Arthur Ashe epitomizes good works, devotion to family and unwavering
grace under pressure
Ashe was indeed trained, first by his father and then by a stern coach, to allow rebuke to slide by his ears as if it were birdsong. In the spring of 1955, when he was almost 12, he was turned away from the Richmond city tennis tournament because of his color. By then Ashe's face was a mask, one of wonderful bespectacled mildness. His politesse grew so unbreachable that it ended up as an unnerving weapon against bratty and temper-tossed opponents.
Ashe always embodied good sportsmanship on the playing field. But if sportsmanship is also an athlete's ability to shift from being a selfish competitor to being a useful member of society, then Ashe's sportsmanship is unequaled. His gradual harvest has grown into a mountain of good.
Ashe signed his contract with the whole society of man. His good is the common good. He doesn't need to create a little society so that he can agree not to cheat in it. He doesn't cheat in the big one. He delights in whatever mends and perpetuates the widest community, whether it is a student's decision to set worthy goals, a gene-splicing technique to combat HIV or a South African election open to members of all races. There are, he insists, only two alternatives. If enough human beings do not advance the common good, we cannot go on; we shall move from suffering a chain of sustainable losses to suffering extinction. But if enough do, if enough coaches find the grace to hold the guilt-stricken athlete who just lost the title and tell him that it's just a game, that he has nothing to be ashamed of, that he can leave his knife in his pocket, then Arthur Ashe will always be on cloud nine.