Goodbye to bratty behavior
One of the big joys in sports in watching an underdog triumph. So it was a pleasure to watch a virtual unknown — Francesca Schiavone — win the French Open women's title Saturday and do it with such class.
Just three weeks shy of turning 30, Schiavone is an old lady in her sport. No one ever expected her to reach the championship match of one of tennis' four majors, much less win one. But she executed a near-perfect game plan, attacking the net at crucial times in a way that impressed announcer John McEnroe, one of the sports' best-ever serve and volleyers (and arguably the brattiest player to ever set foot on a tennis court). Schiavone became the first Italian women to win a Grand Slam title.
Afterwards, she was poised, articulate and exuberant as she addressed the crowd at Roland Garros Stadium and sang her country's national anthem with gusto. (When was the last time you saw a U.S. athlete do that?)
In an age of spoiled players with bad attitudes, it's been a great week to glimpse athletes with joyful spirits. While most commentators lauded umpire Jim Joyce for admitting he blew the call that robbed Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game, I much preferred Galarraga's easy-going demeanor at a time where he had every reason to be bitterly disappointed. He didn't whine or lash out at anyone; he simply shrugged his shoulders and flashed an easy-going smile.
It seems somehow appropriate that such classy examples of good sportsmanship came on the week that the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden died in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 99.
Throughout his long career, Wooden was a true gentleman. "It isn't what you do, but how you do it," he always said.
I suspect it won't be long before bratty behavior is back. But it sure is refreshing to have Schiavone and Galarraga around to show us it doesn't have to be that way.