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Excesses of Success
As also happened when the Bulls won their NBA titles in 1991 and '92, Chicago was rocked by violence after Sunday night's victory. Because police were out in full force and because the Bulls' big win came on the road, the toll wasn't as bad as it might have been. But it was bad enough: nearly 700 arrests, scattered looting and three deaths that police linked to the so-called celebrations.
Along with sporadic violence in Dallas after the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in January and the destruction in Montreal after the Canadiens' Stanley Cup triumph two weeks ago (SCORECARD, June 21), the Chicago disturbances point to an alarming trend. While wins by their hometown teams make many people feel good about themselves, it is clear that some disenfranchised citizens don't feel so hot; some of the worst violence in Dallas and Chicago occurred in impoverished neighborhoods. But mayhem was also caused by rowdies who have come to view it as expected behavior, a contemporary variation on tearing down the goalpost. As one observer, Northwestern University sociologist Bernard Beck, says, "There's a degree of one-upmanship involved. Unfortunately, what started out as isolated occurrences is becoming routine."
In his just-published memoir, Days of Grace, Arthur Ashe spoke of having "a sense of kinship" with John McEnroe. McEnroe, wrote Ashe, often seemed to be "struggling with his demons," and the two men had some memorable off-court confrontations, most notably when McEnroe played on four of the five U.S. Davis Cup teams that Ashe captained. Nevertheless, it occurred to Ashe that McEnroe served as "a kind of darker angel to my own tightly restrained spirit" and that McEnroe "was expressing my own rage, my own anger, for me, as I never could express it."
For all that, McEnroe might strike some people as a strange choice to run the Safe Passage Foundation, the organization that Ashe created in 1990 to counsel inner-city youngsters. But before he died in February, Ashe made a request: Upon his death, would McEnroe take over? Assuming that job last week, McEnroe echoed Ashe's talk of kinship. "Arthur and I had a closer relationship than most people thought," he said. "Off the court we got along very well."
Speaking enthusiastically about his latest undertaking, McEnroe says he will bring in top tennis pros to work with some of the 3,160 youngsters who participate in Safe Passage programs in Newark and three other cities. Who knows? Perhaps the new job will help McEnroe harness those demons. Could be that was what Ashe had in mind all along.