Arthur Ashe: A Remembrance of Things Past

The largest tennis stadium in the world is named after him. The last major of the year is decided on his surface. Nothing could be more appropriate than to commend the efforts of a man, who not only changed the game, but changed the way we see things. One book does it better than the rest.

Mr. Ashe was low key, mild mannered, a shy man you could say, but his game and presence stood tall, brash, and personified individualism like none other. In Mike Towle’s book, I Remember Arthur Ashe: Memories of a True Tennis Pioneer and Champion of Social Causes by the People Who Knew Him by Cumberland House, we get a candid glance into the life of someone who hardly showed any emotions on the court, carried himself with the utmost class and dignity, and seemed impervious to the spotlight. Unlike most biographies, which typically consist of a laborious bulk of exposition and pastoral beginnings, Towle’s book is a narrative not of his own, but of the people that knew Arthur Ashe well, and some not so well, but relay an experience they had encountering the great tennis legend revealing a more human side of Ashe, one that has never been unveiled before.

The structure of the book is linear following Ashe’s career from its auspicious beginnings to the tragic end of losing a bout with AIDS, all told through personal friends and colleagues alike, and even at times the very subject himself. My favorite passage from the book, one that I think reveals his human side the most, is when Ashe recalls a match he had against tennis great John Newcombe in Sydney where he lost due to some good old fashioned day dreaming. ‘I remember I won the first set,’ Ashe recalls, ‘Then all of a sudden I started thinking about this stewardess, Bella, I had met. She was Miss Trinidad of 1962. I just kept seeing her – this gorgeous face, this beautiful creature – and the next thing I know the match is over and Newcombe won.’

This book is more than a book about a tennis player. It’s a book about being human, and few stories mirror Arthur Ashe’s journey. Here’s to you Arthur, and to you too Mr. Towle for a great idea.

Krystle Clear: The Maria Sharapova Dilemma

Maria Sharapova has been out of tennis the past year or so, and her rankings have dropped significantly.  However, her face remains present  on our billboards, Fifth Avenue, and commercials reminding us to “make every shot a power shot” with Canon.  This is the time where she must  decide if she will come back to tennis full force or a small pop, disappearing into Kournikova land.

At this point, she has earned more money than many people will see in  their lifetimes.  She won grand slams, performed what she needed to do to become a memorable female athlete, and if she wants to forget her number one ranking, I don’t know if I would do anything else in her place.  She is a young girl.  Tennis schedules get hectic, her other modeling/spokeswoman career is more lucrative and fascinating.  Why not play halfheartedly and enjoy life?  She could become an actress, movie producer, fund her own sports ventures, anything she dreams of!

The flip side of the coin is sports are about passion.  You don’t care about money once you have it but winning, being the best to save your dignity.  I believe that’s what other top players have and top athletes in every field: drive.  Miss Sharapova could demand to be the best, extending her presence beyond today’s tennis to ages from now, the way we talk about Babe Ruth, thei height of Wayne Gretzsky, etc.

It’s her choice.  What would you do?