Topic: Sports & EntertainmentSociety

Venus Williams
(June 2004)

Sportsmanship rears its lovely head so rarely these days that we must proclaim citings whenever possible, just to reaffirm that the species survives.

It did so at Wimbledon after a second round upset in the women’s tournament that had Venus Williams losing to Croatia’s Karolina Sprem (love that name). In the second-set tiebreaker, Umpire Ted Watts incorrectly called the score as 2-2, giving Sprem a point when instead she should have been taking a second serve. Neither player picked up on the error, and Sprem went on to win the tie-breaker and the match.

This sort of goof is nearly unheard of in major competitions, and there is no question that it occurred at a pivotal point. It wouldn’t take much at all to whip tennis fans into a fury, and even less to provoke conspiracy theorists and race conflict opportunists who would love to see some malicious significance in the fact that the fluke just happened to befall an African American woman who was playing a white opponent. But Venus Williams, who can always be counted on for a graceful and intelligent response to any situation, refused to play victim, and defused the controversy with a sentence.

“I don’t think one call makes a match,” she said.

And that was it. What a welcome outburst of sportsmanship. The endangered species lives. And The Ethics Scoreboard has a new hero.

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