There's one facet of James Blake that doesn't get a lot of mention. He's a pretty sporting guy. He gives credit to his opponents. He's very polite. It's almost the kind of thing that gets a person unnoticed.
Recently, after a match with Fabrice Santoro (who's French, despite his likely Italian heritage), he complimented him afterwards on Fabrice's hustle, that he comes to play each time, and he really respected it.
Sports commentators love praising guys who win "the right way". Occasionally, you get people like Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Venus Williams, and such, who weren't particularly nice, even had a rough edge to them, and people defend them, nevertheless. Why?
Because they win. If they were middle of the pack players, they may get no press attention at all, or they'd be derided for bad behavior. Surprising how winning forgives all that. Michael Wilbon is usually pretty guilty of this. But then, he tends to cling to winners, and they give him access. It's not surprising that sportswriters gravitate to star athletes. Many sportswriters were failed athletes, who, like Salieri, recognize genius, but lack the skills to be genius.
They often do the next best thing, and try to hang out with star athletes, and are willing to defend their excesses because they win. And, it goes without saying that many of the athletes Wilbon has a strong fondness for are African American, and that he sees these athletes as breaking their way into public consciousness, possibly ridding the world, or the US (which is the world to most Americans) of bias against African Americans. Perhaps rid is too strong. But like prideful Italians post famous Italians in their restaurants, prideful African Americans look to their athletes.
James Blake, a bit like Tiger Woods, is of mixed parentage. His father is African American (he passed away a few years ago). His mother, who's white, was an athlete in England, came to the US as a teen. Perhaps that's one reason that he's not perceived so well, despite his slow rise up the rankings. He's not had the kind of press that Andy Roddick has had, nor quite the success.
But James Blake, like Barack Obama, may increasingly become the face of African Americans. In a way, a very odd way, this can be seen as a form of equality. For years, many would find the thought of African Americans marrying white or Asian or anything outside of African Americans unthinkable. Now, it raises far fewer eyebrows, and it's likely to continue (much as Asians intermarrying outside of Asians is likely to increase too).
Hmm, well, this entry, which was going to be about Blake's sportsmanship has turned into a stream of consciousness writing about race, and the evolution of African Americans in the US.
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