A TENNIS LESSON FROM OPEN GOLF
At a time when the attention of many of the nation's sports fans is focused on golf the custodians of a rival sport have written their friends asking some "frank and undiluted opinions" on the future of tennis. The timing of this round-robin letter from the United States Lawn Tennis Association to coincide with the U.S. Open probably is accidental, but it underlines the fact that the best answers to tennis' problems lie in golf.
In its effort to face what it calls "the realities of tennis life," the USLTA asks: "Is our present official definition of an amateur outgrown or outworn? If so, how should we revise it?"
Our answer to the first part of this question is yes. Our answer to the second part is to recommend that the USLTA abandon its Newport-in-the-'90s posture and pattern itself closely on the governing bodies of golf—the USGA, which makes the rules, and the PGA, which runs the pro tour and most of the tournaments. Both of these organizations, working in close communion, have been quietly facing the realities of their own particular game right along.
As onetime diversions of the rich, golf and tennis have much the same background, but it became apparent early in this century that, with a few rare exceptions, the finest exemplars of golf were those who made a living at it. Hence the golf world's definition of an amateur as "one who plays the game solely as a nonremunerative sport" has remained over the years far more inviolate than that of the tennis world which, in an effort to preserve an outmoded concept, has twisted the definition of amateur out of all recognition.
Like most of the world, U.S. tennis at last seems ready to accept the open tournament as one of "the realities of tennis life." But if the USLTA grudgingly admits only a few pros to its sacrosanct courts, it will fail dismally to live up to its charter as the warden of what is best for the game. Now is the time for the nation's principal tennis organization to forget the quiddities of outmoded definition and to proclaim itself as the guardian of the whole game, pro and amateur alike. Only thus can it organize national play so that the phrase U.S. Open in years to come will mean the absolute best in tennis as it now means the absolute best in golf.
...AND FROM OTHER SPORTS
As a further part of the effort to keep tennis abreast of the times (see above), U.S. Davis Cup Captain Dave Freed last week urged tennis fans to forget their country club manners and to start yelling at tournaments like the fans at baseball, football, hockey and basketball games. "It's ridiculous," said Freed, "that a person can't get enthusiastic at a tennis match. It's an insult to ask persons paying admission to sit quietly without expressing emotion."
Having politely suppressed many an urge to cheer (and occasionally to boo) at Forest Hills and Long-wood, we endorse this condemnation of the too-effete etiquette of tennis. But lest the thing get out of hand, we feel a warning is in order as well. The tennis fan may be too polite, but in other sports there are so-called fans who have veered so far in the opposite direction as to abandon even the rudiments of good manners.
Honest football fans are still disgusted with the mob that seethed over the field to ruin a Giants-Browns football game in New York last fall. The youngsters who invaded the outfield at Yankee Stadium one day last week to commit mild mayhem on the person of a genuinely panicked Mickey Mantle were not fans but plain hoodlums.
Proper fandom certainly carries with it the right to enjoy the game and worship its heroes. But before Dave Freed expunges the good manners from one of the few sports where they still predominate, let him and all sportsmen remember that fandom has obligations as well as rights and that no one is privileged to spoil the sport he came to watch.