Tag Archives: Jimmy Connors

ESPN’s Jimmy Connors doc is terrific. A gopher video makes me laugh. And the Red Sox win the World Series (again)

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There are few things that sports fans can all agree upon, but one that I’ve found meets almost universal unanimity on is that Jimmy Connors is a pretty big a-hole.

And happily, in the ESPN’s new 30-for-30 documentary, “This Is What They Want,” Connors himself confirms it toward the end, but says “I’m a fun asshole.”

Well, that’s good enough for me. The movie, the latest in a great batch of 30-f0r-30s (really like the ABA St. Louis Spirits one a couple weeks ago), takes a look at maybe the most famous U.S. Open run in history, when 39-year-old Connors shocked the world in 1991 by making the semifinals.

He was washed up and forgotten about prior to the tournament, but the documentary does a fabulous job putting his career in context. And besides the accomplishments and the rivalries (he and John McEnroe are very honest about their dislike for each other in the film), the movie focuses on just what an unlikeable jerk Connors is (and was).

The movie hits its stride in talking about the famous Connors-Aaron Krickstein match at the ’91 Open, and Krickstein is fabulous talking in present day about his epic collapse that day. He and Connors were good friends before the match, but Krickstein says they haven’t talked since. The match cemented the Jimbo legend, but Connors hasn’t once picked up a phone, or said hello at a tournament when Krickstein was still playing, nothing.

Everyone else interviewed in the film, when hearing that, is dumbfounded. But they shouldn’t be: Connors is one of the biggest douchebags in all of sports.

Still, the film is terrific, and I highly recommend it (it’s on again Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPN2).  For all his faults, Connors was a tennis legend, and nobody ever fired up a crowd like he did.

And that ’91 run was something special to see.

**Next up, we don’t feature enough gopher videos on this blog. And today, that changes. Because this promo for the University of Minnesota (the Golden Gophers, of course) made me laugh out loud at its bizarreness.

Somewhere, “Caddyshack” fans are smiling.

**As much as I hate the Boston Red Sox, I have to admit I was excited to see Game 6 of the World Series Wednesday night. First game of this crazy, oddball Series I’ve watched from start to finish, and I don’t think the Fenway Park crowd sat down once in more than three hours.

These people haven’t seen Boston win a World Series at home since 1918, and amazingly, it sounded like real fans were in the park going full-throat, not corporate suits just there to be seen (as we see at a lot of big-time sporting events these days).

Couple thoughts on the Red Sox’ clinching victory:

— David Ortiz. Hall of Famer? I never would’ve thought Big Papi, a slow, non-fielding slugger, would have a shot at the Hall a few years ago. But the guy has now had three amazing postseasons, a hell of a long career, and always seems to come up big in the clutch. And he’s never really been linked to steroids, except for one random allegation a decade ago. I think he’s close to getting in.

— Shane Victorino, who hit the three-run triple to get Boston on the board, just has that Jim Leyritz-y feel to him, that he comes up big when you least expect it.

— Three championships in 9 years for the Red Sox. Never thought I’d see that in my lifetime. Dammit.

— For the sake of the small children in New England, let’s hope this now means the Red Sox players will shave their hideous beards. Then again, it is Halloween, maybe they should keep the scary facial hair for one more day.

Angelina Jolie and celebrities who “get” it. Jimmy Connors: Still a jerk. And the very first episode of “Sesame Street” unearthed

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I may be one of the six or seven straight males in the world who never found Angelina Jolie gorgeous.

Oh, I always knew she was beautiful, but I never got what the whole craze over how sexy and awesome and hot she was. To me, Eva Longoria or Nicole Kidman or Ashley Judd were infinitely more attractive.

So I never paid Jolie much attention when she just seemed like the latest in a long line of vapid movie stars, someone who would clearly fade away when her looks did.

But Angie has turned out to be so much more than a vapid movie star. She and her husband (some dude whose name I forget, Brad something or other) do excellent humanitarian work all over the world, and this week Jolie wrote a beautiful, moving essay in the New York Times revealing that she recently had a double mastectomy due to doctors finding she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

Jolie came public not because she had to, but because she wanted to help other women who may be fearful of the disease.

“Life comes with many challenges,” she wrote. “The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”

Bravo to Jolie for “getting it,” and realizing that her celebrity affords her an enormous platform to do good.

**Jimmy Connors was known for a lot of things in his tennis career, but being a jerk was always one of them. Connors was mean to chair umpires, surly to other players, and overall just a bad dude.
There are numerous, numerous examples of this, and it’s quite clear that Connors still hasn’t learned any manners or tact. In his new autobiography that Jimbo is now hawking everywhere, he strongly, strongly implies that an impediment to his relationship with Chris Evert in the 1970s was her decision to have an abortion.

Connors writes he “was perfectly happy to let nature take its course and accept responsibility for what was to come.” He bitterly writes to Evert in the book, “Well, thanks for letting me know. Since I don’t have a say in the matter, I guess I am just here to help.”

Connors never had the decency to tell Evert he was writing about this in his autobiography, and this was obviously a very private matter to the tennis legend. She angrily responded to Connors, but that hasn’t stopped him from talking about Evert in all the talk shows he’s been going on.

What an absolute schmuck Jimmy Connors continues to be.

**Finally today, in the middle of a post on Andrew Sullivan’s blog about how the name “Sesame Street” came to be, there was this fantastic clip of the very first episode of the show we all grew up on, which aired on November 10, 1969.

Here’s the opening scene (above); I always smile just hearing the theme song, don’t you? And I love the opening Bert and Ernie scene (starts at the 3:30 mark).

Agassi’s book blows me away, SI again snubs Federer, and a holiday gift you must own

When I read Lance Allred’s brilliant autobiography a few months ago, I thought that would be the sports book I measured all others against for a while.

Lance, I love ya. But move over. The Andre Agassi book I’ve just finished, “Open” blows you and everything else out of the water.

Let me state right off that I was never an Andre Agassi fan as a tennis player. I thought he was cocky, obnoxious, and didn’t respect the game. I thought he floated by on natural talent, never worked that hard, until the middle of his career, and didn’t really love the game that much.

In this brutally honest memoir (ghost-written, it should be said, with Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer), Agassi revealed that, well, he hated tennis his whole life.  Reading the book, I can understand why. He was basically a tennis slave for his father, Mike, for most of his childhood, and never had the chance to do anything else he might like.

I was pretty pumped up a few weeks ago when I wrote about reading the excerpts from the book, but let me tell you, the crystal meth admission, which got so much attention early on, is about the 28th most interesting thing in this book.

We learn about Mike Agassi’s dreaded ball machine that tortured Andre, and the great match with NFL legend Jim Brown when Andre was 8. We learn how shy Agassi was around girls, and about how lonely and tortured he felt at the boot-camp style Nick Bollettieri tennis academy, where he was shipped once hit double-digits in age.

There’s plenty of “inside tennis” stuff for fans like me: Agassi tells a great story about notorious player Jeff Tarango cheating when both were in a junior tournament and both were under 10. There’s an “in hindsight” hilarious dismissal of Pete Sampras’ career prospects, and some serious anger Agassi felt toward Sampras (a bad tipper, we learn), Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors (a jerk to Agassi several times in his life) and Michael Chang. The book opens with an incredible passage describing Agassi’s last U.S. Open win, a 5-set thriller against Marcos Baghdatis (a match yours truly has on tape, it was so good).

But this is so much more than a tennis book. There are fabulous stories about Agassi basically stalking Steffi Graf to go out with him; about Brooke Shields’ odd behavior, and about Agassi’s remarkably devoted friend/mentor/trainer, Gil Reyes (How dedicated is Reyes? He doesn’t ever get up to go the bathroom during Agassi’s matches, lest Andre look for him in the stands and not see him).

Most of all, it’s about the maturation of a spoiled kid who hated life into a remarkable man who now runs a school that helps poor kids get to college.

I urge you, for any person in your life who likes to read, to buy the Agassi book for them. It will stay with me for a long, long time.

***So Sports Illustrated named its Sportsman of the Year Monday, and as I sadly expected, it wasn’t Roger Federer.

They went with a nice, safe, American choice, the Yankees’ Derek Jeter. Can’t say No. 2 doesn’t deserve it; he’s been a classy Yankee for 14 years, doesn’t get caught doing drugs or steroids, or beating his wife. He’s a class act and a pretty humble guy considering he’s a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Like with so many things in life, it all goes back to good parenting.

Still, I wish SI had given Fed the nod. It is a pretty cool cover, though.

**Finally, I know most of you have probably started your holiday shopping, but look no further for the person in your life who loves pajamas, and presidential politics.

Presenting … the Ojamas! PJ’s with the president’s face all over them. Who doesn’t want this as a holiday gift, anybody???

Aaron Krickstein and the wrong side of sports history; also Max Baucus’ bill stinks

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Every year, as sure as the leaves fall off the trees in New Hampshire, Aaron Krickstein shows up on CBS’ U.S. Open coverage during a rain delay.

 

 

He’s forever frozen in time in our eyes on that day in September, 1991,when as a 24-year-old he played Jimmy Connors in a fourth round match at the U.S. Open.

Every year, we get to see Krickstein battle Connors, with just about the entire crowd against the Jewish kid from Michigan, and for his 39-year-old, fists-pumping, expletive-spewing opponent (If you think what Serena Williams said last week was bad, you should’ve heard Jimbo during this match).

Every year I watch, Krickstein loses in a fifth-set tiebreaker. Still, I kind of root for him each time. It’s like watching an old movie where you know the bad guy loses at the end but you think, well, maybe this time he won’t run into that alley into the line of police cars waiting for him.

Watching a little of the Krickstein-Connors match last weekend, I got to thinking about how unfair sports is to some people, when their entire careers are remembered for one moment, or one game.

Aaron Krickstein was once No. 6 in the world tennis rankings, but all anyone remembers about him is that he lost that epic match to Connors. Ralph Branca, (a hell of a nice man, by the way) won 88 games in the major leagues, but he’s known to history as the guy who gave up the pennant-winning home run to Bobby Thomson in 1951.

Bill Buckner had over 2,500 hits in a great career, but now he’s just the bad fielding old first baseman  who let Mookie Wilson’s grounder get through his legs in the ’86 World Series. Scott Norwood was a solid NFL field goal kicker, but because he missed a game-winning field goal for the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, his name is mud to many.

There are so many examples of these guys in sports; Nick Anderson, Jackie Smith, Fred Merkle … and I wonder, how do they handle it? How do they walk around and go to the supermarket and the dry cleaners and the mall, knowing they might get recognized and all people want to talk about is the worst moment of their career? How do they feel every time someone blows a big game and ESPN puts them on a list of “biggest sports chokers” or something like that?

I hope Aaron Krickstein is happy today in 2009, wherever he is. I hope he can appreciate his place in history for what it is, and realize that some guys don’t even get remembered at all.

Couple other quick Thursday thoughts:

— Max Baucus’ health care plan: No public option, covers only 30 million uninsured, and not even the Republicans he completely caved in to like it. Yeah, I’ll pass, thanks. God, you know a proposed bill is bad when EVERYONE agrees it’s terrible and starts lobbing grenades at it.

Rachel Maddow, who continues to be brilliant, said it best and I’ll say it again: Why the hell is Baucus caving to Republicans on this, when Dems are so clearly in the majority? Do the right thing, push a truly universal plan through, and let’s move on the 27 million other F’ed up things that need fixing after 8 years of W.

–Finally, this is another one of those stories that could only happen in the South. A South Carolina high school cheerleader killed a 350-pound alligator the other day. God I love stories like this. I’m wondering, though, do you think the next time her school plays a team named the “Gators” she might get flashbacks? Will Tim Tebow haunt her dreams? And more importantly, this is what teenagers in South Carolina do for a good time?

I’m just brimming with questions right now.

Jimmy Connors, a player who was hard to love

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So this blog will be pretty heavily tennis-based for the next two weeks, I’m thinking, because my favorite American sporting event (besides the NCAA Tournament) gets going with the U.S. Open in Queens. I’ll do a whole post later tonight/tomorrow morning on why I love the Open. For now, a few hundred words on a great champion:

I got to interview Jimmy Connors on a phone conference call this week for my newspaper; this is what he had to say about the upcoming U.S. Open, and a few other topics.

I was never a big Jimmy Connors fan growing up. My first love was John McEnroe, who captivated me with his attitude and his beautiful artistry on the court. Then, as I grew older I fell for Boris Becker, not because we had so much in common (He: a big tall blond German dude; Me: a small dark-haired Jewish kid), but because I loved his attitude on the court, his diving for everything, and the power with which he played.

Then I got enamored with Jim Courier, and Stefan Edberg, and, well, Jimbo never really did it for me. I remember being excited one day while I was volunteering at the Hamlet tennis tournament in Commack one year (we had a small pro event for several years in my little town), when word spread among us that McEnroe and Connors were about to warm up together on the main court.

We rushed over, and for 15 minutes one summer day, I was 10 feet from two of the greatest players in history. That was a pretty awesome moment.

But really, Connors to me was always too standoffish to root for. He was just as poor a sport as McEnroe, but didn’t seem to have the flair or charisma I was looking for. He was a great champion, but didn’t seem as beloved by the public as the others.

Then, of course, came the 1991 U.S. Open, and if you’re any kind of a sports fan you remember what happened. In the December of his career, Connors put together a miraculous run, winning five matches to get to the semifinals, and along the way played one of the greatest points in the history of the sport (seriously, check this point out, it was phenomenal).

All of a sudden, Connors was beloved, maybe truly for the first time, by American tennis fans. He’s had a quiet retirement, mostly, but came back into the spotlight when he coached Andy Roddick last year, with mixed results.

It doesn’t speak all that well of Jimmy that Roddick has done much better under new coach Larry Stefanki, but to his credit, Connors doesn’t speak ill of Roddick or Stefanki.

Anyway, talking to Connors this week got me thinking about his legacy, and how, maybe, I didn’t appreciate him as much I should’ve.

And because any time I can link to a story by one of the greatest sportswriters who ever lived, I will, here’s the best Jimmy Connors story ever written, a profile by the legendary Frank Deford from Sports Illustrated, from 1978.

Enjoy.

P.S. Speaking of Sports Illustrated, this cracked me up: I just renewed my subscription a few weeks ago; I’ve been a subscriber since 1984, when my Grandpa Don got me it for Hanukkah when I was 9. It’s still my dream (though it’s fading with each passing year) to work for them one day.

Anyway, so I get a postcard from them in the mail yesterday:

Dear Michael Lewis:

We appreciate your prompt payment for you (that was their typo) Sports Illustrated Magazine subscription. However, our records indicate that you overpaid and are due a balance of $0.01.

We will extend your subscription for 1 additional issues, or if you would prefer a refund check for the balance, please contact our customer service dept.

Seriously? They’re going to send me a check  for a penny if I want them to. Isn’t that just a colossal waste? I’m half thinking of calling and saying “I want my refund!” just to see what a check for a penny looks like.