Thank you for Frank Deford's excellent and well-timed article on John McEnroe ("So, Why Can't You Smile?", June 25). Just when it appeared that the media ( SI's Curry Kirkpatrick is a fine example) had succeeded in convincing the public that Mac is the worst person on earth, Deford showed us that John might not be such a terrible guy after all.
It's true that McEnroe has a very long way to go before he can gain admiration from the world's sporting public, but he'll never accomplish this if the media portray him only as an Ugly American and not as Deford did—as an artist and a genius with a racket.
At last, someone with clout and a respected opinion has given us a fair, accurate portrait of the true Johnny Mac. As only he could, Frank Deford showed us a side of McEnroe that I long suspected did exist, though no writer had ever revealed it before.
I've contended, to the consternation of many friends, that McEnroe is the only entertaining and interesting figure in all of professional tennis, and that his anticipated tirades are what break up the tedium and monotony inherent in televised matches.
As for all the narrow, pompous, self-righteous tennis people who deplore his outbreaks, I ask why they aren't similarly outraged when they see a batter vehemently argue a called third strike or an NBA player give a referee some serious lip after being called for a foul. No doubt it's because tennis, unlike other sports, has its arguments broadcast for the whole world to hear. If these people didn't know what Mac was saying, then they simply wouldn't care and would probably forget that he argued at all.
McEnroe might be an extreme, but at least he's at the right end of the spectrum. Though I I find televised tennis unbearably boring, I make it a point never to miss a McEnroe match. Johnny Mac and Frank Deford, I salute them both!
Thank God somebody has finally taken notice of John McEnroe's tennis genius and viewed him in a positive light. I'm sick of the jerks who boo and catcall McEnroe, yet root for that hypocrite, Jimmy Connors, whose newly acquired pious airs are quite nauseating. Wasn't he the "bad boy" of tennis not so long ago? No one seems to remember—not even Connors, who's had the nerve to tell John to grow up. McEnroe has added superior talent and "How did he do that?" wonder to a sport that really had started to sag.
MARY JO GREGG
I'm sure Frank Deford's fine article will inspire quite a few " McEnroe is a bad influence on our tennis playing children" and "How can you defend a poor sport like that" responses, but I, for one, like and agree with McEnoroe. Tennis officiating is substandard compared to officiating in other professional sports. Nine times out of 10, television replays either confirm Mac's protestations or are inconclusive. I also wonder if someone like former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who is respected throughout the sporting world, would be where he is today if we had been able to hear everything he said to the umpires over the course of his illustrious career. Keep up the good work, Mac.
Not in all my 50-plus years of following sports of all kinds, professional and amateur, have I been so bothered as I was by Frank Deford's apologia for Jonn McEnroe. it's not that Deford in any way denies that McEnroe is all the things he has been portrayed to be—a boor, a lout, a brat—it's that Deford excuses this type of behavior on the grounds that McEnroe is a "genius" on the court.
No one would deny that McEnroe is one of the most technically proficient tennis players of all time. That ability alone, however, doesn't make him great. His contribution to the game is zero. His contribution to the country is zero—notwithstanding the fact that he plays in Davis Cup competition. His contribution to young people is minus zero. His legacy will, in fact, be zero because he is a one-dimensional figure who supplies nothing but negatives.