An Incident at the Open - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
An Incident at the Open

Whether the uncover officer was out of bounds, impolite, or merely showed a bit too much zeal for the circumstances is a question that ultimately the NYPD’s investigative unit will have to determine, though the way things are in this country it’s not impossible this will end up in a court of law. Did it affect the outcome of the U.S. Open, the last of the year’s great majors and in progress in Queens even as the incident was taking place in mid-Manhattan, 20 minutes away on the No. 7, is a question that, perhaps fortunately, will not be resolved by an internal police study nor by fast boys with law degrees. It could be grist for the mill of a clever novelist, however, or a dull political activist.

James Blake, one of America’s great tennis champions, recently retired from the Tour but still active on the Champions or Legends circuit and in USTA affairs, was leaving his hotel next to Grand Central Station for the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows park, where the tournament takes place, when he was tackled, thrown to the ground, cuffed and arrested by plainclothes officer James Frascatore. According to reports he was not badly hurt and was released when the error was understood: Blake bears a striking resemblance to a suspect the cops and local G-men were looking for. They already had caught one member of the gang which specialized in financial fraud — theft, in other words, stealing.

The guy they got is a white guy, an Englishman if the report I heard is correct. Blake is the son of a British mother and a black American father and is an outstanding scholar-athlete (Harvard) who happens to also be an inspiration in the sport for overcoming an extremely serious skeletal condition in his back and persisting in his athletic ambitions. His sense of fair play and his concern for the well-being of fellow-athletes are known; in short, a gentleman.

The Police Commish and Hizzoner, William Bratton and Bill de Blasio, apologized profusely. Blake, initially of a mind to let the incident pass, decided to tell the media about it. His feeling was his case would draw attention to police brutality in a way others often do not; as it happens, Frascatore has a record for zeal which has led to complaints and lawsuits above average for a New York cop.

Although immediately there were predictable expressions of outrage from the here-we-go-again radicals, the Commissioner rejected the profiling theory, as indeed did Blake. The bulls were looking for an integrated gang, by the evidence of the work on it they have done so far. What is clear, and what Blake himself emphasized, is that Frascatore doesn’t wear kid gloves.

However, who said he should? Observe that his biggest infraction was his rudeness. Having done his job and having no way to deny he had got the wrong man, he knew full well — certainly should have known — that common sense and decency required a personal, sincere, face-to-face apology.

You cannot reprimand cops for being zealous and then expect crime not to spike. They have difficult jobs that require a sharp sensitivity to the line separating firmness from bullying. But if you tell them to err on the side of restraint and timidity, a lot of bad guys are going to notice — and take advantage. In fact, as researchers at the Manhattan Institute and elsewhere have been saying, since the arrival of Mayor de Blasio at the helm of the world’s greatest city, with his outspoken partiality toward perps and suspects and his embrace of the idea that police officers assume nonwhites are guilty until proven innocent, crime in the city, which reached historic lows under the aggressive policing policies of his recent predecessors, has climbed. In a larger political context, the war against the police waged by radical activists discourages the initiative and alertness needed to police a free and disorderly country such as ours. And of course it cannot be emphasized often enough that violent crime rates are much higher in black precincts than in white ones, for reasons having little or nothing to do with policing.

James Blake showed up at Ashe Stadium the day after the incident and got a tremendous hand, which I am quite sure he would have got anyway, as well-known athletes and others do when the camera projects their picture on the big screens above the bleachers. Queen Latifah got a big hand. Robert Redford got a big hand. These are famous people, like James Blake.

The term biracial has come into use lately; at least, more than in the past, it seems. This may have something to do with the president’s family background. The concept is old, practically as old as the United States. In different ways, it is central to the thinking of such writers as William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray. At any rate, as the story moved for a day or two, someone asked Richard Williams what he made of it. He was interviewed at home in Florida, as he did not make it to the tournament this year to watch his daughters compete. His view was that the incident showed “nothing had changed.” You cannot trust most of what you read in the papers or see on TV, so I do not know if what he meant was that Frascatore’s mistake and lousy follow-up showed we, as a society, are still living in the world Mr. Williams knew as a child in pre-civil rights Louisiana.

He is, of course, entitled to his feelings and the opinions flowing from them, and Mr. Williams is well known for his outspokenness about racism in America and even in the tennis establishment. However, what he has often said is belied by the achiever, or striver, code he has lived by all his life. Richard Williams is a quintessentially American success story: hard work and faith will get you what you want, on your own merits. Obviously a man’s words must be taken seriously, but it often seems as if he — and to some degree his daughters — have expressed fashionable views on race and racism in America without thinking through how their own story underscores the treacherousness of political fashion.

Look at what we do, not what we say, quothe another widely misunderstood man, Richard Nixon — or was it his close aide and attorney general John Mitchell? But what if, sometimes, what you say, notwithstanding what you do, gets inside your head? There is every reason to believe Serena Williams, who was just two matches away from triumph when the incident occurred, was deeply concerned about James Blake. Miss Williams has at times been viewed as having brusque and arrogant manners, but she is genuinely liked by men and women on the Tour who know she is sincerely interested in her colleagues’ welfare.

And such concern, given her character, would have been an incentive to fight as hard as ever on the court. Some jerk beat up on James? Let’s go and show the jerk the stuff we’re made of in this sport, let him see he’s lucky James didn’t fight back. Placing such thoughts in her mind would not be outlandish.

But what if the thought in her mind was — Nothing’s changed. They’re still treating us like this. A thought like this might well be far more perturbing, distracting. There is no way to know, she has not said. Roberta Vinci, after her semifinal win against the heavily favored Miss Williams — 300-1 odds, they said — admitted she did not come into the match thinking she had a chance. She gave her best, though, for she’s a pro, and the best was enough that day. It was, basically, a story of superb artistic and tactical tennis against a power game that for some reason kept choking.

This may be the moment for TAS to apologize for our spotty tennis coverage this year, but we are working on it. For other dispatches from the U.S. Open, readers may find some to their liking by switching channels and taking a look at Breitbart Sports, as per and other links to which this takes them.

Speaking of sports coverage, someone asked Miss Williams at her press conference post-match whether she was disappointed, and she told him to get lost, rather more politely but no less surely. I wanted to stand up and cheer but I am the shy type. However, her coach, a Frenchman of Greek background named Patrick Moratoglou, who has never shied from taking credit for her sensational run of the past three years (35 Grand Slam matches won in a row, I think the stat is, among many other stats no less impressive), put the blame for losing to Miss Vinci squarely on her shoulders. “She was not mentally prepared,” the man said. Was this tough love to begin the training for the next campaign, or is he an a.h.? We report, you decide.

It was a fine tournament, sold out daily, and it may prefigure the nearby Mets’ World Series run, they’re almost there. Roberta Vinci found herself, another surprise, playing against one of her oldest friends, her compatriot Flavia Pennatta. Two young ladies from Italy’s deep south making it on the most exciting stage in tennis (co-equal with the other majors, okay okay), what could be a better New York story? New York, refuge and beacon of your huddled masses yearning to be free (and rich, $3.3 mil for the winner, half that for the runner up). The prime minister himself, Matteo Renzi, flew in for the occasion. I did not have the guts to ask him how he got a seat, since they were sold out. Anyway he was not giving interviews.

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