: Safina Retires From Doha
October 27, 2009 WTA Sony Ericsson Championships: Doha Day One

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