Serena’s a whiner, Jordan was a winner

So Serena thinks we saw her passion for tennis Saturday night.

I saw cowardice.

Update: Second apology

Serena Williams issued a second apology on Monday, 36 hours after her on-court tirade. 30 minutes later, Serena and sister Venus cruised to the U.S. Open doubles title, their 10th Grand Slam doubles crown.

I saw an oversized, underachieving loudmouth get smacked into reality by a just-out-of-retirement mom.

I saw the character flaw that prevents Serena Williams from taking her rightful place alongside Michael Jordan as one of the greatest champions of all time.

In an absolutely crazy, busy and fabulous sports weekend, two moments stood out: 1. Serena Williams’ match-point meltdown in her U.S. Open semifinals clash with Kim Clijsters; 2. Michael Jordan’s raw, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners Hall of Fame induction speech.

Serena and Jordan are both being crucified for their alleged classless behavior. Only one deserves it, the one who issued the gutless apology on Sunday.

“(Saturday) night everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job,” Williams said in a press release. “Now that I have had time to gain my composure, I can see that while I don’t agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly. I would like to thank my fans and supporters for understanding that I am human and I look forward to continuing the journey, both professionally and personally, with you all as I move forward and grow from this experience.”

Do you see the words “I’m sorry” in any of that? What you see is one last potshot at the line judge who had the audacity to follow the rules. You also don’t see any recognition that Serena comprehends her threats to shove a ball down the throat of a woman half her size overshadowed the remarkable performance of her opponent.

But we’ve grown used to Serena belittling her competition.

Serena has been so emotionally coddled and crippled by her enablers, including irresponsible and irrational television commentator John McEnroe, that she mistakes embarrassing displays of poor sportsmanship as passion and competitive fire.

Someone get her a copy of Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech.

Jordan’s rambling and possibly cocktail-inspired acceptance rant has been misinterpreted by the media. We didn’t like it. It wasn’t gracious or spiced with false humility. Jordan declined the high road and traveled the bone honest one.

In graphic detail, he explained the slights — real, exaggerated and imagined — that fueled his competitive fire. He gave us a peek behind the curtain, a look at what drove the greatest competitor in our lifetime. I overlooked his missteps. He’s a basketball player, not a motivational speaker. He spoke without a map. His words were not measured or chosen to create the impression he was anything beyond a competitive son of a bitch.

Serena and many of her groupies see the foot-fault call that put Clijsters at match point as a continuation of the inherent racial bias that has plagued Serena’s entire tennis career. And perhaps it is. Life is inherently unfair, and a country-club sport like tennis is more racially unfair than most.

How does a top competitor with limitless talent respond to unfairness?

Serena’s big meltdown

Photos: It was a wild night at the U.S. Open. Check out these shots of Serena Williams’ loud exit at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Jordan chose to destroy his challengers and shame the people who propped them up with never-before-seen on-court excellence.

No doubt, racial bias played a role in Buzz Peterson being named North Carolina’s high school player of the year over Jordan in 1981. Friday night, Jordan talked about how he roomed with Peterson at UNC and set out to prove Peterson’s inferiority. Jordan said he didn’t care about the infamous NBA All Star freeze-out allegedly orchestrated by Isiah Thomas and other black players. Jordan said the rumor only made him work harder to prove to his peers that he deserved the attention and acclaim he received at an early age.

Jordan took shots at the high school coach who didn’t let him play varsity as a sophomore, Jerry Krause for valuing the franchise more than the players who powered the Bulls, Dean Smith for leaving him off a Sports Illustrated cover and Bryon Russell for daring to say he could defend Air Jordan.

Jordan wasn’t a whiner. He was a competitor. He was old school, a reminder of the values that created the social progress and freedom too many black athletes now take for granted.

Kicking ass and taking names earns far more respect than take-my-ball-and-racket-go-home tantrums. No one respects a crybaby, especially one with more ability than everyone else.

Clijsters put a clown suit on Serena. Two-and-a-half years after retiring to have a baby and in her first major since her return, she wiped the court with the self-described No. 1 player. Rather than take her beating like a grown-ass woman, Serena first smashed her racket and then sacrificed match point with a ridiculous tirade directed at the line judge.

Everybody knows damn well Serena has no business losing a major to a baby’s mama. And everyone knows damn well if Serena dropped 20 pounds and focused on her game, she’d be untouchable.

But rather than focus on her unrealized potential, McEnroe and Serena’s other groupies want to pretend that calling a foot fault late in a match that Serena was clearly losing was some sort of hate crime worthy of Serena making a fool of herself.

The foot fault didn’t cost Serena the U.S. Open. Just like nearly every other loss in her career, Serena’s unwillingness to compete at her highest level led to the defeat.

You can e-mail Jason at or find him on Facebook at