Vaught's Views: Williams sets right example

June 28, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

It's not hard to be a gracious winner. Or at least it shouldn't be.

Look at the smiles some of Sunday's winners had. Jeff Gordon had no complaints after once again dominating a NASCAR road race. Golfer Craig Stadler perhaps had the biggest smile because not only did he win on the Senior Tour, but his son also got a victory on the Nationwide Tour.

However, it's not nearly to be as gracious after a loss, especially when an official made an error that may have possibly contributed to the defeat.

That's why I am still applauding tennis player Venus Williams for the way she handled last week's disappointing second-round loss to Karolina Sprem at Wimbledon.


Williams was down a set when the umpire gave Sprem a point in the second set tiebreaker after she served and a fault was called. That's a big no-no, but neither player said anything and the match continued. Sprem won the second set tiebreaker 8-6 to eliminate Williams.

Williams could have done a lot of things after the match when it was confirmed that the umpire had made a mistake. She might have thrown a temper tantrum like so many professional athletes do when a call goes against them. She might have protested that the match should be replayed. She might have accused Sprem of cheating for not correcting the mistake.

Instead, she did the right thing. She admitted she was confused and did not catch the mistake. Then she said one point does not determine a match's outcome.

She accepted responsibility for her own mistake

Rather than blame the umpire for a human mistake, she accepted responsibility for her own mistake and complimented the winner.

What a novel idea?

Perhaps the Chicago Cubs fans who made a villain out of a fan who dared catch a foul ball in last year's playoffs before the Marlins rallied to win could learn a lesson here. Perhaps all the fans who scream at a high school official after losing a game that had a controversial call could learn a lesson here. Perhaps all the Kentucky basketball fans who either blame coach Tubby Smith, the officials or a Kentucky player for a loss could learn a lesson here. Perhaps all the professional athletes who complain about not making enough money could learn a lesson here.

While I sometimes enjoy watching tennis, it's not a high priority. Mowing grass or walking in hot, humid weather can be just as much fun as watching two tennis players hit the ball harder and into more corners than I can ever imagine.

But from this day on, I am going to be a Venus Williams fan for much the same reason that I admire golfer Tiger Woods.

Woods is not one to complain. He had that million-dollar smile when he was dominating golf a few years ago. Now that he's struggling - or at least struggling by his lofty standards - he might not be smiling as often, but he's not making excuses and he just keeps going about his business. When his former coach blasted him for thinking he could coach himself, Woods did not lash out like most of us would.

Same with Williams. She had every right to be upset. She had a ready-made excuse for her surprising loss.

But Williams showed us that losing with class is still a possibility and that's a lesson I hope athletes from age 6 to 60 remember.

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