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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack: McEnroe was a casualty in the war to deconstruct society


When in an interview John McEnroe pronounced Serena Williams ‘the best female tennis player ever, no question’, it was an accolade from one of the game’s greats to another. Unfortunately, McEnroe forgot that this is the 21st century where the most benign statement can be seen as disrespectful.

The immediate response from interviewer Lulu Garcia-Navarro was, ‘Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world’. McEnroe calmly explained that men’s and women’s tennis are very different games and that if Serena played men’s tennis she would be lucky to get into the top 700 player list.

Miss Williams herself has agreed with this. In a 2013 interview with David Letterman she said, ‘If I were to play Andy Murray I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe ten minutes… The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game’.

Billie Jean King, herself one of the game’s greats and a feminist icon, agreed with Serena. She only differed by saying that Serena might do a little better than 700. King repeated McEnroe’s point that the two games are vastly different and that neither Serena or any other woman could compete with the men. ‘We don’t have the androgen the guys have, we don’t have testosterone, (men) have bigger hearts… Physically there’s no question’.

Williams and King were clearly right and their statements were rooted in undeniable physical facts. Most popular sports rely on physical strength and dexterity, and despite what progressives might wish men and women differ physically. In sports, such as many of the equestrian events, which do not rely so much on physical strength men and women compete equally.

The differences in sporting prowess were amply illustrated last year. In preparation for the Rio Olympics, Australia’s women’s international football team the Matildas, played the Newcastle Jets. Not the Jets first team but their under-16 boys. The fifteen-year-old boys beat the world’s fifth ranked woman’s international team 7-0.

England’s cricket fans can justly celebrate their national team winning the Woman’s World Cup, but no one suggests that they could compete against even a Minor Counties men’s team. At last there is an arena where Scotland’s cricket team can triumph. Hockey, squash, pole vaulting, not to mention rugby; there are physical differences between men and women and they can become undeniably apparent on the sporting field.

As we say in Scotland, ‘Facts are chiels that winna ding’, an old way of putting Ben Shapiro’s ‘My facts trump your feelings’. However, the progressive media (the ‘progressive’ in that phrase being redundant) is not concerned with facts. The media went into meltdown over McEnroe. On television next day he was asked if he would like to apologise for saying that Serena Williams is the best woman’s tennis player ever.

They asked the wrong man. McEnroe refused. Cue outrage.

Immediately the media did a 180 degree turn. Initially McEnroe was attacked for not comparing Serena Williams favourably to current male players; the attack switched to say that he was disrespecting Serena by even comparing her to male players.

Huffington Post headlined ‘We must stop comparing Serena Williams to men’s tennis players’. Their senior editor asked, ‘Why is it that he, or anyone else, feels so compelled to try to belittle William’s legacy by comparing her to men tennis players?’

When it comes to gender, their cause du jour, the media fail the trust test. As in so much else what matters for progressives, and especially their media mouthpieces, is not the facts but the narrative. McEnroe contradicted the gender narrative relentlessly pushed by progressives therefore he had to be attacked.

McEnroe was asked a question regarding Serena Williams. He gave an honest answer rooted in facts; in his opinion she is the best female tennis player ever. This was immediately spun as an attack on women. This is not just about tennis.

Cultural changes do not just happen out of the blue, ideas are planted as seeds, watered and nurtured, competing ideas are weeded out, until finally the seeds bloom and become accepted in society. As we review the cultural changes since the 1960s we can see that there has been a relentless push in one direction. Gradually the nature of society has been changed, usually in ways the majority never asked for. Leading the way has been the mass media.

Gender issues, especially transgender rights, have now become the leading edge of the movement to deconstruct our society and rebuild it in ways we could never recognise. Although only a minor skirmish in the culture war, this incident illustrates what is happening. The fuss about McEnroe’s statements about Serena Williams has little to do with tennis, it has everything to do with changing Western society.

(Image: Edwin Martinez)

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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