The Serena Williams Backlash Heads Into Crazy Territory

Serena was wrong, but punishment should fit the crime

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Let's just start at the start: Serena Williams was as wrong as wrong could be on Saturday night. Physically threatening an official, even one as bad at their job as the U.S. Open lineswoman who called a foot fault, is well beyond any semblance of appropriate behavior. She deserved to be docked a point, even if it cost her the match, and the $10,000 fine (the maximum allowable on-site, further fines are pending) issued on Sunday is a fair response as well.

    Serena lost her temper. It was ugly, it was embarrassing and a million other negative things, but at the end of the day it was only words. We've all lost our temper and acted like fools in the past, especially when faced with an exceedingly tense situation that already has our emotions running high. There are still standards, of course, and Williams trampled them, but it's not like one person losing control of their senses means that everyone else has to as well.

    The New York Times reports that there's a chance Williams will be suspended from next year's U.S. Open, an insane overreaction to what happened on Saturday night. If she's such a menace, why not suspend her before she plays the women's doubles final with her sister on Monday? 

    Tennis officials were talking about launching a full investigation into Williams's behavior, which is as ludicrous as O.J.'s search for the real killer. There's nothing to investigate, everyone with a television or computer can wrap up the fact-finding in a matter of seconds.

    The thought here is because the problem tennis has with Williams isn't really the outburst but the fact that Serena has steadfastly refused to apologize for it. Saturday night's press conference was one of the more fascinating ones in memory as Williams beat back reporters trying to give her a chance to apologize as if they were meek backhands from a qualifier. On Sunday, she released a statement that was equally interesting, in that she didn't even bother to use the typical celebrity non-apology apology  which makes her an anathema to our faux-contrition obsessed society.

    "Last night, everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job. Now that I have had time to gain my composure, I can see that while I don’t agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me, and as a result handled the situation poorly. I would like to thank my fans and supporters for understanding that I am human, and I look forward to continuing the journey, both professionally and personally, with you all as I move forward and grow from this experience."

    Say what you will about her lack of remorse, but it's refreshing to not see the words "I regret if anyone was offended" anywhere in there.

    The sad thing about our world is that such a dishonest apology would be treated like she was really being remorseful by the same people killing her right now for not saying she's sorry. What she gave instead was an admission that she overreacted along with a pointed mention of the fact that something real provoked the outburst, an outburst that she's clearly not sorry about it. People aren't always sorry about things they do, even things they do wrong, but that doesn't mean life doesn't move forward.

    Tennis doesn't want that because it's messy and continues the dialogue, but punishing her more for not caring about their forgiveness would only reinforce that two wrongs don't make anything right.   

    UPDATED: Perhaps seeing the wisdom of nipping this in the bud, Williams issued another statement on Monday to "sincerely apologize" for her "inappropriate outburst." She also said she especially wanted to make it clear to young people that she acted poorly on Saturday night. It will be interesting to see if this forestalls the punitive measures discussed above, although no tennis officials have commented as of yet.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.