George Graham

When Stars Implode



Why do I feel so shattered by Serena Williams’ defeat? Why am I not rejoicing in the Cinderella victory of aging and unknown Roberta Vinci?

Should I not be rooting for the underdog? Should I not celebrate when someone who needs a break gets one? Serena is already a superstar, already hugely rich, already celebrated throughout the world. She did not need that victory last night.

But tell the truth. Wouldn’t it have been a moment to treasure if she had advanced to the US Open finals, if she were poised to make history this weekend?

Instead, we get to watch Vinci play fellow-Italian Flavia Pennetta. Big deal. Do you care who wins? I don’t.

I know, I know, everyone is expected to rejoice when David vanquishes Goliath. But instead of rejoicing with Vinci this morning, I am mourning with Serena.

I share her frustration and shock. As the match progressed, I shared her alarm. I could feel her freeze as she felt herself failing to live up to the hype the media had placed on her shoulders. I could feel her vulnerability as her feet of clay were so cruelly exposed.

Perhaps one reason for my lack of empathy with Vinci is the way she won. By guile and subterfuge, with junk balls and fakery. It reminded me of the day in 1973 when Margaret Court was humiliated by Bobby Riggs. If that’s tennis, I don’t like tennis.

But I do not believe that’s the primary cause of my malaise.

Deep down, I think I hate to see champions crumble. It sabotages my sense of the order of things. When stars implode, It undermines my faith in the stability of the Universe.

I am troubled by the humiliation of Tiger Woods, for example.

And Jordan Spieth? What’s with him? He was so promising, and now he seems so maladroit. Ditto for Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson… and on and on. Even Jason Day apparently cannot maintain the stellar level he so recently attained.

If they can’t play golf consistently, who can? Who will ever be able to?

I don’t follow professional football but I am troubled by the way Tom Brady has been shamed. If he was guilty of deflating those footballs, I don’t want to know.

I suppose some people take pleasure in the humiliation of superstars. It helps to soothe their own sense of inadequacy, I guess.

But I don’t. I enjoy the superhuman feats of others more gifted than I. They make me believe in the possibility of the heroic. When my heroes collapse, I collapse with them.

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Click for US Open match highlights.

Click for the Bobby Riggs match.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for