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  • Rod Laver and The Mean Streak

    Let's discuss Jeff McCullough's article, "Rod Laver and The Mean Streak"

  • #2
    Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
    Let's discuss Jeff McCullough's article, "Rod Laver and The Mean Streak"
    That is a side of Laver I never would have expected: a mean streak. He has always seemed so modest and unassuming to me...
    Regards, Phil

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    • #3
      I really enjoyed this article. I sat down to just browse the article and read the whole thing later on. Next thing I know I was 5 paragraphs in and had conviction to stay put and finish it up. This article showed a different side of the Rocket. A side that was lurking underneath the surface the whole time.

      Kyle LaCroix USPTA
      Boca Raton

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      • #4
        I laughed out loud when I read it. I know Jeff (we used to teach together and also were roommates for a while in SF) and just imagining this encounter was hilarious. It's gonzo style...

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        • #5
          Rod Laver's Mean Streak

          Excellent article on a fascinating and complex champion. I must say that I had a similar experience in the mid-1970's. I introduced myself to Rod at a tennis club in Los Angeles that he and Roy Emerson had just opened. He seemed friendly at first, however once I tried to initiate a conversation he was off and running. I must admit that I did not have the perseverance of the author.

          Norman Ashbrooke

          Lakewood, California

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          • #6
            I am glad Norman backed up Jeff's findings as I had until Norman's post found the article hard to believe. You just cannot imagine Rod being like that. I guess you can get tired of meeting people and answering the same old questions.

            My father met Roy Emerson and found him to absolutely charming.
            Last edited by stotty; 02-07-2015, 11:42 AM.
            Stotty

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            • #7
              Respect...

              Originally posted by licensedcoach View Post
              You just cannot imagine Rod being like that. I guess you can get tired of meeting people and answering the same old questions.
              I am tired of people and they aren't following me around at airports asking me ridiculously stupid questions…not that the author's were ridiculously stupid. To him. But to Rodney Laver on a red eye flight and into the next day…well I think we need to cut the champ some slack here.

              But the part about Rodney saying that he was just meaner than the rest and playing his best only 30 to 40 percent of the time is a great answer to the question and I wonder why it is that the author had such a difficult time processing his answer and persisting to some low moment in the great Rod Laver's tennis playing. Rod was alluding to his ability to be mentally tough no doubt and ended up showing this fellow a bit of the down side to that tough side of him. Why would he insist on asking a question about a botched overhead and what did he expect Mr. Laver to say in response?

              Although Rod Laver spent much of his time in front of the public playing tennis I have always had the impression that he was a very private type of person. Not so gregarious as a Roy Emerson. To be a tennis player at such a high level requires an enormous amount of concentration and that concentration is most often cast inwards which certainly has it effects on a persons personality. A certain intensity.

              Normally if a person doesn't appear to be particularly interested in talking to me…I do not persist. I can take a hint. Obviously Rod thought that he had performed his perfunctory obligation to his adoring fan when he said hello. Then he gave him a hint that he was really not so overwhelmed to be talking to a complete stranger in the middle of the night. Then he finds this stalker chasing him through the airport hounding him about an embarrassing moment. What was going to be next…"The Rocket" made like a rocket trying to dodge another well-meaning well wisher. One on a journalistic mission. One mission that just culminated in his couple of minutes of attention getting behavior here on this website.

              Much ado about nothing. Don't be surprised by the great champions behavior. He gave his best all of the time…he was a Harry Hopman disciple. Maybe he didn't like your Prince racquet bag. There are limits where his space ends and yours begins. I think he exhibited an extreme amount of patience that he undoubtably learned from years of playing at the championship level that he did. Whatever happened to the word respect? It's an old fashioned word. One of the first important words that my father taught me.
              Last edited by don_budge; 02-07-2015, 01:10 PM. Reason: for clarity's sake...
              don_budge
              Performance Analysthttps://www.tennisplayer.net/bulleti...ilies/cool.png

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              • #8
                Respect

                A wonderful and insightful letter by don budge. Respect is certainly an important aspect of life. However what intrigues me is the notion that greatness in tennis is somehow linked with meanness. There is certainly enough evidence to support such a claim. Laver himself claimed that Pancho Gonzalez was the meanest player he ever encountered. And Gonzalez stated in an interview that Jack Kramer was an incredibly mean player. These three men were certainly the greatest players of their decades. However the emergence of Roger Federer in the 21st century casts doubt on the necessity of meanness and the notion that a hatred for losing is just as important if not more important than a desire to win. Federer has shown repeatedly in press conferences and on the court that his love of winning and his sportsmanship are his true motivating forces. He is certainly the greatest ambassador our game has ever had, and I think the Rocket might even agree with me on that point.

                Norman Ashbrooke
                Last edited by ten1050; 02-08-2015, 11:00 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by licensedcoach View Post
                  I am glad Norman backed up Jeff's findings as I had until Norman's post found the article hard to believe. You just cannot imagine Rod being like that. I guess you can get tired of meeting people and answering the same old questions.

                  My father met Roy Emerson and found him to absolutely charming.
                  I keep in touch with Mr. Emerson (He insists I call him Roy but I just can't out of respect) after first meeting him about 2 1/2 years ago. He's incredibly charming and still sharp as a tack. A beautiful tennis mind. Spoke with him on Christmas and spoke with him in early November to wish him a happy birthday.

                  Funny enough, when we connected over the course of that amazing Michigan weekend in 2013, sharing our opinions as well as trying to stump each other with obscure trivia questions and the time came to say goodbye, He gave me a firm handshake and told me it was a pleasure to meet me, he then paid me what I thought was the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid me before, he said "Y'know Kyle, you'd get along quite well with my friend Rod." I smiled sheepishly and thanked him for his willingness to share his knowledge with us and his time with me. We parted ways promising we would be in touch.

                  It was only until I was at 35,000ft in the air in the middle of my plane flight back to Florida later that day when his comment about his friend Rod sunk in. "HOLY SHIT!!!" I said out loud as I involuntarily thrust my shin into the airplane seat in front of me with such force I not only jostled the poor woman snoozing but the entire row of three seats seemed to break from it's foundation. "He was talking about Laver!" The woman sitting in the aisle seat in my row gave me a glance that seemed to inquire If I was being met at the gate with nurses holding a straight jacket with my name on it. But at that point, I simply didn't care. Roy Emerson said that Rod Laver would like me. The winningest mens grand slam champion (singles, doubles, mixed) said that one of the greatest players ever and only man to win the grand slam twice would like me. Although my flight landed a little while later I was still up in the air, on cloud nine.

                  Kyle LaCroix USPTA
                  Boca Raton

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                  • #10
                    The fuel needed to play and beat the best can be derived from meaness, ala macenroe, or from the joy of playing from and in the zone: Fed. Without fuel to draw on we stay mortal and normal.

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                    • #11
                      Out of Respect...

                      Originally posted by klacr View Post
                      I keep in touch with Mr. Emerson (He insists I call him Roy but I just can't out of respect) after first meeting him about 2 1/2 years ago. He's incredibly charming and still sharp as a tack. A beautiful tennis mind. Spoke with him on Christmas and spoke with him in early November to wish him a happy birthday.

                      Funny enough, when we connected over the course of that amazing Michigan weekend in 2013, sharing our opinions as well as trying to stump each other with obscure trivia questions and the time came to say goodbye, He gave me a firm handshake and told me it was a pleasure to meet me, he then paid me what I thought was the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid me before, he said "Y'know Kyle, you'd get along quite well with my friend Rod." I smiled sheepishly and thanked him for his willingness to share his knowledge with us and his time with me. We parted ways promising we would be in touch.

                      It was only until I was at 35,000ft in the air in the middle of my plane flight back to Florida later that day when his comment about his friend Rod sunk in. "HOLY SHIT!!!" I said out loud as I involuntarily thrust my shin into the airplane seat in front of me with such force I not only jostled the poor woman snoozing but the entire row of three seats seemed to break from it's foundation. "He was talking about Laver!" The woman sitting in the aisle seat in my row gave me a glance that seemed to inquire If I was being met at the gate with nurses holding a straight jacket with my name on it. But at that point, I simply didn't care. Roy Emerson said that Rod Laver would like me. The winningest mens grand slam champion (singles, doubles, mixed) said that one of the greatest players ever and only man to win the grand slam twice would like me. Although my flight landed a little while later I was still up in the air, on cloud nine.

                      Kyle LaCroix USPTA
                      Boca Raton
                      Somebody else's parents taught them the word "respect" early on. Reinforced by the love of the game. Nice…Kyle. Really nice.
                      don_budge
                      Performance Analysthttps://www.tennisplayer.net/bulleti...ilies/cool.png

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                      • #12
                        When Laver tried out for the davis cup team, Hopman told him, "Hit the center service line." Laver went up to serve and hit the line. Hopman then said, "Ok. Do it again." Laver did it again. Hopman then said, "You're on the team." Laver was able to hit lines under more pressure than anyone previous to the game in the entire history of the world, while caring little for the smaller venues, ala Fed, he saved the best for the biggest.

                        The only man to win two grand slams, would have won three more if not barred from the game for 5 years and more. Three of four slams on fast grass, and Sampras would have done the same perhaps. The game, its surfaces, its techniques, its new up and comers, will always be changing, but history never will.

                        AS the soul of game has evolved from pure s/v tennis, to the grinding no miss attacking base line bore, little will change now without intervention: faster surfaces, faster balls, juniors taught to play all court. Good luck on any of that coming to pass, as the money men want the longer rallies so they can run more ads. Tension builds as a rally extends. 5 hr. matches are here to stay.
                        Last edited by GeoffWilliams; 02-08-2015, 09:21 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Yes. Disrespectful. Guilty as Charged.

                          Originally posted by don_budge View Post
                          I am tired of people and they aren't following me around at airports asking me ridiculously stupid questions…not that the author's were ridiculously stupid. To him. But to Rodney Laver on a red eye flight and into the next day…well I think we need to cut the champ some slack here.

                          But the part about Rodney saying that he was just meaner than the rest and playing his best only 30 to 40 percent of the time is a great answer to the question and I wonder why it is that the author had such a difficult time processing his answer and persisting to some low moment in the great Rod Laver's tennis playing. Rod was alluding to his ability to be mentally tough no doubt and ended up showing this fellow a bit of the down side to that tough side of him. Why would he insist on asking a question about a botched overhead and what did he expect Mr. Laver to say in response?

                          Although Rod Laver spent much of his time in front of the public playing tennis I have always had the impression that he was a very private type of person. Not so gregarious as a Roy Emerson. To be a tennis player at such a high level requires an enormous amount of concentration and that concentration is most often cast inwards which certainly has it effects on a persons personality. A certain intensity.

                          Normally if a person doesn't appear to be particularly interested in talking to me…I do not persist. I can take a hint. Obviously Rod thought that he had performed his perfunctory obligation to his adoring fan when he said hello. Then he gave him a hint that he was really not so overwhelmed to be talking to a complete stranger in the middle of the night. Then he finds this stalker chasing him through the airport hounding him about an embarrassing moment. What was going to be next…"The Rocket" made like a rocket trying to dodge another well-meaning well wisher. One on a journalistic mission. One mission that just culminated in his couple of minutes of attention getting behavior here on this website.

                          Much ado about nothing. Don't be surprised by the great champions behavior. He gave his best all of the time…he was a Harry Hopman disciple. Maybe he didn't like your Prince racquet bag. There are limits where his space ends and yours begins. I think he exhibited an extreme amount of patience that he undoubtably learned from years of playing at the championship level that he did. Whatever happened to the word respect? It's an old fashioned word. One of the first important words that my father taught me.
                          Hi Don. No, I got his response re: being "meaner" and the quantification of the amount of his maximum peak performance. Still do. But in order to create the correct dynamic for the article I had to create somewhat of an artificial straw man. It's another side of artistic license. And whereas I am normally pretty reserved and well behaved, I was certainly consciously rude and disrespectful to Mr. Laver. That was also by design in order to make the story more interesting. (And judging by your response, I succeeded!) Yet another side of artistic license by the author. An artist has to do what a writer has to do! At any rate, I am sorry if you were in any way offended, and apparently unable to enjoy the article. And I would like to also extend my apologies to Mr. Laver (even though I suspect he wouldn't remember the interview), as I certainly made him extremely uncomfortable. I had a lot of respect for him before the encounter and even more afterward. He was extremely gracious. But, having said that, if I had it to do all over again I wouldn't change a thing--except maybe to be a little naughtier. Just for fun. I hope that I will only go to Purgatory instead of that other place. Jeff M.

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                          • #14
                            The way you combined, quotes, movement, emotions, was masterful in the piece.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The Human Side of Hero Worship…Ambassadors of Sport

                              Originally posted by ten1050 View Post
                              However the emergence of Roger Federer in the 21st century casts doubt on the necessity of meanness and the notion that a hatred for losing is just as important if not more important than a desire to win. Federer has shown repeatedly in press conferences and on the court that his love of winning and his sportsmanship are his true motivating forces. He is certainly the greatest ambassador our game has ever had, and I think the Rocket might even agree with me on that point.

                              Norman Ashbrooke
                              Cursing at the umpire…I watched this match and it seems to me that Roger used the word fuck a couple of times when he was "venting" at the umpire. I could be wrong. I wasn't really shocked…except that they failed to turn off the mic's and let the world hear the "human" side of Roger vent. Roger went on to lose this match…I believe. All great champions hate to lose and use this hatred to fuel them when they are less than playing their best tennis.

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i7wDNhJrc4

                              Racquet breaking...

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YCg9JIIgw8

                              Arguing with umpires…

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-pjB2i9azg

                              Federer F bombs...

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7O8g4W99DF0

                              Long ago I gave up on any illusions that people are anything but people. It's difficult to disappoint me in this regard. Let's face it…the human race as a whole doesn't really set the bar that high. There are a lot of stinkers out there. Tennis for many years had with it a term "tennis etiquette" which essentially boiled down to mean that "thou shalt not take unfair advantage of your opponent".

                              Before the game went "open" in 1968 the amateur game was largely the big show. The professionals played in a traveling carnival atmosphere. But the amateur game was the standard of behaviour and the elegant white clothes and impeccable manners went along with the charade…with the show.

                              Guys like Laver and all of the rest toed the line with respect. It was rare that one saw a performance outside of the control limits. But at the same time these guys are all human beings. They have tempers and temperament…ranging from the John McEnroe to the Bjorn Borg. From the volcano to the ice bear.

                              Tennis is a tough sport. It used to be much tougher actually and the personalities reflected this. Psychology Today magazine many years ago metaphorically or symbolically compared the game of tennis to "two guys trying to castrate each other…you have the racquets that represent the swords and you have the balls which symbolically represent the testicles." No kidding…and it is that tough the way the competitors were trying to probe their opponent for a weakness and to continually needle him there until he was broken…and weeping that he wished that his mother had never had him.

                              When I got married prematurely at the tender young age of 22…my young, innocent darling wife gave me a hand stitched piece of macramé that said "Never fall in love with a tennis player because to him love means nothing". It must have been doomed from the start. She certainly one upped me in that regard…but that being said we all know that "the battle of the sexes will never be won…there is too much fraternization with the enemy". You gotta be cruel to be kind…baby.

                              Cruel to be Kind…Nick Lowe (from the album "Labor of Lust" 1979)

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0l3QWUXVho

                              Tennis is a pretty wild sport. Especially the way that it used to be played. Now it is a pretty simple and stupid game played solely from the backcourt. But years ago…with the wooden racquets it was a game that often resulted in "death by a thousand cuts". An interesting way to castrate a guy…with a thousand cuts. Ouch! So it is quite understandable that these guys might get irritable at times. Even Roger Federer who is being lined up to be canonized as a Saint by his fellow Saint Swiss followers. But he has his moments. In fact…reputedly he is not really who he appears to be on television and on the tennis court. That is his "tennis personna". Which is quite alright with me and who am I to judge…anyone for that matter. I've had my moments…as you can well imagine.

                              Roger is certainly a great ambassador. Personally I find him to be the last link to the sport of tennis that I used to know and love growing up. But so was Rodney Laver and the rest of his Aussie compadres. Don Budge was also a great ambassador. Pancho Gonzales and John McEnroe are two of my favorite ambassadors whereas Jimmy Connors was not. Roger certainly has the advantage over all of them in terms of audience appeal. So much is contrived in this wonderful age of electronically generated image. The others are mere mortals compared to him.
                              Last edited by don_budge; 02-10-2015, 02:00 AM. Reason: for clarity's sake...
                              don_budge
                              Performance Analysthttps://www.tennisplayer.net/bulleti...ilies/cool.png

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