I was too busy in New York to sit down and write about J-Mac's "controversial" comments that women should play less because their minds and bodies are too weak for the game. I suppose I could have just linked to Johnette Howard's great response piece, but I actually had some thoughts on the issue so I shelved it.
To put it in J-Mac's terms, my frail little fingers just couldn't blog after my grueling tennis journey to adequately put my thoughts into words. Don't worry, John. I learned my lesson. I'll just avoid the road next time and blog from the kitchen.
But getting back to his comments, I suppose I could summarize my thoughts thusly: Huh?
So women just can't take the physicality and emotional tax of the current game. They're just injured all the time and that's because they're weak. Let's not even get into the fact that this is John McEnroe, king of emotional meltdowns, saying that women having an emotional breakdown of the court signals some mental weakness and inability to cope with the stress of the game. Not that we should be shocked. Who couldn't roll their eyes when he kept bringing up Vera's penchant for emotional meltdowns as being a signal of weakness in her game throughout her USO run.
Look, I don't disagree that the current schedule is pretty rough on players. Has it led to more injuries? Probably. But that's not the point J-Mac's making. If it was then this would have been a non-story. The point he went out of his way to make is that women, as opposed to men, can't take it. Our bodies are just too frail, our minds just so full of...nothing. We just aren't strong enough to handle the rigors of this game.
Everyone's entitled to their opinion. But let's look at some facts, shall we? Serena cut her foot in a bar brawl, Justine is out for the year because she fell down on the court, Vika bonked her head in a freak sprinting accident and had to retire from the USO. None of these players were injured due to a physical breakdown over the course of a long and grueling season. The same can't be said about the top men's players who had to skip the Open due to injuries (Delpo, Jo, Gonzo, to name a few).
Do I think the season is too long? Duh. The game is absolutely more physical today than it was 5, 10, 15 or 20 years ago. It's obvious that players' bodies are breaking down at a rate that probably wasn't happening in the past. But it's more physical for both tours and J-Mac's singling out of the women was not only insulting, it was just plain wrong. Are we really going to ignore Rafa's knees, Nole's lungs, Delpo's wrist, Jo's knees, Lleyton's hip, or Gonzo's knee when we talk about how the women can't seem to take the grind?
For every Dinara's back we have a Delpo wrist. For every Masha's shoulder we have Rafa's knees. It's equal on both sides. The game is indeed more physical, more grueling, and more punishing. And it affects everyone equally. I don't think I'm making any huge logical leaps here.
I mean, how could I? My brain is just not strong enough.
The onus is on the players to craft their schedule. Obviously the top players have more freedom to do so. They can focus on the big tournaments and not play day in and day out because they're not playing to put food on the table. The lower ranked you are the more you have to be concerned about playing to pick up paychecks.
So if Caroline wants to play 25 tournaments a year and she can handle it (which, by all metrics so far, she can), then let her. It's not the WTA's responsibility to say "No, no, no, honey. Your cute little 20 year old body can't take that. We know better than you. We're going to force you to scale it back." In the same vein, if Sam hurts her arm, realizes she's already played more matches in 2010 than she had in 2009, and wants to skip two mandatory tournaments to take a nap in Tampa, let her. If JJ sprains her ankle and chooses to play on it despite the fact that it's still hampering her, that's her perogative.
The point is that all players are different. They are individuals with different concerns, different needs, different physiologies, and different approaches to their career. Painting them all as "weak women" seems a bit on the wrong side of things. If you want to say "X" player should scale down their schedule because their body doesn't seem to be handling that amount of match play, then I suppose I wouldn't have a problem with that (assuming you had some facts to back it up). But lumping them all in a bucket? Generalize and stereotype at your peril.
I'm not naive. I know there are lots of behind the scenes considerations that drive a player's schedule. I know the top players can get a lot of pressure to play tournaments they wouldn't typically play because the tour needs to deliver a marquee player to an event. But as far as I know, the players can still say no. If I'm wrong on that then whoops.
All this is to say that I have a healthy dose of skepticism whenever some dude comes in, no matter what his name is, and advocates some sort of ceiling on their productivity or capabilities, based on his own personal biases that are not grounded in fact. Let the women play. And if they're too weak to deal with it the data will show that. But it hasn't.