Haters, Big People and Serena Williams

Serena WilliamsWe are now in a world of Hashtags and Emoticons. I, for one, am happy. For way too long, the # symbol was neglected on our keyboards, so now we can celebrate its use. Sort of like the guy resigned to his fifth season in Double-A who unexpectedly goes on a 50 game hitting streak and makes it to the big leagues. It happens. Not often, but it happens. Look what happened to the “@” symbol!

The # symbol, as any loyal Twitter user knows, puts you in company with a lot of other people who are commenting on the same thing. For example, I am sure that if all of the Dandelions were to disappear from every lawn in North America (no such luck), there would be a #Dandelions hashtag on Twitter. In a similar fashion, we have the term “Haters.” If you don’t like someone or something, you are a Hater. Then we also have “Shamers,” but that is something else.

In terms of the social media, the # symbol, “Haters” and even “Shamers” usually come together in the 140 keystroke world of Twitter and more often than not, “Haters” originate from couches in basements, stools in coffee shops and plastic chairs in airports. Meaning this: it is damn easy to criticize when no one can see you and no one knows who you are.

A Personal Confession

I am an old guy and I confess that I am in the gym 6 to 7 days a week. I don’t want praise and I don’t need trophies. I am an old guy and I love to pump iron with guys half my age (they push me) and as much as my arthritic joints allow, I do as much cardio as a bum hip, lousy knee and swollen ankle will allow.

The last thing I want to sound like is a “Shamer.” Do I have your permission to say something without sounding like a “Shamer?” When I walk through an airport or order a latte at the local coffee shop and I see a person who is 50, 100 or 150 pounds overweight, I just shake my head. Now, I don’t hate them, I don’t mock them and I certainly don’t feel superior to them. Because once upon a time, I was one of them.

I know that in today’s America, obesity is running rampant. I recently spoke to a pediatrician who is now seeing heart disease in kids as young as 12, let alone diabetes and other problems.

Going back to the gym, I celebrate it when a “large” man or woman is working hard to lose weight. I love to see muscles make their way out of blubber and I especially love it when I see women take control of their bodies and build muscle.

Yes, I know there are metabolic diseases. I also know there are people who prefer being “large.” OK, that is their choice. As I said, I am not here to shame anyone. They are fools though, if they don’t understand what is medically down the road for them. You just don’t fool with Mother Nature.

At the same time, I am also not going to tolerate it when someone hates a female athlete because she has worked her body into sculpted muscle. In other words, if it’s not OK to shame large people and very large people, it’s not OK to shame people who kill themselves to get into incredible condition.

Serena Williams is OK by me

I can’t play tennis, but I can admire a great tennis player. So today, after Serena Williams won at Wimbledon again, I was surprised but not shocked at some of the downright hateful comments. I guess you would call those people #SerenaHaters, and by golly, the hashtag could be found on Twitter. The most hateful comment was that she looked like a guy in a dress.

My response: “In what universe?”

She is an athlete, and maybe it’s because I have known many female athletes who developed their muscles, I have got to applaud the dedication it took her to get where she is. Like I said, I’m an old guy and when I first started to do road races I saw the first women tentatively enter those races beside me – and very quickly, they passed me. Serena’s occupation, and the training created by her occupation, molded her body.

Yes, I am aware that some of the comments – back and forth – were also of a racial nature. I am not blind to the world and its sicknesses, but I think the haters were about something far more stupid: jealousy. For those who are truly jealous, here’s some advice: beat her on the court and not from the anonymous stool of your coffee shop.

As someone who works in the field of sports ethics, I note that #Serena is not embroiled in scandals, she has not been a part of domestic violence, she has not been cited for drugs or alcohol abuse, she has not abused an animal, she speaks up for the rights of people who are not world class tennis stars.

She knows, like we all know, that our bodies will give way to someone younger and stronger. It is the way of the world. When she leaves tennis, she will leave it with class. It is more than I have to say for those whose greatest aspiration is to write angry, 140 keystroke comments from the musty couch in the basement.




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