James Blake: Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire!

Julian JohnsonCorrespondent IJune 24, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 22:  James Blake of USA reacts during the first round match against Robin Haase of Netherlands on Day Two of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 22, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
Hamish Blair/Getty Images

"...How long is he going to come out here and play these matches and be irrelevant?!"

Pam Shriver commenting mid-match on James Blake

They were shoveling dirt on my brotha over on ESPN2 during their Day-One Wimbledon coverage at the All England Club. Davis Cup Captain, Patrick McEnroe, Pammie S. and Hannah Storm had their rubber gloves pulled up to their armpits as they gutted good ole James.

Trust me: it was a disgrace.

It was bad enough that he was getting stomped by Robin Hasse of the Netherlands in his first round match — and dragging his bum knee around the court like Nosferatu. No they had to have a team of morticians in studio and Ms. Shriver, perched like a gargoyle just above and behind Court 5, kicking Blake's corpse into its tennis grave.

"He's dropped to number 109 in the rankings...not very likely that he'll get back into the top ten...he's been very negative ever since I got here... he has been woe is me'ing around the court...some people think that he has overachieved..."

And "...he's having trouble getting locked back into the game...he's very frustrated...usually you're eager when you come back after injury and though you may not be match tough you're not usually burned out..."

This last, boozy flurry of shrill hooks and jabs from Ms. Shriver came while the ball was in play, Blake scrambling for his life to get a foothold in the match after squandering two break (back) points. And there she stood, alone, without any crowd noise or chaser, to dampen her poison microphone.

"Its amazing that you played tennis, I can still hear you," snorted Blake at Shriver after a backhand whizzed by him. "James just yelled at me...he must have rabbit ears..." she loudly and breathlessly reported to her colleagues.

Richard Pryor once said: "I don't mind you kicking my ass, but don't be talkin' about me, too!" Blake must have had that in mind when he responded to Shriver's even louder, "woe is me" pity party by calling her an "ass."

"Obviously, he's got a few things bothering him which he shouldn't be doing," chimed in P-Mac...Yeah, he should be more worried about the cranial saw whirring above his temple.

Why do I go on about this? Because Blake was P-Mac's boy, loyally playing DC whenever his captain called him. Always. Blake has also been a media darling of sorts, well spoken, a Harvard man, an author. He's no Justin Gimelstob for chrissake's sake.

Nope, he was just the kind of black man that the white media love: he was good, but not too good. Inoffensive, polite, deferential. Completely unlike the Williams sisters. He smiled and was pleasant, noble even, particularly in defeat.

Yet, these same people who loved his ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, who praised his class and dignity in dealing with death and injury, have none now that he's hit a bad patch.

Would they assault Andy Roddick in quite the same way?! Hardly. Justin?! Didn't hear a peep. There's a double standard and everyone knows it, though few will admit it. And now James knows it, too.

Back to Court 5: James, feeling the poison darts raining on him, hearing the contemptuous crackling of Pammie's mouthpiece, feeling the chill wind from his former mentor and current forensic pathologist cutting him from stem to sternum — during his match...

...And James goes straight ghetto!

Seeing Blake walk back towards the back wall and stare up at the unrepentant half-wit and lay into her - made me want to pull out my black leather glove and sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing..." That fire was a beauty to behold.

Fire. I want to see that fire, see Blake use that fire of righteous indignation - at being dropped by his so-called friends who never were, and turn it into a glorious stretch run and a complete MAKEOVER of himself.

He could 'go Kobe' and get a couple of tattoos and a Fu Manchu, join the NOI, start wearing Brooks Brothers suits with bow ties, quote scripture, something, anything.

Get hard, my brotha. Get hard and go hard.