|Posted on February 10, 2017 at 2:35 PM|
Gorilla vs. Guerilla at the Australian Open
By Tracy L. Darity
I am a huge tennis fan and an even bigger fan of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams. For tennis followers January is a huge month. It is the start of the new tennis season (yes, tennis has seasons) and time for the first grand slam of the year, the Australian Open.
Depending where you live, this could mean a significant time difference. For Florida, where I reside, that would be 16 hours behind Melbourne, Australia where the tournament is held. So to catch the tennis matches live, I have to pull two weeks of all-nighters.
During a match that had Venus Williams displaying some phenomenal tennis at the age of 36 (considered old for a female player) and destined for a finals match-up with the greatest female player of all time, baby sister Serena Williams, something strange happened. In a live broadcast on ESPN 3, commentator Doug Adler stated, “You see Venus move in [and] put the guerilla effect on. Charging.” The comment came in response to Williams’s aggressive play after a double fault by Stephanie Voegele. Prior to the comment, Adler, a former tennis pro himself, had been speaking on how strategic and dominant Williams had been playing against her 2nd round opponent.
Fans watching the broadcast immediately assumed he had called the 7 time grand slam champion and now ranked #11 women’s player in the world, a gorilla. People took to Twitter to express their anger and to call foul, demanding ESPN fire Adler, who had been covering tennis matches for them for several years. During his broadcast the following night, Adler explained that he did not refer to Williams, whom he has much respect for, as a gorilla, but was saying she was playing like a guerilla.
So let’s take a look at the two words which have different meanings:
go·ril·la ɡəˈrilə/ noun
a powerfully built great ape with a large head and short neck, found in the forests of central Africa. It is the largest living primate.
a heavily built, aggressive-looking man.
a dominant contender within a particular sphere of operation or activity.
a member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces. "this small town fell to the guerrillas"
synonyms: freedom fighter, irregular, member of the resistance, partisan; More referring to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorization.
adjective: guerrilla "guerrilla theater"
In making his statement it is easy to see how people would assume he was referring to the primate, especially since the Williams sisters have undergone their share of insulting and racist comments since coming on the scene as teenagers and dominating in a sport that has long known to be for the very rich, very white and very elite.
Personally, I do believe Adler when he stated in his apology that he meant “guerilla” and was referencing how Williams was being strategic and taking advantage of her opponent’s weaknesses. But I am not so naïve to think that in this racially charged world we live in that people in positions like Adler’s need to be more conscious of their word choices. Unfortunately for him, the faux pas cost him his job.
The entire issue raises another question, when the Twitter world heard the statement, did it ever enter their minds that hey, there are two meanings for that word. Or are we in a world where we are so quick to call people out and put them on blast that we never stop to think or consider that perhaps we didn’t hear what we think we heard. I see it over and over and over again where people take statements totally out of context and run onto social media to report it and soon after a cyber lynch mob is formed to destroy the person. It also troubles me that throughout the remainder of the tournament other commentators on the stations I was watching, did not come out to defend Adler’s character. At least I didn’t hear any. It’s sad that we have gotten to a place where people are afraid to speak-out for fear they too will be attacked and misinterpreted.
No doubt, this has been a costly lesson on semantics for Adler. He apologized for the comment and its misunderstanding, and shared his admiration for Williams and her talent. Oddly enough, when asked about the comment, Venus Williams being the consummate professional, shrugged off the controversy and returned to the court to focus on her run for the finals, where she fell to her sister 4-6, 4-6, in a display of athleticism that only a few will ever master in their lifetime.
Congratulations Venus Williams on continuing to follow your dreams, to rise above the fray, and to always keeping it classy. #Winning
Love & Blessings,
Tracy L. Darity is the author of three novels, He Loves Me He Loves Me Not!, Love...Like Snow in Florida on a Hot Summer Day, and The Red Bear Society. Available in print and e-book. To learn more, visit www.TracyLDarity.com or Amazon.com
Categories: Life's Musings