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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Another day at the office. Back to the White House. This time it's a tournament for Mrs. Reagan's Youth Drug Program. We raised about $400,000, and I talked to everyone from Michael Jordan to Tom Selleck to Mrs. Reagan herself. Also in attendance—although I didn't know she'd be there—was Tracy Austin.
She didn't play, just umpired. Tracy won two U.S. Opens by the time she was 19, but then she came down with sciatica. Except for a brief and abortive comeback, she really hasn't played since '82. Tracy was as gutty a player as I've ever seen, and it's obvious she has had a serious physical problem. But now it's also apparent that she doesn't seem to have the nerve to step back onto the court, or even admit she's scared. Tracy was always petrified of any physical problem.
Of course, I know that lots of people will take anything I say about Tracy with a grain of salt, because it's not exactly a secret that we never hit it off. Can you imagine the first words we ever uttered to each other? Well, it was the 12-and-unders in Savannah, and I was playing cards with a bunch of other players. Tracy walked up behind me, watching my every move. When I played a card, I heard this squeaky voice behind me say, "That was stupid." Her first words to me.
Instinctively, I shot back, "Shut up or I'll step on you." My first words to her. Through the years, that warm relationship deteriorated further. The culmination came when we played each other in Toronto in 1981. The chair overruled seven calls, five of them for Tracy. It got so ridiculous I actually lay down on the court after an overrule cost me a chance at a tiebreaker. When Tracy won and jumped in the air, I just couldn't take it. I came to the net to shake her hand and I called her a four-letter word. Then I threw in another four-letter word. She broke into tears. The incident made the front page of the paper.
Well, I thought that was the introduction to a joke, like: Did you hear the one about the shaggy dog that...? So I said, "Hey, it seems to me I've heard that one a lot of times before." Sure enough, right behind me I hear this familiar voice say, "Oh, Shriver, you always needle me." Speak of the devil.