I don't follow tennis. But every now and then tennis gets plastered all over everything and the whole Williams sister phenomenon was hard to miss, although I'd like to remind you that before there were Williams sisters there was just Venus.
I liked both Williams sisters, but I liked Venus more. Part of it's just as an aesthetic object -- she's so great looking in that terrifyingly predatory way. She makes you (made me?) reconsider how women can and should look.
Part of it is the way her personality got presented to us by the media. Serena was the bubbly sister; Venus aloof, serious.
From the New York Times article on Venus's match against Jelena Jankovic: "Williams, locked in a business meeting with herself all night, was having none of it."
I like that in a sports phenom. (See also Abdul Jabbar, Kareem and Bryant, Kobe.)
I also feel like she's one of those athletes who get covered grudgingly. This is the ESPN.com article about her upcoming match-up with Justine Henin. The author, having dedicated most of his column inches to why Henin would be the obvious player of the year if she wins the U.S. Open, devotes two sentences to the fact that Williams still has to be beaten, including their record against each other, and segues gracefully to why Williams won't win. "And yet, they haven't met since Henin won the first of her six Grand Slams in 2003."
There's something more than a little lunatic in insisting that the sports media show your preferred player the same respect and admiration that you do. It suggests the same inability to separate inner and outer worlds that leads to face painting. So we'll leave that aside.
I think that what really cemented my devotion to Venus Williams, though, was the spectacle of her losing ground to her younger sister. I don't know why -- I'm an only child and not a tennis pro so I will never face my younger sibling across the net in a Grand Slam setting. But it's got this universal appeal to it, this ashes to ashes, dust to dust quality to it. It's the circle of life, where we rise and then, slowly, inexorably, fall.
It's the way it is for us all, eventually. That doesn't mean I have to like it. I suspect I'm rooting for Venus Williams because I like rooting against the probabilities.
I hope she wins.