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Archive for November, 2012

PostHeaderIcon Bob Hewitt’s Long Overdue Removal from the Hall of Fame

As tennis’ International Hall of Fame was preparing to announce its’ induction class for 2012, information was coming to light about a previously-inducted Hall of Famer and abuse allegations that seemed too hard to ignore. But that’s exactly what officials at the Hall of Fame appeared to do, infuriating many in the tennis community.

The subject of this firestorm was Bob Hewitt; a standout doubles player in his day who won all of the Grand Slam doubles titles for both Men’s and Mixed doubles. In later years, he went on to become a junior coach. This is where the story goes horribly wrong. Instead of coaching his young charges, he preyed on them sexually. Some of the victims, all young girls, were as young as 12. By all accounts the abuse was widespread and systemic.

A criminal probe was launched in early 2011. By the fall of 2011, word had spread of the allegations, and several witnesses had come forward against Hewitt. Mary Carillo even did a “Real Sports” story on the Hewitt allegations. But that’s as far as it got in terms of the tennis world.

Hall of Fame officials initially declined action because there was no criminal complaint on the matter. Finally, Tony Trabert, then president of the ITHOF, promised to conduct an investigation on the matter. But he never followed through. By the time the 2012 crop of inductees was being named, the matter had reached the boiling point because of the ITHOF’s inaction.

Mark Stenning, Hall CEO, publicly admitted in May that no investigation had been conducted. When an investigation was finally complete, it resulted in Hewitt’s suspension from the Hall of Fame on November 15, 2012. His plaque has been removed, as well as all other to him on Hall of Fame materials. Hewitt is “suspended” because they felt that expulsion was only appropriate if he were found guilty in a criminal proceeding. But for all practical purposes, Hewitt has ceased to be a Hall of Famer.

Stenning said afterward, “In hindsight, we certainly could have handled this more swiftly.

You think?

Better late than never, I guess. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for “due process”, but it took the Hall of Fame well over a year to take action on this matter, in spite of the pleas of many respected members. To their credit (because I do believe they should be given some credit) they spared no expense to investigate the matter once it became clear that Trabert had dropped the ball.

I’m not sure their late-game heroics can make up for their earlier inactivity, at least not for the victims. It’s easy to say you’re sorry after the fact when there are consequences. But it would have been much better if someone at the Hall of Fame had done the right thing from the outset, especially since the Hall of Fame is supposed to embody the best of tennis. And there was nothing “best” about this.


Articles for further reading and discussion:

PostHeaderIcon Andre Agassi Finds Happiness and Opportunity on the Tennis Court

I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.

Andre Agassi, Open.

It was a shockingly unexpected comment from one of the game’s greats, and a hero to many, me included. However, all things change with time. And if the huge smile on Andre’s face during the ‘BILT by Agassi and Reyes Champions Showdown’ (part of the PowerShares series) was any indication, he’s had a change of heart.

The final events of the PowerShares series are coming up this week in Denver and Anaheim, with Andre participating in both for a shot at finishing in the top three for a share of the $1M prize money. I had a chance to chat with Andre before his matches in San Jose, and one thing is certain: Andre is having the time of his life these days, and is wholeheartedly enjoying his association with a sport that was once the source of great turmoil and pain.

The 42 year-old Vegas showman lit up the arena with comprehensive victories over Jim Courier and John McEnroe. It was vintage Agassi: smacking backhands to the corners, crushing forehands, and blasting service returns winners at will past the net-charging McEnroe. When I asked Andre before the match how he was able to juggle his business ventures while still playing competitively in events such as this, he jokingly responded, “You’ll see tonight that I don’t spend too much time playing tennis anymore“.

To the contrary, Andre’s play was an impressive display of shot-making. Both Courier and McEnroe did their best to keep the ball out of Andre’s strike zone with high topspin, low angled slices, and deeply chipped shots with very little pace. It was a strategy that probably would have worked against most other players, but not against a guy like Agassi with the ability to hit the ball cleanly on the rise from both sides, no matter where he is on the court. It was inspiring tennis.

The best part of the evening, hands down, was seeing the joy on Andre’s face as he played. It’s a fitting reward for a guy who once hated tennis “with a dark and secret passion”. In fact, Andre’s current state of happiness with the game of tennis is palpable. It’s given him everything he holds dear, including his wife of eleven years, Stefanie, and their two kids, Jaden and Jaz. Steffi, in particular, provides the stability that allows him to pursue his passions.

I have a strong infrastructure and great people around me certainly. But my wife is where it begins, because without that foundation at home none of this would be possible.

The biggest slice of “this” is most certainly Andre’s work with his Andre Agassi Foundation For Education, helping disadvantaged kids get the education needed to succeed in life, and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. Andre’s continued efforts on behalf of the foundation have helped grow its’ endowment to over $550M to help build charter schools across the country.

“Am I a philanthropist? Yeah, I give a lot of money, but I feel there should be more to it. I came to the conclusion that what I am is a facilitator. I bring a lot of people together to create a vision, to get involved, to put leadership in place and get people to go above and beyond” (Bob Cohn, “Tennis no longer 1st in Agassi’s life“, TribLIVE, Oct. 14, 2012).

As if his foundation work wasn’t enough, Andre has created the ‘BILT by Agassi and Reyes’ line of training equipment with his good friend, Gil Reyes. The philosophy behind the BILT machines is one of maximizing training while also protecting the athlete’s body and joints. As Andre put it, it’s a bit “surreal” how it’s all come together – the culmination of their work together, combining all the knowledge they’ve amassed over the years of Andre’s time on tour.

This particular time in my life is really special because it’s a full-circle kind of journey for me to see the sport give a platform and allow me to do some of the things I care about off the court. To watch what Gil did for me… and see it turn into a business that will help others like it helped me.

Even with his loaded schedule, Andre still finds time to enjoy the current generation of top players. When I asked if he thought his best play could match up with that of the “Big Four”, his answer was a quick and decisive “No”. He went on to say, “The game has gotten better, and it keeps getting better. What these guys do now is they have as much offense as I ever thought of having, and their defense is far superior.” But when asked if he can still take a good rip at a ball like the old days, he smiled and said, “Oh yeah.” Having witnessed his demolition of Courier and McEnroe, I agree.

Andre has always been one of the greatest ball strikers to ever play the game. But six years removed from his dramatic retirement at the US Open, he’s that and much more. Andre is a man who’s driven to give others the opportunity for education that, ironically, he never had. And he’s gone from hating tennis to realizing its’ potential to help others achieve success and personal happiness.

We should all be so lucky.

PostHeaderIcon The Return of “The Giants”… that is, the San Francisco Giants

I want to take a moment away from tennis to tell you about my brush with greatness the other day on my way home from work. As some of you may have heard (lol), on Sunday, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in dominating fashion over the Detroit Tigers. They swept Detroit off the field, winning four straight games. It was great stuff to watch, especially that last pitch by Romo that froze Cabrera at the plate for the final out. Amazing!

On Monday, I was on my way home from work in San Mateo, listening to reports of the Giants having just landed at SFO (as I was driving by SFO), when all of a sudden a CHP officer on my right started weaving for a traffic break. I got out in front of him, but it occurred to me that this was THE traffic break that was going to allow the team to get back to ATT Park during the commute. In that instant I knew what I had to do: follow the team back to the park for homecoming.

After the 2010 win, I missed out on much of the festivities and ended up kicking myself over it. I didn’t get a t-shirt, or go to the parade/rally at City Hall. I watched on TV and felt slightly removed from it all, and maybe even a little bit jealous when I saw Bruce and the players showing off the trophy to the crowds at the park. I didn’t want to miss out for a second time.

I waited on the side of the road by Candlestick Park for the buses to go by, then followed them onto 280 and down to King Street as they headed for the ballpark. The gods were smiling on me as I was able to immediately park at the only available meter just off the exit. I put in a token amount of change, and then hauled ass the few blocks to the park so that I could be there for the team as they got off the buses. My timing wasn’t great, as I missed Panda getting off the bus with the World Series trophy overhead. And the crowd was so deep that I could barely see Hunter Pence high-fiving the crowd in front of me. Still, I was there to soak up the atmosphere and share in a bit of civic pride, and felt successful on both fronts.

As much of a whiz as I seem to be with all of my tech toys, I kept having issues with my phone’s camera. So I didn’t get any good pics of the players AS THEY SPED OFF IN THEIR CARS IMMEDIATELY AFTER GETTING THERE!!! That was pretty disappointing, but I guess you can’t blame them. I did get a chance to see a few of them drive off from my perch on the traffic island right opposite the ballpark driveway, and that was pretty cool. I saw Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, and Tim Lincecum. They all had their windows down, and it was cool to cheer for them and see their smiles in response.

The top picture is just a cool view of the Posey banner I had from my traffic island location. The middle picture is of sportscaster Ken Wayne interviewing a woman in front of me. Coincidentally, I was watching his local coverage after the win on Sunday. I think he would have interviewed me if I had any amount of orange and black on, but I didn’t. 🙁 Hence, the bottom picture with my new t-shirt in front of the statue of Willie Mays!

I’m also including a short video just to show how crowded it was down there while we waited. Crowded, but not out of control thankfully. After all the players left, the staff thanked us all for coming down and started to bring down the barricades. I walked over to the Dugout and got my official t-shirt, well worth the price at forty bucks. I’m not a big baseball fan, but I’m certainly aware of those moments when sports can unite a city. This was definitely one of those times, and in a setting that was better than the million+ throng today at the parade and rally.

Move over Rafa, I think my new sporting crush is Sergio Romo. 🙂

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