Tennis Prose



Really? Mike Tyson and Tina Turner Mentioned John McEnroe in their Books?

tysonBy Scoop Malinowski

I just happened to read books by Mike Tyson and Tina Turner and was surprised to see John McEnroe get a mentioned in a few sentences. Here are the interesting excerpts (by the way both excerpts will be part of my next book “Facing McEnroe”)…
Tina Turner (in her book ‘I, Tina’ by Kurt Loder): “Backstage after, I walked into the reception room and there they all were: Keith (Richards) and David (Bowie) and Ron Wood, all these people. I said: Thank God, I didn’t know they were in the audience – I really would have been nervous. Then I spotted this tennis player I’d seen on TV. I shouted out: ‘McEnroe!’ He got real embarrassed and started hiding his face. I went up to him and said: ‘Why McEnroe you’re shy. I don’t believe it – with all the hell you raise on the tennis court?’ Then he started laughing, and I started laughing too. And pretty soon I was laughing all over the place.”


McEnroe art by Scoop Malinowski

Mike Tyson (in his book ‘Undisputed Truth’ about John McEnroe): “I didn’t go into the fight (with James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith) at a hundred percent. I was suffering from a pinched nerve in my neck that would haunt me for years so I was in a bit of pain. But I walked into the ring like I owned that place. I thought that the ring was my home and it was where I lived and I was totally comfortable in its circumference. But I still wasn’t a seasoned fighter. My ego was out of whack back then. I felt like John McEnroe. Fuck you who cares? I had so much respect for him. He was a beast and that was just how I felt. I felt entitled to anything concerning the boxing world. And if I wasn’t getting it you were going to hear from me.” (Tyson drawing by Bud Boccone)

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  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    “We don’t see things as they are – we see things as WE ARE” – Anais Nin

  • catherine bell · April 27, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Not a fan of Anais Nin (her diaries are beyond tedious) – but she may be right to a degree.
    McEnroe wasn’t a beast – I feel a lot of those comments about Mac were actually far more applicable to Connors.
    Connors didn’t put on an act – it’s the way he really was.
    But McEnroe attracted a great deal of publicity because he was basically from the middle class and so many similar people identified with him. Mac had so much to fall back on – Jimmy didn’t have that.

  • Thomas Tung · April 27, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Connors swore like a sailor — but had the game & grit to back it up.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    Think both Connors and mcenroe used foul language but I’d guess 90% of serious players have too in their tennis lives –

  • Fred · April 27, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    “basically from the middle class and so many similar people identified with hiM”

    Give me a break. His father was a partner at Paul Weiss. They lived in Douglastan. They went to elite private schools.

    And he was unpopular at his home Slam.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 27, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Connors came from middle class background too. Didn’t he have a tennis court in his backyard? McEnroe was the greater player than Connors. You can make an argument that Connors was the better senior player because until the time he was around 50, the guy just creamed everyone in his own events. But McEnroe was the cooler guy, much more counter-culture than Connors. I mean Connors married a Playboy pinup model and Mac married an actress and a rock n roller. Mac I think kind of started the tennis explosion in America. Before Mac, there were no great rivalries on the pro tour and then you had Mac-Borg, Mac-Connors and Mac-Lendl. He made tennis cool with his style and his sharp mouth and his Mac the Knife persona.

  • Michael · April 28, 2016 at 12:48 am

    I didn’t go back and review the numbers so this is based on impressions made long ago but I would disagree with almost everything Dan wrote.

    Connors was the greater player than JMac.

    Coolor ? Both were on-court jackasses and the only cool Jmac had rubbed off from hanging around Borg.

    Tennis exploded in the US before Jmac even broke though at W in 1977. Connors and Evert were huge stars. Connors had a far greater impact on the tennis explosion in the US than Jmac.

    Connors v. Borg was huge, again, before Jmac even entered the scene. Connors won 3 of the 4 majors back in 1974 ! Jmac was still playing in Juniors until ’77.

  • catherine bell · April 28, 2016 at 3:18 am

    Michael –

    I agree with you and disagree with Dan.

    Connors did not come from a middleclass background and I’m pretty sure there was no court in the backyard. He came from East St Louis, his father worked on a toll bridge I believe and Jimmy learned tennis on public courts from his mother and grandmother. Read his book – the title, ‘Outsider’, tells a lot.
    He started the tennis ‘boom’if anyone did – I recall a Time magazine cover in the 70s with Jimmy on the cover with the strapline: ‘Jimmy Connors – Storming Tennis.’ May have been the first tennis player on a Time cover.

    His brief engagement to Chris was big celebrity news – ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was one description 🙂
    Also Borg/Connors was the first rivalry then Mac came on the scene.

    Connors had a wider raw gut crowd appeal than Mac – I would guess, though I’m not American, that his ‘class’ appeal was broader.

    Dan might not agree but all I can say is that I’m (unfortunately)old enough to accurately recall those times.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 28, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Geez, I’m getting piled on from both Michael and Catherine. All I can say, as a New Yorker (that’s different than being an American, btw, Catherine) Mac had a far bigger appeal than Connors. Mac was cool, he walked around in long pea coats and played the guitar. Connors cut his hair in an embarrassing page-boy style and he was getting killed by Borg. After 1977, Borg beat Connors 14 out of 16 times. That’s not a rivalry, that’s a mauling. It was embarrassing this Swede, what good player ever came from Sweden? beating an American so mercilessly.

    And then Mac showed up and voila’, he beats Borg the first time he ever plays him in 1978, has that epic Wimbledon finals with Borg in 1980 losing in 5 sets (while I was traveling on my bike in England), and then afterward, never loses to Borg again in a slam, slamming the Swede three times and makes Borg go all Roberto Duran.

    So in my mind, Mac was a much better player than Connors (I saw it with my own eyes–who ever tried to play like Connors in style, while so many of us tried to mirror Mac’s game, and in his dominance of Borg when the Swede had annihilated Connors) and more colorful in a cooler, more verbally-dynamic way than Connors.

    Let’s face it, why has McEnroe been such a success in the broadcast booth while Connors was a dud? Mac was much hipper and astute. Connors was corny, even his most famous line, “This what they paid for!” said directly to the camera with a shrug of his shoulders, was pretty hokey.

  • catherine bell · April 28, 2016 at 7:36 am

    Dan –
    I wouldn’t disagree about merits of Borg, Connors and Mac as players.

    My main point is that it was Connors rather than Mac who was the flash point for the tennis explosion in the 70s and his appeal was different.

    Your comments about Mac being ‘cool’ etc rather uphold my argument, if I have one – Connors was (is) a basic guy from the Midwest – not terribly verbal, never pretended to hipness, not ‘urban’ in any way – Mac is better educated, more analytical, articulate etc etc.

    As to playing style – Connor’s style was unique,(someone described it as a stronger version of ‘girls’ tennis’)nothing anyone wanted to imitate, – and how many ever tried with the T2000 which had a sweetspot about the size of a walnut ?
    (I held one of his raquets once – heavily weighted with lead strips around the frame)

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Michael do you have any vintage Johnny mac photos? Currently looking for the right photo for the cover of Facing mcenroe – thanks

  • Dan Markowitz · April 28, 2016 at 8:22 am

    You make good points, Catherine. I guess although I went to the US Open as early as maybe 1970, I didn’t really get into tennis until 1980 when Mac and Borg locked horns at Wimby. So when Connors won all his US Opens, I wasn’t really that into tennis and I feel that was true with many Americans. The Open really wasn’t that big a deal in the 1970’s in my opinion, but the tennis boom did start in the early-70’s. But that had a lot to do with many city denizens moving out to the suburbs where tennis became a big sport because it had class appeal.

  • catherine bell · April 28, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Dan –

    You’re right about the move to the suburbs in the US – yet the ironic thing is that Connors was so much not from that background – there was supposed to be this great democratisation of the game (BJK was always on about that)yet to some extent that didn’t happen – at least not then. When I used to go to the US Open in the 80s I remember having conversations with New Yorkers on that topic. There weren’t many blue collar or minority spectators at Flushing Meadows. Has there been a change ?

  • catherine bell · April 28, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Fred –

    I’m well aware of McEnroe’s background. There may be a cultural confusion here – in Britain ‘middle class’ or maybe ‘professional class’ would accurately describe his family etc.

    The term ‘upper middle class’ isn’t one I’d use.
    If these class distinctions mean anything anymore.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    The weird thing was mcenroe was not even embraced by US Open fans in his early years because his behavior was so offensive – but like Hewitt his home fans eventually learned to understand and accept his genius – I got hooked on tennis in the 70s and preferred to see Connors beat mac – loved connors loved seeing those fists fly and that intensity on the court – just the way he played tennis was more appealing –

  • Dan Markowitz · April 28, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Connors was a bit of a phony I always thought. I remember a big article I was writing for Tennis Magazine on Mac and Connors. Connors through his agent said he wouldn’t talk, but then as soon as he heard Mac had talked to me, Jimmy made himself available. That’s being a phony.

  • Michael · April 28, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    “Michael do you have any vintage Johnny mac photos? Currently looking for the right photo for the cover of Facing mcenroe – thanks”

    Scoop, unfortunately no. I didn’t start to seriously photograph the sport until many years later.

    When I was a young kid I only sometimes took a camera. One of the first shots I ever took was of Rosewall on the Forest Hills Grandstand court his last year. I was looking at some old stuff some time back and among other odd ones I came across a junky photo of Annacone playing one of the Gullickson’s at Forest Hills but the shot was really not of them but of the old metal numbered flip card looking things they would turn over to show the current score. Do you remember those things ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    michael you have come a long way as a photographer 🙂 What is your web site? I would like to look at your photo collection – And yes they still have those flip cards for scorekeeping but they are newer versions of it now –

  • Michael · April 28, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Dan, my folks took me to see USO Connors v. Borg final. I think I was rooting for Borg. We know how that one turned out.

    You’re right though that very few kids at least in the NY metro area tried to emulate Connors (but a lot of people did buy that T2000 even though Connors was the only person that could control it). But it wasn’t Jmac they were trying to emulate it was Borg and Vilas and the move to big topspin shots.

  • Michael · April 28, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Scoop, I have to update it. It’s still a flash site if you can beleive it. It won’t display on an I-decice. I’ll see what JMac I have but its relatively recent.

    I can’t recall the USO crowd ever generally warming up to JMac like they eventually did with Connors.

    JMac was a sore loser too. I remember one year Scanlon, whose game I always liked, beat him and JMac was pissing and moaning about it. I know Scanlon wrote a book but I haven’t read it. I bet you he could give you some facing JMac stories.

    Will you be playing in the USO Playoff tournament ?

  • Gans · April 28, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    I will add a little twist to this. I grew up watching tennis in India. Wimbledon has more appeal among Indians than any other slams (courtesy British influence). McEnroe had such a great appeal. He was artistic genius. Tennis popularity grew because of how McEnroe played. Many took the sport because of the way McEnroe played. You cant say that about Connors. So I agree with Dan. That’s the era that saw other artistic players like Ramesh Krishnan and the great serve and volley Vijay Amritraj. Great era!
    Sorry if there are autocorrects- typing from my not so’smart’phone.:)

  • catherine bell · April 29, 2016 at 3:32 am

    Just add a note – I believe Michael’s right.

    Kids in the US couldn’t try (or want) to play like Mac or Connors – they wanted to bully from the baseline with topspin and raquet development also made that style popular.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 29, 2016 at 7:14 am

    True Gans Johnnymac had a cool way of playing and his personality attracted you to want to watch – but Connors was also appealing – that kind of intensity and fire are special and I feel just as attractive to casual sports fans – both are beloved for their unique appeals and differences –

  • Gans · April 29, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Scoop, not really. The point I was trying to make was- in India, it was only McEnroe, not Connors. Then it was Becker. Boris had a huge fan base in India. That’s the population of entire Europe! 🙂 Then, it was Pete and Andre. Then Fedeer and Nadal came and took it to whole new level. I have never heard a single Indian while growing up talk about Connors. Now, that’s huge!

  • Gans · April 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    The attraction was in the game, not in behavior or eccentricity. McEnroe was considered a genius. Connors may have had some influence in India, but McEnroe wad global icon. If only he had a quiet mind and stillness, he would have attracted 10 times more fans and also may have won a few more- especially the FO. Well, he chose his destiny!

  • Gans · April 29, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    I meant, Connors influence in the US…sorry

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 29, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Gans that is really interesting that India rejected Connors – guess if he ever did an exhibition in India they would have had to pay people to show up 🙂 Why do you think that is that India had no appreciation for Connors? I guess Indians just totally adored mcenroe’s style 100 % and Connors 0 % 🙂

  • Gans · April 29, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Because McEnroe had a style!:)

  • Gans · April 29, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    Scoop, I don’t want to project my view as that of entire India. I cannot assign a ratio. I have heard many Indians talk about McEnroe’s game. It just makes sense. The net rushing, finesse, unbelievable volley skills, the serve… he was an artist. So lively to watch.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 30, 2016 at 8:46 am

    You’re going to love Facing mcEnroe when it comes out this summer Gans 🙂 Just interviewed Fritz Buehning who knows John since age 12 –



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