Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Too Good, Too Fat or Too Black?

 Taylor Townsend is questioned about her level of fitness even though she is the top junior tennis player in the world? WTF?
But to be honest - I don't think this is a question just about her 'race'.
While Kelly Clarkson was being ridiculed for being overweight by Simon Cowell on American Idol - I don't think the question of her race ever came up. (Even though her body-type is one which would would be that which is desirable to many Black women.)
Some people just like to adhere to a preset ideal for those they would imagine to be the best.

Now, when it comes to Surya Bonaly and her back flip with a landing on one foot?
I think her ability to do what others could not was judged to be a flaw.
That she was a Black woman doing what her mostly white competitors could not do may have been judged as being the result of raw talent and not that of being a developed skill.
The thing is - Ms Taylor may end up benefiting from all this attention.
Ms Taylor will probably gain an endorsement deal or two from this situation.
In the end -.Ms Taylor will do just fine.


CNu said...

Tennis is the athletic epitome of a lot of what you ponder hereabouts wrt class, status, striving, struggling, etc..,

As a country club elite sport - there has always been and there continues to be a high degree of exclusivity around entre to the sport and its traditional culture. Enter the WTA and the global success of the sport as an international branding and marketing spectacle, and now you have a clash of worlds with the flood gates flung open to the merit-based multitudes clamoring for a piece of that $$$/fame/glory action in a sport which frankly, institutionally, does not welcome their entre.

The folks who coach and direct tennis programs at schools, clubs, and other venues are the washed-up wannabes of a world they sought to make a splash in, but never quite made it. These legions function as gatekeepers on entry into that world. Occasionally you run into a true jedi, culture of competency master of the game, but even these cats are compelled to get with the gatekeeping aspects enforced by school, club, other venue programs

It's the money honey. The high costs associated with really making a concerted run on developing a serious teen tennis athlete ($30-$100K/year) - impose a significant barrier to entry.

Take a club program, group lessons will cost you $500/month, with one or two private lessons a week adding an additional $150/week for a total $1100/month baseline. Add tournaments and travel costs, and that will easily jump to $2000/month just for a teenager who is highly active in the sport.

The clubs and programs themselves are constantly hounding you for private lessons, and will only teach your child but just so much in the group setting. If the other members of the group are club members or rich parents at the school, their kids will always get preference in the program and in team tournament play, whether they're the best players or not.

This is the type of feeder system that Taylor Townsend and her mother have had to come up through to reach the point that they have reached. Her work and her talents (powerful lefty) have taken her to an exceptional level, and she's overcome all the conventional gatekeepers in her path - now - poised to make entre into the big dollar, big marketing phase of the game, she's up against yet another type of gatekeeping having to do with the brand consciousness of the big money/big popularity side of the tennis cultural establishment.

CNu said...

There is a backlash of sorts, a closing of the ranks as it were of the USTA around the lip service to "diversity" that it's had to pay for the past decade or so. The USTA no longer intends to do much of anything beyond that lip service - and as you can see from the Townsend controversy - it really doesn't matter to them how good the young black athlete is or not.

The black elders in the USTA who've been around tennis for 30+ years and whose acquaintance I've worked to make, are quick to relate the extent to which racism, croneyism and favoritism pervades the sport. They make no bones about it.

As you can imagine, I've racked my brains to figure out a method by which I can hack the status quo, get my son the world-class coaching, access and exposure he needs to do what he do in the sport, and all of that within my meager budgetary constraints (my $30-$100K already being spoken for by the other child's college tuition)

After a lot of searching (and some benign and well-connected folk looking out for me), I've finally found a combination Angelo Dundee/Bundini Brown coach for my son. This cat has taken 7 kids to full ride college scholarships and two to the pros - and thank goodness - has just relocated to the heartland from the east coast and is in the opening rounds of building up an academy following from scratch.

Based on my observations over the past couple years, and intense observation this year, I'd consider this cat about as rare as a unicorn when it comes to knowledge, skill and teaching ability, coupled with motivation to buck the tennis establishment.

We've looked hard, high and low, and, been extremely fortunate with good folks looking out for us.

CNu said...

Ms Taylor will probably gain an endorsement deal or two from this situation.

She gone knock J-Hud off her Weight Watchers corner?

In the end -.Ms Taylor will do just fine.

She got significant struggles dead ahead. Keep in mind the extent to which Sloane Stephens and Victoria Duval have gotten dap here of late, while Taylor straight catchin undeserved hell.

Finally, peep the look of the top teen players and her conspicuous absence from this list.

Tom said...

Now, when it comes to Surya Bonaly and her back flip with a landing on one foot?
I think her ability to do what others could not was judged to be a flaw.

Absolutely! And thanks for remembering Surya Bonaly! Holy crap. She was freaking terrifying, that's why people didn't like her. Too good. I recall during some practice time, the Japanese champion fell on the ice just because she saw Bonaly do the backflip move.

uglyblackjohn said...

@ SeeNew - Dude, I swam and it was just as bad. The funny thing is that I was often in Lane 4 and I would hear remarks from those next to me who thought they were better than me even though they were seeded lower than me. My best result was when I was dressed, sitting on the starting block, eating a hot dog, while flanked by two blonde sylphs. I just looked at the guys who laughed at me prior to the race as I walked away laughing at them.

@ Tom - I always thought she should get bonus points for that move.

CNu said...

lol, that "dressed and walking away" steez is clearly the little boy's driving motivation.

Last weekend he was telling me about how Federer had to keep it zipped up and how he plans to handle himself in front of his expected legions, throngs and paparazzi.