Greeson: Tennis volley turns fact into spin

FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2017, file photo, Serena Williams holds up a finger and her trophy after defeating her sister, Venus, in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. Williams posed nude for the cover of Vanity Fair in an image released by the magazine on June 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

Do you believe in truth?

Do you believe in facts?

We all do. Hopefully.

They are especially important in a time when media folks are forever saddled with terms that start with the word "fake."

So with that, let's go to the latest celebrity controversy.

Hall of Fame tennis player and commentator John McEnroe made waves on NPR when he said Serena Williams would be "ranked 700" if she played against the men.

He was promoting a book on the NPR interview, and did not bring up the topic. He was asked directly about it.

"Some wouldn't qualify it," LuLu Garcia-Navarro asked McEnroe about his long-stated belief that Serena is the best women's player ever, before continuing, "some would say she's the best player in the world. Why qualify it?"

McEnroe was caught off guard and eventually answered truthfully and honestly. "Well, because if she was in, if she played the men's circuit, she'd be like 700 in the world."

A social media storm raged.

Before we move on, have you ever wondered how you would answer a question from a national media personality? If you tell the truth, you could face outrage because someone somewhere is offended.

Especially considering Serena took offense to McEnroe's and fired back on social media.

She tweeted, "Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based."

And, "I've never played anyone ranked 'there' nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I'm trying to have a baby. Good day sir."

McEnroe has forever shared his opinion that Williams is the best female player ever. Did she have a problem with that opinion?

Also, she wanted to protect her privacy on Monday during her pregnancy, which is understandable. But then, in the days following this dust-up, Serena is buck-naked on the cover of Vanity Fair as the next celebrity showing off a baby bump. Hey, pregnant women are beautiful, but why is Vanity Fair still trotting out the latest version of the Demi Moore pregnancy pose?


As for the feud, this is the latest version of an opinion or answer to a question that becomes a talking point for whatever social cause someone wants to advance.

Women playing against men at the elite level are not comparable. This is not opinion; this is science.

Now if you want to discuss the "most accomplished" or "most dominant" in their sport, then Serena is right there at the top. But the question was best, and there's no way Serena could, as McEnroe said, consistently topple the men.

In fact, Serena Williams and her sister Venus played some dude in 1998 after they said they could beat any man ranked outside the top 200. That dude, Karsten Braasch, wore each of them out.

Easily. Yes, Karsten Braasch - who then was ranked 203 in the world and played golf the morning before and had a couple of beers before the match.

So McEnroe was dealing in facts, but if those facts do not work with someone's narrative, those facts are being fought with any one of the "ism" words.

In fact, McEnroe was on CBS this week, and you would have thought he had slapped someone's momma and pushed an old woman into traffic.

McEnroe simply stated what most reasonable folks understand. It was not sexist. He did not say women should not play sports. He did not say women stink.

He said that Serena was the best female tennis player ever, and maybe the best female athlete of all time.

And the fact that McEnroe is getting carved up for simply telling the truth when asked a question about it is quite telling, truthfully.

Contact Jay Greeson at and 423-757-6343.