Saturday, July 5, 2008

Breaking News: Sister Andrea Admits to Throwing '83 Final

Well well well. Sister Andrea Jaeger admitted to throwing the 1983 final against Martina Navratilova. I know what you're thinking...1) "Sister" and 2) gambling?

Answers: 1) Yes; 2) No - family fight.

Former pro Andrea Jaeger retired after a brief and notable career. She was the youngest player to be seeded at Wimbledon at 15. She reached the 1983 final as an 18 year-old. Her father was a former boxer, and one in a long line of tennis-father bullies. He was tyrant. She abruptly quit the game. She then famously and selflessly opened a cancer camp called the Silver Lining Ranch in Aspen, Colorado. After sinking all of her prize money into the project, she attracted sponsors like Nike and received financial and other assistance from celebrities and tennis players.

A few years ago Jaeger became a Dominican nun. As you know, nuns are a dying breed who are desperate for recurits, so she was allowed to keep running her ranch. But there was something a bit odd about the whole Dominican nun bit. I guess it's just my lack of belief in all the hocus-pocus that made the whole thing seem kooky. Jaeger is a great humanitarian; why take up the habit?

Probably so she could "confess," via the British tabloid The Daily Mail, that she threw the final after a fight with her dad. Her story:
'I'd beaten Martina on grass at Eastbourne just before the tournament, but the afternoon before the final, my dad saw an empty crisp packet in my room, which I wasn't supposed to have.

'He also asked me about something he heard that happened in the locker-room. I refused to answer. If I'd told him some of the things I encountered on the tennis circuit, he'd have hurt people and pulled me out of that final. Over the years, I took a few beatings from my father to protect players and staff.

'Dad was so angry that I would choose to protect them and not answer his question that I thought he was going to get his belt. I said I was sorry, grabbed my bra and my wallet and ran outside, aware dad wouldn't hit me in public.

'I wanted to order a cab, so I went to the flat next door where Martina was staying. I was upset and kept pounding on the door and ringing the bell until Martina's trainer, Nancy Lieberman, opened the door and took me to the kitchen.

'Martina was sitting in the living room. She glanced round at me briefly with a look on her face to say that I'd interrupted her preparation for the final. She stayed seated and didn't look at me again.

'I couldn't have done that in her position, but all I thought at the time was: "I've changed her routine and affected her. I can't go out and try in the final now''.

'Martina missed her chance to help her neighbour who was suffering in order to fulfil her desire, so I had to make it right. I gave up my desire to give someone their help.

'I went on court in complete peace knowing that giving the match away was the right thing to do. I had to look myself in the mirror for the rest of my life. It meant more to Martina anyway.

'During the match I missed balls on purpose. I hit right to Martina and when I was getting whipped in the first set 6-0, I tried to look upset about it. I glanced at my dad. He knew something was wrong because I never got nervous and always started great.

'I needed to make the second set closer and I did, but not close enough to worry Martina. At changes of ends, I didn't want to look at the crowd. I felt bad that I wasn't giving them the best match as the fans were so good to me over the years, but I also felt that if they knew what had happened they would understand.

'When Martina won the second set 6-3 - and the match - I was happy for her. She walked around with the trophy and everyone wanted her picture. In the press conference I said she played too well.

'God knows the truth. I knew the truth. I emailed Martina three years ago to say it doesn't take away from her win, but she never replied. Had I tried fully, would I have won? I don't have that answer. But I don't want people complaining now and asking for refunds.'
I'm not sure what can be gained from this confession. If I'm Martina today, I'm pretty pissed off about this story. It sure seems like this is a passive-aggressive way of painting Martina in a negative light, and Sister Jaeger in a positive one. Did Martina know what was going on with Roland Jaeger when Andrea showed up right before the final? If it had been you, what would you have thought or done?  I doubt I would have acted differently unless she told me the whole story. And if so, what do you do about that before the Wimbledon final? And if you got an email like that more than 20 years later, then what? This seems to be weird territory to me.

Ironically, Lieberman, a member of the basketball Hall of Fame known as "Lady Magic," (as in Johnson), was there to get Martina in physical and mental shape. By the 83 final, Martina was had transformed her often chubby body into a lean mean fighting machine. Equally important, Lieberman was teaching her how to be mentally tough. She had  a hard time being friendly and competing against her friends later. This was a pretty big problem when your main rival, Chris Evert, was mentally tougher than 99.9 % of players before and since.  So Lieberman turned her into a different person for a while. Eventually that posturing ended.

The other interesting thing about this confession is all that bother in the first few paragraphs about taking beatings to protect players and staff, since daddy wouldn't have liked what went on in the locker room. What are you hinting at Jaeger? Why hem and haw? Why talk to a tabloid like the Daily Mail instead of another newspaper? Maybe we need to look at the Daily Mail itself. The good folks at Wikipedia say the paper "considers itself to be the voice of Middle England speaking up for "small-c" conservative[11] values against what it sees as a liberal establishment. It generally takes an anti-EU, anti-mass immigration, anti-abortion view, based around what it describes as "traditional values." Now we're getting somewhere, aren't we?

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