When is Serena not, um, Serene?

Easy answer: Most of the time.

Tennis titan Serena Williams had what tennis aficionados consider a monumental meltdown (some try to dismiss it as just an "outburst") on the Tennis Open court this season, as she first broke her racquet in frustration over her not outstanding play against her Japanese-Haitian opponent, Naomi Osaka, far younger and less customary to the courts than Ms. Williams.

Serena compounded her troubles in the eyes of court umpire Carlos Ramos, as well as her many fans in the stands and on TV at home.

She bad-mouthed the ref, Ramos, in ungentle terms throughout.  And she was suspected of having watched her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, making play signals from the stands.

Not surprisingly, but still giving one pause, Serena self-justified by calling out the punishment received: a payout of some $18,000 for her rule infractions.  She plaintively attacked the judgment penalty as "sexist."  But in what way could it be sexist?  She was playing – she always plays – against women.  The penalty had nothing whatsoever to do with her being a female or having trespassed on female-connected issues or rules.

The rules are neutral and have to be enforced, or the game becomes a meaningless display of irk and quirk.

Serena was playing badly, still perhaps recovering from months on presumably lower levels of practice than was her wont before having her baby.

To some extent, she was being little more than a blatant bully, because her lustrous performance past "entitled" her, and she doubted that anyone would challenge her racquet racket.  But she committed not one, but numerous infractions.

She categorically and defiantly rejects all the charges and the penalty levied against her.  The distinct lack of courtesy to the respected, neutral ref Ramos is a disappointing return to the mean, as it were, because becoming more uncouth is not where we want to go.  Tennis has for the most part, for more than one hundred years, been a gentlemanly sport, even with spoiled-brat stars.  McEnroe was a prior avatar of spoiltness, as we mostly recall.

Serena betrays her own name with this unseemly display.  Many people don't even consider the significance of their given names as they jostle through the rigors of life.  When we first heard the name of Zephyr Teachout, in the just past election, I couldn't help thinking she has a ridiculous name – both names.  Her parents were, one supposes, ditzy flower children or the equivalent to dub their daughter with that whimsy.  People forget that the names children are tagged with at birth stay with them forever, and a "cutesy" name ill fits adult and serious people.

Anyway, Serena has a duty to herself and, it would seem to most observers, to her many loyal fans.  Her opponent, Osaka, was clearly rattled.  And cowed.

A shame that acting out has become a spectator sport for us, which it should never have become, and a rite de passage for disorderly privileged talents who fail to measure their longevity on the field or art beyond the afternoon bell or the evening's news clip.

Some are arguing – low-hanging fruit, of course – that the coarseness of debate today is a reflection of our president.  But discourtesy was not born with President Trump's advent on November 10, 2016, or January 20, 2017.

Coarse television programming – in news telecasts as well as entertainment offerings – has been contaminating our airspace for decades, accelerating of late.  Rap music has done its dirty job of stripping decency from lyrics and thoughtful romance from their CDs and public performances. The feedia – the media that feed inexorably, mostly on gossip, anguish, and unsubstantiated reportage – now say things your grandmother would faint to hear.

Really Orthodox Jews, for one group, hardly own televisions, precisely because of the hourly auditory sludge flying out daily, weekly, et cetera.  Others not particularly faith-followers reject the good that TV can offer in favor of not hearing the more frequent off-color, distressing, and unaccountable from their 40-inch monitors.

Can we squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube?  Will our public discourse, including the grimy and unprecedented attacks on our current White House by its unlovable, unlaconic lulu prior inhabitant, shortly stop and autoclave the nasty from the nasturtiums? 

Not bloody likely.  Not by Barack H.  And probably not by Serena.

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