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Monday, October 02, 2006

Classically Crazed Russian Gibberish

Here's the opening paragraph from a recent New York Times op-ed piece by quasi Russian Serge Schememann (his name isn't one Slavic Russians would accept as "Russian" and his parents fled to Estonia to escape Bolshevism):

Where in frozen Siberia did Russians learn how to swing a racket? Svetlana Kznetsova took the China Open. Dmitry Tursunov beat the best American player, Andy Roddick, to knock the United States out of the Davis Cup. The glamorously teenage Maria Sharapova swept past Belgium’s best, Justine Henin-Hardenne, to win the United States Open
Here's the third paragraph:

Two decades ago, there were no Russian names among the top 100 players, much less among the glitterati of the sport. Today, Maria Sharapova is a trademark, and behind her is a cascade of top-ranked Russians with jaw-challenging names. And these are not shy newcomers. They seem to have emerged as complete, prepackaged, beautifully turned out stars, complete with obsessed parent. Tursunov, like Sharapova, was exported by a relentless father to the United States at a precocious age, and it’s hard to tell whether they are more Russian or American. So what spawned these stars?
In other words, two out of the three players mentioned by the author didn't learn to play tennis in Russia, they learned to play in the United States, where they spend most of their time and own real estate. Sharapova has never once played for the Russian national team. Schememann's reconciliation? How did Russia influence them? It's this: "I’ve always had a soft spot for the swaddling theory, wherein the practice of binding babies like mummies between feedings formed a nation given to lurching between passivity and anarchy. Isn’t tennis all about lurching between passivity and furious activity?"

Meanwhile, the author ignores the fact that apart from the victories he mentions all three of these players have had abysmal seasons this year and all draw nothing but enormous yawns from fans. The only one who creates any interest is Sharapova, and she does so off the court by marketing her looks just like Anna Kournikova, who never won a singles tournament in her whole career. The author writes of AK: "After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the game got a further lift from Boris Yeltsin, who was often photographed wrestling with a racket. That was when most of the current stars got their first rackets. Anna Kournikova gave further inspiration when she became the first Russian tennis player to become a marketing star." Classic Russian gibberish. Russians hate Yeltsin and accuse him of genocide, but they get motivated to play tennis because he says so just like they voted like lemmings for his chosen successor Vladimir Putin.

The author asks: "Are these young stars a post-Soviet reaction to the collective ethic? Are they another version of the trillionaire oligarchs, people who frantically grasp for all the riches and glory denied them for 70 years?" In classic Russian style, he gets quite close to landing the Trout of Truth before he lets its wriggle free. Russian tennis players are just like Russian oligarchs: they use illusion and fakery to create the pretension of success, while beneath the surface their lack of substance eats away until the inevitable collapse. And the Kremlin is no different. Celeste Hollander's Football Fabel, below, brilliantly exposes this truth that the Russian author, even so far removed from Russia, simply cannot manage to see.

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