Ray Moore’s last 33 hours of fame went well for all involved, I’d say. Well, except for Moore, I suppose.
One day you’re a former player who fought for the original Association of Tennis Professionals, an actual force for progressive treatment of players (well, men's players, anyway). The next, albeit 40 years later, you're kind of a trumped-up suit who says something idiotic, retrograde and offensive merely to reduce your sport to a dollar sign, then you twist in the wind for a day and a half while your employer is chased down and convinced that your particular inanity isn’t going away like most other inanities, and then you’re “resigned,” often “to spend more time with your family.”
Moore’s time as a modern public figure was marked with the deathless phrase, “If I was a lady player, I’d go right down on my knees every night and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried the sport.” Oh, he did mention Serena Williams in passing as someone who might be important as well, but his point was made.
Oh, and “In my next life, I want to come back as a member of the Women's Tennis Association. They ride the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they’re very very lucky.” Let’s not forget that rhetorical beauty, either.
Ignored in the drama behind a reformer becoming a stiff over time so that he could lift his head up for lopping was the comment Novak Djokovic, the third pillar of the current men's game and one Moore omitted for whatever reason. Paraphrased, the stance is “I know women should be paid the same as men, as long as men make more.”
You see, that’s the more fascinating remark, and the one that requires more discussion -- discussion that Moore essentially muted. How women tennis players can be paid the same as men, and yet not be paid the same.
Frankly, at that point, justice be damned. I just want to see someone pull off that logical gem.
First, women are paid the same at the Grand Slam events, as well as at Masters events like the one at Indian Wells. Men's tournaments, though, tend to have greater prize money and better ratings than women's events. Co-ed events are still the most important, most noticed and most lucrative ones.
But never mind all that inside tennis claptrap. I want to know how to test Djokovic's Conundrum -- how to make equal still be unequal.
I mean, how do you make that work? Pay the women the same and then make them tithe to a designated male player? Do they just dash off a quick check or ATM transfer to the man who finished in the same position as they did? Make the women leave gift cards in a male player’s locker? Pay the women in American currency and the men in euros, or the men in American dollars and the women in Canadian?
In sum, how do you defy the laws of logic to make subservience seem like equality?
This is where tennis could become a leader -- by defying the laws of existence as we understand them to make a wrong a right, and a right a wrong. It could be a science experiment to rival the guy who solved Fermat’s Last Theorem 300 years after it was first posed and then getting a prize for it two decades after that, or the Kepler space telescope’s first visual evidence of an exploding star. Or the home run derby Barry Bonds apparently won that wasn’t a home run derby.
If this bending of the laws of math and economics could be achieved, I think I would be more comfortable with the idea of gender inequality for men and women in tennis. Not because Ray Moore's strangulated views on the sport which made him rich as a player and helped him keep his last job lucrative and vibrant are somehow justifiable, mind you, or even to test the notion that someone running an event for women can highlight that event by proclaiming its essential inferiority and require that the stars of that event take a knee to acknowledge that inferiority.
I mean, we saw how that turned out, and all that is is Public Relations 2-B, a far less rigorous science which requires only a laptop, a printer, and someone saying, “What the f---?” Of course, watching a dog varnish a table is more rigorous than PR2B, but that’s another conversation.
And maybe all this is is an example of PR gone bad, just another version of the same newsmaking machine that gives you the important developments surrounding LeBron James unfollowing the Cleveland Cavaliers on Twitter.
But I'm a curious sort for the sake of curiosity. I just want to see as an intellectual concept if equality and inequality could be married into a single new unifying concept. It is, frankly, beyond my doing, and probably beyond Djokovic’s as well. But now that we've seen a sun explode and all, maybe someone can just sit down and explain to us at least in theoretical terms how equal and not equal can be the same thing, and moreover, how one of those presumably equal components owes a debt of symbolic servitude to the other.
Then we'll tackle that LeBron thing with all the vigor it deserves.