John McEnroe, the former bad boy of tennis, stepped in it the other day by telling the truth. He was being interviewed by NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro about his new book, “But Seriously,” and was irritated with how he qualified Serena Williams as “the best female player in the world.”
Here’s how it went:
Garcia-Navarro: “Why say female player?”
McEnroe: “Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit, she’d be like 700 in the world.”
Garcia-Navarro: “You think so?”
McEnroe: “Yeah. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be, I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ’cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.”
In the real world, most people would say, “This sounds reasonable. Men are stronger and faster.” In fact, Serena said as much to David Letterman in 2013:
“If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose, 6-0, 6-0, in 5 to 6 minutes, maybe 10 minutes. No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed…
Letterman went on to say, “I’m with you. When it comes to tennis, I only want to play girls.” What a sexist thing to say! But because Letterman is a liberal, no one cared.
After being attacked, McEnroe said, “We have a solution. Why don’t we just have them play together?” Exactly. Instead of having women’s tennis and men’s tennis, let’s just have tennis, track and field, basketball, weightlifting, and every other sport. Guess what? If we treated and evaluated men and women equally, women would be shut out of most sports.
McEnroe went on to say, “I mean, the people jumping on me, ‘how dare you have an opinion on this.’ It’s not something I haven’t said in the past 20 years. I love Serena, by the way.”
Let’s take track and field. There isn’t a single event that women could compete against men. It’s not even close. In the pole vault, the difference in world records is nearly four feet. High schoolers repeatedly jump higher than the women’s world record in the pole vault every year. Here’s a video of 17-year-old Mondo Duplantis — a junior in high school — jumping nearly three feet higher than the women’s world record:
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