So I had a wide range of potential writing topics available to me this week. I could have written about the rise of the next generation *coughabouttimecough*. I could have taken the easy route and heaped well-earned abuse on John Tomic, who is just another in a long line of Jim Pierces and Damir Dokics to embarrass the sport and make the term "tennis father" sound like an epithet.
But as I prepared my blog this week, the Tennis Channel aired a mini-documentary on Rene Lacoste and Bill Tilden and I decided to write a piece that has been simmering on the back burner of my brain for a long time.
Bill Tilden's place in tennis history should be undisputed. He was not only the best player of the 1920s, he not only amassed 7 US Championship titles, was the first American to win Wimbledon and lead the United States to 7 consecutive Davis Cup titles, he was also a master tactician. He knew the sport inside and out and wrote books dedicated to the subject.
He also has the distinction of having been a filthy pedophile who was arrested twice for what today would be called child molestation charges. He, you see, had an attraction to young boys. And thanks to his own wealth and his connections as a world-class athlete (he was friends with the likes of Charlie Chaplin) he thought he was above such petty things as the law.
In fact, so arrogant was he, that he chose to defend himself during his trials, counting on his fame and influence to get him out of the jam. It did not. He went to jail and the tennis world was embarrassed. They didn't want to talk about Tilden's personal life.
But tennis historians insist on bringing him up. They don't want us to forget, they claim, how much Tilden influenced the game.
The New York Times did a piece back in 2009 on Tilden, claiming that he was done in by his vices. Er....I'm sorry? Vices? We're not talking about a penchant for smoking cigarettes or romancing the ladies. This isn't a story about how Bill Tilden liked to over-eat or bought too many expensive cars. He hurt children, probably more than 2, but at least 2 that we know about.
Now, perhaps this makes me sound unforgiving, but I don't care how good Bill Tilden was on the tennis court. I don't care what he knew about swinging a racket, or how athletic he was. I don't care that he was the most skillful player of his generation.
Yes, he "paid his debt". He spent a handful of months in jail and this entry isn't meant as a post-humous witch hunt. But to shrug off his actions as simply an embarrassment, or worse to revere his ability to play a game whilst ignoring his absolute failure as a human being is downright irresponsible.
So, Tennis Channel, show me Arthur Ashe or Billy Jean King. Extol the virtues of Roger and Rafa. Talk about Andre Agassi's school. Discuss McEnroe and Borg, give me Rod Laver or that great innovator Rene Lacoste. But I'll pass on the reminders of what Bill Tilden did for the sport of tennis. In the grand scheme of things, what is a game compared to the wrecked lives of young boys who were unfortunate enough to cross "Big Bill's" path?
Sat 06/07 06:31
Tennistalk says farewell
Thu 06/06 04:05
Novak Djokovic's unsung hero
Tue 21/05 15:52
Another Federer and Nadal match disappoints
Fri 17/05 18:03
Bill Tilden and the effects of moral bankruptcy on a legacy
Tue 19/03 21:01
Professor Federer teaches us a thing or two
Mon 18/03 15:43
Nadal makes the cleverest comeback in tennis history
Fri 01/02 22:00
Nadal's return at Vina del Mar
Thu 15/11 16:54
Federer and company make no room at the top for youth
Tue 11/09 20:24
Murray joins the ranks of Grand Slam elite
Fri 17/08 19:45
There is something about Roger Federer
Mon 13/08 23:05
Tennistalk is in Cincinnati again
Tue 12/06 16:21
The French Open, Nadal's personal playground
Wed 09/05 14:58
Novak Djokovic takes up skating at the Madrid ice rink
Thu 29/03 14:30
Nadal and Spain give French TV a punch in the mouth
|1. Djokovic||12 500 pts|
|2. Murray||8 750 pts|
|3. Federer||8 670 pts|
|4. Ferrer||6 970 pts|
|5. Nadal||6 385 pts|
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