ICYMI: Amelie Mauresmo to Coach Andy Murray
I write, “In Case You Missed It,” but let’s be serious. You missed it.
How do I know? Why Google search, of course. See, of the many things that pop up when I type in Amelie Mauresmo, the first three are, “Amelie Mauresmo girlfriend,” “Amelie Mauresmo man,” and “Amelie Mauresmo partner.” So there you have it. No one’s searching for information about how Andy Murray– currently the No. 5 ranked player in the world and owner of two Grand Slam titles–recently hired former two-time Grand Slam champion, Amelie Mauresmo, despite the fact that she’s the first–gasp!–woman to coach a top men’s tennis player in history. To review, just to make sure this sinks in fully, there’s going to be a woman(!)… coaching… one of the top male athletes… in the world. Take a second to imagine how this news would be received in other sports.
But instead of trumpeting this as a watershed moment in the sport, and indeed, in all of sports, the American media has ignored the news. If tennis were as popular in America as say, Division I men’s basketball, it’s easy to envision what the coverage would look like. Former players turned analysts would be sticking their foots in their mouths right and left, and sportswriters would be having a field day lambasting them for their sexist comments. “What do our reactions reveal about the current state of American society?,” they’d wonder. “If sexism is this pervasive in sports, how prevalent is it everywhere else?,” they’d ask. It’d become a national discussion, a national fixation.
Of course, sexist comments and questions are still being directed at Murray and Mauresmo, there’s just no one to notice. But Murray, they ask, “doesn’t it feel strange?” “No,” he responds, falling for the inherent sexism in the leading question, “because I grew up with a female coach.” And that’s what the media runs with. Instead of acknowledging that Mauresmo may just be the best candidate for the job, or that the seasoned Murray may now know what to look for in a coach at 27 years of age, the popular explanation for why Murray chose Mauresmo is that he was coached by his mother at an early age, and so he’s accustomed to female coaches. Painted in this light, Murray’s an odd egg that’s able to work with a female coach because he was conditioned to from an early age. The obvious subtext here? That any man who wasn’t trained from an early age by a woman–most men–wouldn’t work well with a female coach.
In America, the media’s disturbing subtext in covering Murray and Mauresmo won’t reach most people. Tennis isn’t popular enough. Instead, people on the internet searching for Mauresmo will focus on other things, like the fact that she’s a lesbian. Or that, in some pictures, she looks like a man. I wonder what that says about America?