• geospiza
    113
    John McEnroe has recently stated that while he believes Serena Williams is the greatest women's tennis player ever, she wouldn't be able to compete on the men's circuit. He has further stated, "if she played the men's circuit she'd be like 700 in the world."

    McEnroe qualified his comments by suggesting Williams could beat some men's players because of her mental fortitude, but that he doesn't think she's athletic enough to beat the majority of men on the professional circuit. He also offered this remark: "Maybe at some point a women's tennis player can be better than anybody. I just haven't seen it in any other sport, and I haven't seen it in tennis. I suppose anything's possible at some stage."

    On previous occasions, McEnroe has called Serena "arguably the greatest athlete of the last 100 years" and "the greatest player to ever play the game."

    Is there any truth to John McEnroe's statements? Is there anything wrong with what he said apart from whether or not the statements are true? What were his motivations and are those motivations relevant to judgments about the propriety of making such statements?
  • Michael
    9.5k
    Well, the best thing we have to judge the claim is the 1998 match between Karsten Braasch (then ranked 203) and each of the Williams sisters. He won both matches (beating Serena 6–1 and Venus 6–2). Apparently before this he'd been playing golf and had a few beers, and claimed that he only played like someone ranked 600th. Although this certainly wasn't Serena at her peak.
  • Baden
    11.3k


    It's about as pointless as saying Floyd Mayweather would be 7000th in the world if he fought as a heavyweight. The reason why is obvious and it doesn't detract either from women or lighter boxers that they compete within their class.
  • TimeLine
    2.7k
    Is there any truth to John McEnroe's statements? Is there anything wrong with what he said apart from whether or not the statements are true? What were his motivations and are those motivations relevant to judgments about the propriety of making such statements?geospiza

    I think the exaggeration of being 700th can be interpreted as insulting to females but being McEnroe we kind of understand he does not intend offence. If someone else said it, it may have been different. Despite Michael' logic (?), the actuality of such a statement is that she would not be considered the best player if she were involved in men' circuit, that is, there are certainly many male tennis players that outrank her skill. That is true. Not that she would or wouldn't be 700th exactly (again, Michael ?) but that there are a great many skilled male players over the last century.

    Baden is right in saying that it is pointless.
  • geospiza
    113
    Do I understand you to be saying that these additional facts confirm McEnroe's comments?

    It's about as pointless as saying Floyd Mayweather would be 7000th in the world if he fought as a heavyweight.Baden

    Given historical gender roles, are McEnroe's statements coloured with a derogatory meaning that is not present in the comparison between heavyweight and middleweight male boxers?

    being McEnroe we kind of understand he does not intend offence. If someone else said it, it may have been differentTimeLine

    What is his reputation and what role does it play in the interpretation of his comments?
  • Michael
    9.5k
    Do I understand you to be saying that these additional facts confirm McEnroe's comments?geospiza

    No. It's just the best thing we have to assess his claim. From that we have to compare Serena then to Serena now and compare Braasch then to the current world #700.

    But even then, short of having her actually compete regularly ('cause upsets happen all the time) in the men's circuit, it's probably impossible to say.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I do play tennis myself and I've played against both female players who beat me, and female players who I've beaten. What I noticed is that a female player has to be significantly more skilled or more fit than me to beat me, and I think the difference is in the power with which they hit their shots. Female players don't hit anywhere near as hard as males. That means that as a male, I have less trouble stepping in the court on their shots and hammering away.

    For example fastest male serve is around 260km/hr while fastest female serve is around 210km/hr in professional tennis. So that's roughly a 25% difference in speed that can be observed right there, which does end up playing a significant role in matches.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Speculative opinions on sports are a dime a dozen. That someone is an active or former player doesn't really help, as active and former players utter speculative opinons all the time that are contrary to each other. Just look at the predictions about who is going to win some big game from the assembled commentators, many of whom are athletes.

    I don't have any problem with anyone having whatever opinion they do. There's simply no reason to put much weight on it (well, unless you're betting on a game and the person has a good track record so that their predictions have a better than random percentage of making you some money).
  • jamalrob
    2.9k
    Is there any truth to John McEnroe's statements? Is there anything wrong with what he said apart from whether or not the statements are true? What were his motivations and are those motivations relevant to judgments about the propriety of making such statements?geospiza

    I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I can speculate. Or at least, I can supply one interpretation of what he said, and it seems plausible that he could have meant it in this way, in which case what he's saying is not as pointless as others here think.

    Given differences in average strength and whatever else may explain the average performance differences between men and women in tennis, McEnroe may have been reacting to the constant wish to compare Williams to male players. He might have been saying that it's silly and demeaning to constantly wonder how good she is compared to men. He demonstrates this with a dichotomy: she would only be 700th in the world if she were competing with men, and yet, she indisputably is one of the greatest athletes ever.
  • geospiza
    113
    No. It's just the best thing we have to assess his claim. From that we have to compare Serena then to Serena now and compare Braasch then to the current world #700.

    But even then, short of having her actually compete regularly ('cause upsets happen all the time) in the men's circuit, it's probably impossible to say.
    Michael

    So, allegedly the best thing we have to assess the claim is evidence that is consistent with the claim. Isn't that the essence of confirmation? (Weak confirmation, perhaps, but confirmation nevertheless.)
  • Michael
    9.5k
    So, allegedly the best thing we have to assess the claim is evidence that is consistent with the claim. Isn't that the essence of confirmation?geospiza

    Anything that doesn't refute a claim is consistent with a claim. Consistency isn't sufficient for confirmation.
  • Wosret
    3.2k
    I doubt that any of them care, or question the difference between particular female and male players, but rather wish to assert the male division itself to be superior to the female division. It's a waste of time watching women, as you won't be seeing the best, the implication is, and thus the attention ought to be given to the male ones, as they're superior, more spectacular sporters (sports people are sporters, right? If not I'm coining it).

    It's not a him against her thing, I don't think, but an us against them.
  • geospiza
    113
    Anything that doesn't refute a claim is consistent with a claim. Consistency isn't sufficient for confirmation.Michael

    That I ate cereal for breakfast is consistent with McEnroe's statements. The additional facts adduced by you are relevant to the question at issue in a manner that is confirmatory.
  • Michael
    9.5k
    That I ate cereal for breakfast is consistent with McEnroe's statements.geospiza

    Yes, but not confirmation of McEnroe's statements. So, contrary to your claim here, that "the best thing we have to assess the claim is evidence that is consistent with the claim" is not "confirmation nevertheless".
  • geospiza
    113
    Yes, but not confirmation of McEnroe's statements. So, contrary to your claim here, that "the best thing we have to assess the claim is evidence that is consistent with the claim" is not "confirmation nevertheless".Michael

    We agree that consistency is not sufficient for confirmation, however you seem to be arguing that the fact that I ate cereal for breakfast is equally relevant to the issue in question as the fact (alleged by you to be "the best thing we have to judge the claim") that a professional male tennis player formerly defeated Serena.

    Just to clarify, I do not claim or agree that your additional facts are "the best thing we have". I do however claim that those facts are more than merely consistent with McEnroe's statements; they provide confirmation of those statements. Confirmation does not entail that the matter is settled in favor of McEnroe.
  • Hanover
    6k
    The OP's questions were (1) did McEnroe speak the truth, and (2) was it ok for him to say it.

    Taking the questions literally, (1) yes and (2) yes.

    Of course, if the subtext was to suggest that women are inferior, then, (1) yes and (2) no.
  • Michael
    9.5k
    We agree that consistency is not sufficient for confirmation, however you seem to be arguing that the fact that I ate cereal for breakfast is equally relevant to the issue in question as the fact (alleged by you to be "the best thing we have to judge the claim") that a professional male tennis player formerly defeated Serena.geospiza

    I'm not saying that. I'm disagreeing with your claim that my suggested consistent evidence is confirmation of McEnroe's claim.

    I do however claim that those facts are more than merely consistent with McEnroe's statements; they provide confirmation of those statements.

    I don't think they are. That Serena couldn't beat #203 20 years ago doesn't confirm the claim that she would only rank #700 today.
  • geospiza
    113
    I don't have any problem with anyone having whatever opinion they do. There's simply no reason to put much weight on it (well, unless you're betting on a game and the person has a good track record so that their predictions have a better than random percentage of making you some money).Terrapin Station

    But as a person of some influence, will not others put weight on his comments, even if they shouldn't?
  • Roke
    136
    Women are inferior to men at sports.

    Is it OK to say that?
  • geospiza
    113
    I'm not saying that. I'm disagreeing with your claim that my suggested consistent evidence is confirmation of McEnroe's claim.Michael

    Okay, so I think we are in agreement that your historical facts have at least some relevance to the question in issue whereas my breakfast habits do not.

    If the relevance of your facts is not in the nature of confirmation, what is their relevance?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    But as a person of some influence, will not others put weight on his comments, even if they shouldn't?geospiza

    I don't know if they would more than any other sports figure. And especially given that we're talking about McEnroe--it's not as if he doesn't have a history of being volatile, brazen, sometimes opprobrious.

    What we should concentrate on, though, is getting folks to not take others' words so gravely.
  • Wosret
    3.2k


    It isn't in fact true. In marathon conditions, the gap closes. Women tend to weigh less, so that things that require less explosive force, and more continuous effort, the more body weight becomes more and more disadvantageous.

    It's also even more complex than that, as "races" are often identified with particular athletic aptitudes which has more to do with the particular environment from where they come than anything else.

    When it comes to dance, and figure skating and such, the only thing that differs is that they have the males do things that show greater feats of strength than the women can do, but other than that are they really better? Is being able to pull of four spins in the air rather than just three all that big of a deal?
  • Roke
    136


    I asked whether it's OK to say it, not whether it's true.

    But your position is that men are inferior to women at sports? Or that they're exactly equal? Or that the two groups cannot be compared generally?
  • Wosret
    3.2k


    Isn't everything okay to say?...

    My position is that comparing groups without qualification is never very informative, or accurate. It always depends on what we're talking about. Men aren't better at sports unequivocally.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Isn't everything okay to say?...Wosret

    Certainly is in my book/when I'm king.
  • Wosret
    3.2k


    It will not only be okay, but mandatory when I'm galactic supreme emperor.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    You'll probably employ a certain number of assholes though. You can't keep track of them all.
  • Roke
    136


    Not everything is OK to say, no.

    Anyway, I just think there's something interesting about the systematic denial of trivial truth. Symptomatic of something.
  • Wosret
    3.2k


    What trivial truth? I don't always see the obvious.
  • Marchesk
    4.3k
    It isn't in fact true. In marathon conditions, the gap closes. Women tend to weigh less, so that things that require less explosive force, and more continuous effort, the more body weight becomes more and more disadvantageous.Wosret

    The men's marathon record is 2:02:57. The women's records is 2:17:01.

    I used to run track and cross country. I was decent for a male, but would have been world class for a female. Maybe the gap closes over long distance for your average runner, but probably not as much for the elites (a 14 minute gap or around 30 seconds per mile) seems about right, and the context of this conversation is elite tennis players.

    If you compare the mile record in men (3:43) to women (4:12), which is about 30 seconds, then you have the same gap, at least for world record holders.
  • Wosret
    3.2k


    Did you just vaguely look up "marathon records" or something? Those numbers don't say much, and are not detailed research. Here is something that I just looked up, but it is in correspondence with other research I've read, as well as my own observations and inferences based on endurance vs body weight rather than where I got the idea.

    https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2015/jan/20/women-are-better-than-men-at-marathon-pacing-says-new-research
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