A glance at the list of men’s singles champions at Wimbledon the last dozen years reveals plenty of pleasant-enough looking chaps, though not a single slam-dunk male model in the bunch.
No matter. Each one was instantly fawned over the moment he held the trophy aloft, celebrated for toughness, smarts and the kind of devotion that knows no quit.
Marion Bartoli displayed all of those qualities - and more - on the way to winning Wimbledon in this most tumultuous of years. But because she’s a woman, at least one man behind a microphone couldn’t stop there.
His name is John Inverdale, and even as Bartoli headed toward the spectator’s box where the father who taught her to play tennis was sitting, Inverdale’s listeners on BBC Radio were treated to some musings about how she came to possess a champion’s ability.
“Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker? You’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight.’”
Inverdale has apologized, of course, though that hardly came off better than his original remark. The BBC did, too, before reporting that nearly 700 viewers called in as of Monday night to complain.
It’s kicked up a row in print, on the airwaves and across social media in Britain similar to the one that buzzed briefly in the United States when commentator Brent Musburger awkwardly rambled on about an Alabama University quarterback’s girlfriend during the broadcast of the college football national championship.
The principals who find themselves the subjects of such remarks rarely make it out of the ensuing media circus gracefully, but the Bartolis are proving themselves rare exceptions.
For her part, Bartoli showed up for the champion’s dinner looking like a model - “her dark hair down in a loose wave ... figure-hugging black dress ... sky-high ankle boots,” as one British newspaper breathlessly reported - and then said, “I invite this journalist, in my opinion he could change his mind.”
But the other part, the part about how she was “never going to be a looker” is not just cruel, it’s stupid.