Let's Talk About Serena

Let's Talk About Serena

A collection of commentary and "serious journalism" on Serena Williams that has absolutely nothing to do with her success in tennis.

Serena Williams has dominated women’s tennis for more than a decade and is considered by many to be the greatest athlete of our time. Though she has been called inconsistent, her skill and precision are unparalleled and some predict that she will win another seven or eight major titles to add to the twenty she already has before she retires. Unfortunately, it seems that people have more important things to talk about, like her race, physique, and all of the ways that she fails to fit into their idea of a traditionally attractive woman. As a result, Serena has been forced to respond to many inappropriate and dehumanizing comments from high profile individuals. While Serena and her supporters are well aware of the prejudice she faces, it can be hard to believe that the comments about her are that bad, so below is a small sample.

"With a reduction in glut, a little less butt and a smidgen more guts, Serena Williams would easily be as big as Michael Jackson, dwarf Tiger Woods and take a run at Rosa Parks." - Jason Whitlock
“Williams, who will be vying for the Wimbledon title against Garbiñe Muguruza on Saturday, has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years. Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to.” - New York Times

Russian tennis official Shamil Tarpischev called Serena and Venus the “Williams brothers” and stated, "It's frightening when you look at them. But really you just need to play against the ball."

“I can’t even watch them play anymore. I find it disgusting. I find both of those, what do you want to call them—they’re just too muscular. They’re boys” - Sid Rosenberg, Imus in the Morning

Discussing this (totally awesome) tennis outfit:

On some women [the catsuit] might look good. Unfortunately, some women aren’t wearing it. On Serena, it only serves to accentuate a superstructure that is already bordering on the digitally enhanced and a rear end that I will attempt to sum up as discreetly as possible by simply referring to it as “formidable.” - Sydney Morning Herald

“[Serena Williams] is helping to transform the nature of women’s tennis into a game of muscle and power. She is turning the tennis circuit into a more diverse place. But her tight black tennis romper was the stylistic equivalent of trash talk. It looked trashy. And it did her a disservice.” - Robin Givhan, Washington Post

A spectator to Serena’s father: “I wish it was '75; we'd skin you alive."

“Tennis star Serena Williams cruised to a victory in the finals of Australian Open women's singles on Saturday and then dispatched her buttocks on Sunday to secure the doubles title. Serena beat her sister ... to win her fourth-straight major. On Sunday, her butt muscled its way to a 6-2, 6-1 title victory over the doubles pair of Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez. The feat is the first-known occurrence of a body part winning a professional athletic contest.” - Sportspickle

"Generally, I'm all for chunky sports stars ... but tennis requires a mobility Serena cannot hope to achieve while lugging around breasts that are registered to vote in a different US state from the rest of her. - Matthew Norman, The Independent

@serenawilliams @WTA Serena the gorilla won again pfff, grunts like one, looks like, is one. #Wimbledon— Richie (@DickLongYo) July">https://twitter.com/DickLongYo/status/619918113824... 11, 2015

"Serena Williams look like a man with tits, its only when she wears weave she looks female tbh, what a HENCH BOLD GORILLA!
— Lighty Makhaye (@MeLighty) June">https://twitter.com/MeLighty/status/60779569122686... 8, 2015

@serenawilliams is way more manly than ANY man in the #FrenchOpen It's absolutely disgusting. She's the original #CaitlynJenner
— Eric Annable (@EricAnnable) June">https://twitter.com/EricAnnable/status/60719246036... 6, 2015

At this point, you are probably (hopefully) disgusted at how many of those comments were published in newspapers or said on nationally syndicated radio programs, and you may have noticed some transphobia in addition to the racism and sexism. You may be thinking, "sticks and stones, she's so successful she should just ignore it," and to a certain extent you are right. These comments are demoralizing and not worth Serena's acknowledgment. However, I would imagine that it is tiresome when your success is attributed only to your glutes, or when people ignore your skills because they are more interested in your outfit. What many don't realize is that this attitude about Serena does actually harm her. Serena wins more prize money than any other female tennis player, by far, but makes nowhere near as much in endorsements as some of her competitors. For example, Maria Sharapova is much higher paid because she is tall, slender, and blonde and fits better into the mold of the ideal feminine athlete. While we cannot individually change how much Serena is paid, we can change how we talk about her.

  • Serena Williams is black, and while that identity is an important part of her, it does not make her a "savage" or "barbaric" player. It is inexcusable to compare her to a gorilla or any other animal. She is a human, and a very talented one at that.
  • While Serena's blackness is important because she and her sister have paved the way for other black tennis players, it does them a disservice to focus solely on that. Serena and Venus changed the game of women's tennis. They brought power and skill that no one had ever seen before, and to say that "increasing diversity" (read: happening to be black and also good at tennis) is their biggest accomplishment ignores their tremendous ability as players.
  • Serena identifies as a woman. She happens to also have been blessed with a genetic predisposition for muscle growth. It is acceptable to speculate about how she would hold up when competing against a great male tennis player. It is not acceptable to say that she is not feminine enough, or that she is not female.
  • It is okay if you do not find Serena attractive. She might just not be your type and that's totally fine. I highly doubt that she will lament over your opinion while looking at all of her trophies. That being said, if you are personally uncomfortable with the fact that she has more muscle than you do, don't go tell the Internet. If you feel emasculated, either take a sociology class and thoughtfully examine your perceptions of gender, or hit the gym. Do not take your own sense of inadequacy out on someone who has never done anything to you.

Serena has achieved outstanding success in tennis and there is nothing to suggest that she will not continue to do so. It is about time that we shift the focus from how she looks and the identities she was born with to her skill as a player, charity work, great personality, and how many more titles she'll win before she retires.

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When You Are Still In Love With the Game

When basketball is much, much more than a game to you.

It's that time of the year again- basketball season. The middle of the NBA season, college basketball is starting to get into conference play, and high school teams across the country are past the halfway point of the season.

But when you are still in love with the game, the season never ends.

It is going to happen to everyone at some point. Whether it’s in the pros, college, or for most of us your senior year of high school, you will have played your last official game of basketball. And that is a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, feeling for some players.

But when you are still in love with the game, the heart never fully recovers.

Yeah sure, there is always going to be pick-up games and intramurals and all of that, but nothing will satisfy your craving to go back in time and play in your finest moment. All of hoopers have one. That moment you think about every damn time you pick up a basketball and the replay start going through your mind about how you want that moment back…

But when you are still in love with the game, that pain never goes away, you just become numb to the feeling.

You are going to go to all of your universities or colleges home games, just to watch that sweet, fluent poetry that few people understand. The whole arena is going to see the highlight reel dunk,

But when you are still in love with the game, you will be one of the few who noticed the ball fake right before the bounce pass that got the ball to him.

We are all going to have that one coach too, that is going to be way more than a coach to you. To everyone else they just the work he puts in on the court. You see the insane amount of effort and dedication they pour into the team. You go visit coach in their office and see the double-sided whiteboard filled with potential schemes and play. You talk to them about more and more basketball not because it is the only thing you have in common, but because you two have that same undeniable passion and fire for the game.

But when you are still in love with the game, that relationship develops into a lifelong connection and friendship you would not trade for the world.

Going with that coach, there’s going to be a team that lives on in your mind. That team where it wasn’t all about winning, but it was all about having fun. Nothing will ever replace all of the memories you have with them, and the bond you shared will never be broken. In that season, you realized that basketball was much more than a sport.

But when you are still in love with the game, you will never quit the game. No matter the painful memories of losing that heartbreaker or getting hurt, basketball was one of the greatest things that ever happened to you. Anyone that truly loves the game would run it back in a heartbeat.

Cover Image Credit: Dastor News

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To the Coach Who Has Taught Me So Much

Thank you for teaching me so much about sports and life.

To the coach who has taught me so much,

I’m not so sure on which coach I’m talking to in this note but isn’t that the best part? Having so many great coaches that I don’t know who to thank more? Thank you for teaching me and taking the time to teach me the little things. You saw something in me and have now helped shape me into the player I am today. I couldn’t be more thankful for that and honestly couldn’t be more happy or grateful with my years with you. You didn’t just teach me about sports: you taught me about life and how to be a good person.
You taught me how to pass time when we were between games, and you taught me how to be spirited. You taught me how to hit the ball, and you taught me how to win. You taught me how to be quicker and get the ball there faster; you taught me how to get around tags on the bases and how to use my head while running too. You ignited a flame under me when we were down and then celebrated with us when that flame brought us an underdog win. You taught me how to lose and how to gather those losing thoughts and put them behind me and focus on the next game. You taught me how to focus on what was in front of me and not focus on the past.

You weren’t just my coach but you were a role model. You were a friend, and a great one at that. Someone I could talk to when I needed to and someone I could laugh with all the time.

I’m so lucky to have had my time with you and to have learned so much from you. Now, all I can hope is that I can do the same for a young athlete later in life, who is beginning her journey in the softball world.

So, thank you. Thank you for all you have taught me and just know that it is still with me and always will be.

Thank you with all my heart,

The athlete you impacted so greatly

Cover Image Credit: secretan.com

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