Friday, July 9, 2010

Being the Brother of John (McEnroe) - ON GREATNESS: PT II

The Story (of the Difference Between the Merely Good and The Greatest of Great)
[continued from here]

It's the 1970s, Patrick and John McEnroe are playing a doubles tournament together in Paris, France. You can just picture them, John really, skinny and not so pretty (some of us can even remember how terribly bratty) in those laughably short white shorts and with that red sweat band round his head, it doing nothing to tame his unruly, poofy, curly brown hair.

It's 5-5 in the 3rd and final set. The McEnroes are up against a French team. In France. John is serving and a bad call goes his way. The crowd goes nuts. The bad call has brought the McEnroes to game point, John serving for it, or trying to, bouncing the ball at the base line, waiting, waiting for a stadium of French fans jeering and whistling and freaking out over the chair umpire's bad call. It's literally 10 minutes that John and Patrick wait while the crowd refuses to quiet down. Patrick, up at net, feels himself getting tighter, getting progressively more nervous with each moment. John calls his brother back to him. "Don't worry about it," he says to Pat, cool as a cucumber amidst the cheers and jeers and madness. "I got it covered." Crowd finally settles, John bounces the ball one last time, tosses it in the air and serves up an ace. Game. They go on to win the set and the match.

That, Patrick McEnroe tells Charlie Rose, is what make the greatest of great - those that can stay utterly calm in the midst of that kind of storm.

In a word: self-belief.


  1. Of course, self-belief may have been what turned John into an arrogant, angry douchebag over time. Everything requires a fine balance. In the end, even though John turned out to be the better tennis player, perhaps Patrick came out the better human being. And there's something to be said for that.

    Everything, EVERYTHING comes at a cost. Anyone who says differently is a fool.

  2. For a tall penguin you are rather thoughtful. Not that I ever thought penguins were dense or anything but ...

    I have to say it was quite the karmic treat to see Patrick as self-assured as he was. I don't think he regrets his choices for a second. In fact I think it's John, who you must admit comes across 180 degrees less bratty and douchey (you like that? douchey?) than he once was, that has learned from his little brother.

    Little brothers of the world rejoice!

  3. I hasten to add that I never was a fan of the douchey McEnroe when he was a player. As a commentator, however, I'm not sure I've heard better. (Even in that he beats Patrick. Shame!)


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