It seems to me that his manager, Bill Riordan, is the guy pulling the strings. But Riordan is also—let us face it—the man who has made Jimmy Connors a million dollars. In many professional respects Riordan has handled Connors beautifully, for example, letting him play only with the stacked deck on his own tour while the other good players beat each other's brains out in World Championship Tennis. You can't get beat if you don't put yourself on the line, and Riordan doesn't let Connors regularly expose himself. But at big tournaments Jimmy is primed and eager. Jack Kramer, hardly a Riordan supporter, is always telling us, "You guys play too much." He is right.
But Connors has paid a dear price for letting Bill Riordan maneuver him. In effect Connors has traded in his soul. He is nearly friendless among the players. He offends the public with vulgarity and foul language. His admirers compare him to Muhammad Ali, but Ali was never so insensitive—or so shortsighted—as to insult the paying public. Somehow I feel that Jimmy set out to fill some role that had been created for him, but that along the way he forgot where the acting took over from reality. He has fulfilled the image and made a villain of himself, and that is a sad thing for a 22-year-old boy to be. Worse, he seems to revel in it.
I've given up trying to get him to join the ATP. I only hope now that he and Riordan and Jimmy's mother will stop refusing to play for Davis Cup captains and will play for the country. I think that one move would do wonders in restoring some popularity to Connors, and I believe it would be a good experience for him as well. Then maybe he could play another "Challenge Match" for CBS.
It's funny how these things tend to work out. All of a sudden, the guy Jimmy Connors is suing is the only opponent he's got.