Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coming and Going

Elena Dementieva retired about a week and a half ago. Don't worry. Her name won't be on the test. Ms. D. was a tennis pro from Russia, a pretty common thing these days, and her hanging up the racquet takes place as she approaches age thirty, also pretty common in this hyper-youth occupation.
Dementieva isn't really a candidate for the Tennis Hall of Fame. She was a tough opponent who did well in lots of tournaments, but never won one of the major ones. In fact, at one point in her career she was best known for having a serve that was awkward looking and offered chances for opponents to pile up easy points.
But some surprising things happened along the way. Dementieva had some things in her favor (speed and good strokes) that made her formidable. She didn't quit or complain, and became popular among the women players, a group not always known for kindness to rivals. And she worked on correcting the serve, though it was never much of a weapon.
She received awards for her sportsmanship, never looked to exploit her looks, which she certainly could have, and when she made her retirement announcement following a loss in a year-ending tournament in a city in the Middle East, players drifted in from the dressing room to offer their best wishes. Naturally, tears were shed. I saw a series of "good bye" messages taped by players, who even had nice things to say about Dementieva's mother, who often accompanied her around the world. Some, naturally, spoke in Russian, which, if the rest of the world doesn't take notice, may some day become the official language of women's tennis. Anyway, you could do a lot worse looking for a role model. Stay focused. Work hard. Treat others with respect and kindness. Keep smiling. Leave things better than when you came. Thanks, Elena.

George W. Bush would also be a candidate for the "going" side of this week's title, except that he's now in a position that many used-to-be-bigshots find themselves in - trying to drum up interest in a book about their experiences at the top. He has a perfect right to set out his version of things, in the same way that his father chose not to rehash his White House years in a book. I read that almost a quarter million copies of the new book went out the door on the first day, but I honestly can't say what that means for truthseekers ten or twenty years from now. I couldn't even guarantee that he didn't have help putting it all together, though he has a perfect right to hire help for that, too.
So Bush has been doing interviews about the book, though I can't imagine he enjoys this much. Every job has its downside, right? But this process is a little like campaigning. The longer things go, the more likely it becomes that something you'd rather not reveal sort of oozes out anyway.
Here's what I mean. What would you guess Bush sees as the worst moment of his two terms in the White House? Getting caught unprepared on 9/11? Getting accusations of abuse of the Constitution? The revelations of prisoner abuse? The non-discovery of WMDs following the invasion of Iraq? Having to pull Harriet Miers as a Supreme Court nominee? The Wilson/Plame/Cheney/Libby debacle? Getting caught using the word "crusade" as a term for the so-called Global War On Terror?
No, no and no. Mr. Bush said last week that the lowest moment of his administration came when rapper Kanye West made some mean spirited accusations against him following the Katrina disaster. Really? A rapper from a minority almost totally associated with Bush's political opponents has the power to hurt him just by making some unprovable allegations? I think there's a term to describe Bush's reaction. That term is - "small". It's a little like moping through your day because someone makes fun of your serviceable but ugly car. It just shouldn't matter, but somehow it does anyway. It says more about you than the other guy. It shows that you're - small.
Someone no doubt well paid to notice such things evidently got the word to the former CIC, who just today said that he and West are back on good terms, so perhaps we've heard the last of this, though just where the truth lies is hard to say. What is no doubt true is that people who like rap music can buy books, too.


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