Friday, September 7, 2007

My Favorite Williams Sister

Is Venus.

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 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.


chanchow said...

i prefer venus over serena, too. but i like justine over venus, hands down. i like seeing someone small beat all the amazons out there. little belgian vs the giant slugging american.

Noko Marie said...

I'm afraid I have a long standing and elemental preference for Serena, based on nothing. I like the obviousnes of Serena over the subtlety of Venus, but I don't know why. I like Serena's crazy huge muscles, too.

But I like them both, as you do. And I see why you want Venus to win. Serena gives the impresion she'll be bouncing around whatever happens.

Captain Colossal said...

Given what happened to Britney at the VMAs, and what happened to Venus at the US Open, maybe I should stop rooting for people.

I take your point, Chanchow. But I like the whole amazon thing. It seems so outside the norm of what women are supposed to be that it's kind of appealing. But I guess in tennis it is the norm.

Yeah, it's the fragility of Venus (versus Serena and perceived, probably, rather than real) that partly makes up her appeal for me, N. Marie.

Captain Colossal said...

Octopus Grigori suggested kindly that I give him some kind of credit for the photos, as, he said, he put in all this time blogging about the Los Angeles bus.

I'm taking it under consideration; I did, however, kind of view the Octopus's initial decision to blog about riding the bus as an act of cultural appropriation.