Out in the Open


“On top of wanting to beat her, now I’m enraged!” Rage may not have been enough for Amélie Mauresmo to win the Australian Open, but it was the understandable result of her ordeal down under.

A fortnight ago, only hard-core fans had heard of the 29th-ranked Mauresmo. But within a week the 19-year-old unseeded player came out of the closet, convincingly beat top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, and dealt with a barrage of innuendos, rumors, and plain imbecilic remarks. So when Martina Hingis, who met and beat Mauresmo in the final, “joked” that her fellow teen “came to Melbourne with her girlfriend, I think she’s half a man,” Mauresmo didn’t feel like keeping up a good front anymore.

Earlier, she had to deal with Davenport’s comments comparing her to a man. But with power hitters multiplying on the women’s circuit, nobody had ever raised an eyebrow at the athletic prowess of, say, the equally buff Venus Williams. It took the rise of an openly gay player to bring back familiar fears of “masculine” physique and strength. Undaunted by the agitation surrounding her, the young French woman was proudly unapologetic. In a press conference following the final, she frankly brought up the presence of many closeted players on the tour— noting that they have “a hard time dealing with their situation,” and adding, “I feel sorry for them.”

Unlike cutie-cute Hingis, Mauresmo isn’t likely to grace the cover of GQ, and the future of her endorsements remains cloudy. But while Hingis won the match, Mauresmo was the one who displayed uncommon guts in a tennis world paralyzed by concealment and paranoia.

Buck Williams: Street Fightin’ Man

Most NBA Observers were quick to highlight the convergence of bad-boy Latrell Sprewell’s arrival and gentleman Buck Williams’s departure last week and the symbolic value therein, but Buck would have none of it. He, more than anyone else, knows that there’s more to his legacy than impeccable manners and a solid work ethic. During his 17 years in the league, Williams established his own identity, albeit a gentlemanly one, as a rabble-rouser.

Williams spoke out early and often during his career on issues of race, class, and power politics in the NBA. He has long criticized the league for the underrepresentation of African Americans in upper management. He was the union president who negotiated the contract that NBA players just sacrificed millions of dollars in salaries and three months of the regular season to defend. And he was the union leader who in 1995 managed to avert a work stoppage and keep his ranks unified in the face of a star-studded mutiny by the likes of Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing.

“I don’t want to be classified as just an athlete,” Williams told Jockbeat last week. “I also had an opinion. About race. About right and wrong.” Williams has never been one to mince words on the subject of the NBA’s racially lopsided hierarchy. He sees the league as the reflection of broader society, where players are “hired hands” controlled by a virtually impenetrable “fraternity” of owners— a dynamic, he says, that was reinforced by the “sweet deal” for owners that ended the recent lockout. That balance of power won’t change, says Williams, until players pursue an ownership stake in the game of basketball, even if that means sacrificing huge paychecks and starting a league of their own.

Now, dem’s fightin’ words.

Handicapped Park-Ing

What a year for the ball yard in the Bronx. It’s gone from The House That Ruth Built to The House That Nearly Killed a Ticket Holder to The House That Rudy Wanted To Build on the West Side. Now, with the U.S. attorney’s office joining in a lawsuit accusing the team and city of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act, maybe it’ll become The House That We Just Had To Rebuild With Massive Public Expenditures To Comply With the ADA.

Warning bells went off for stadium watchers when Michael Hess, the city’s corporation counsel, told the Daily News that the timing of any alterations to Yankee Stadium was complicated because of the facility’s unknown future. Can you really put anything past an owner and a mayor who are thrilled to see any stadium shortcomings as further evidence that a new facility is necessary?

“Hey, that’s a good idea,” architectural critic and stadium consultant John Pastier tells Jockbeat. “Let’s do something for the physically challenged— let’s tear down Yankee Stadium.”

Of course, a spanking new facility doesn’t guarantee compliance with the law, as the Paralyzed Veterans of America discovered in their dealings with the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. They had to sue Wizards owner Abe Pollin to force compliance, despite giving warnings during the arena’s planning that there were going to be problems.

It doesn’t have to come to that in the Bronx, says Pastier. “Even if the provisions of the law were physically difficult to meet, you could meet them with a tiny fraction of what it would cost to build a new stadium.”

contributors: Elisabeth Vincentelli, Sarah Smith, Joanna Cagan
sports editor: Miles D. Seligman

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 2, 1999

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