If Only Tennis Ruled The World...

by | July 17, 2008

Ten days ago, I watched "Venus Wimbledon," as her family calls her, defeat her younger sister Serena for her fifth Wimbledon championship. One's pleasure in this, the best of the sisters' matches I've seen, was marred only by the self-gratulatory garrulity of Mary Carillo whom, year after year, NBC couples with the adolescent stooge, Ted Robinson, and the informed, surprisingly modest John McEnroe, who, unlike the others, actually stops talking when the players are going about their business.

The day after the sister match, there was a marvelous and moving men's final in which Roger Federer, playing at or near the top of his game, suffered what he said was the worst loss of his life, a five setter, to Rafael Nadal. The last game was played in semi-darkness, which the gracious and gallant Federer mentioned as a factor in his loss. Still, the beauty and power of tennis was here--"The best match I've ever seen," said the superlative-lover, McEnroe--and puts to shame much of the political rot of the planet.

On Bastille Day, the UN condemned the monster who rules Sudan for genocide, a brief eclipse of the monstrosities of Robert Mugabe, the octogenarian who gripped again the reins of the country he's ruled and ruined. Oddly, there's a stroke of silver in this monster's portrait. A brilliant bit of journalism by The Washington Post's Craig Timberg revealed that the day after Zimbabwe's March 29 election, Mugabe told his circle of cronies that he'd lost and would resign. "No, you won't," was the response of General Constantine Chwenga, the chief of staff who went on to order the old thug that there would be another election, which he would win. Chwenga's fellow usurpers unleashed the 100,000 thugs of their Thugarchy. They killed, raped, and drove out of the country the opposition. And, sure enough, on June 27, the old monster was reelected.

All of us who complain about the Zimbabwean misery--including many of those at the recent African conference in Egypt--can't cohere into a fist to smash him. This week, Thomas Friedman wrote of the outrageous cowardice of Vladimir Putin and Thabo Mbeki, whose ambassadors vetoed a Mugabe-punishing resolution at the UN.

Of such irresponsible cowards, Celsus, the powerful and witty critic of Christianity whose work we know because Origen quotes him extensively in Contra Celsus (m), wrote

If they will take wives, and bring up children, and taste of the fruits of the earth, and partake of all the blessings of life, and bear its appointed sorrows (for nature herself hath allotted sorrows to all men; for sorrows must exist, and earth is the only place for them), then must they discharge the duties of life until they are released from its bond...

Would that the fortitude and civility of Rafael, Roger, and the soeurs Williams could be installed in those of us with the power and responsibility to counter the monstrosity that disfigures humanity in the actions of Mugabe, his cronies, Omar al-Bashir, and his.

--Richard Stern

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