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PTI says why she is King for day

April 30, 2002|BY AL DITZEL

Sports television is better these days because of three letters: P-T-I.

Pardon The Interruption, with hosts Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, is the best sports show not only because it offers news, but because it offers the opinions of the day's news from two well-respected writers in the business.

An example is Monday afternoon's show discussing the Jennifer Capriati story. Billie Jean King, coach of the U.S. Fed Cup team, booted Capriati off the team Friday because the U.S.'s No. 1 singles player wanted extra practice with her father. Austria, which had lost seven straight Fed Cup matches to the U.S, then eliminated the 17-time champions on Saturday.

Wilbon took the point that King went too far. While, yes, Capriati did break team rules and needed to be disciplined, no, not at the expense of a loss.

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Kornheiser pointed out it is usually Wilbon who sides with coaches who discipline their players.

Wilbon said that it's a good point to make that you can boot a player and win, but if you don't win, the point is lost.

Kornheiser also pointed out that, to a woman, every other player on the Fed Cup team sided with King on the issue.

When the story broke late Friday night - we got the story from Associated Press after midnight - something seemed fishy. Capriati is the feel-good comeback story that everyone seemed to enjoy.

Her burst-on-the-scene-fall-from-grace to No. 1-in-the-world story was a breath of fresh air in sports. Now comes this.

King is a bit of a hero to me. Back in the 1970s, she fought the fight, and won a highly celebrated match with Bobby Riggs. She made it OK to root for a woman against a man, even if you're a man.

She helped springboard World Team Tennis, which is still alive today, even if on a much smaller scale. She withstood the negative publicity of a palimony lawsuit with her lesbian lover.

So what happened Friday?

I hope it is all over Jennifer deciding not to practice with the team and that it's because King stuck to her guns.

To me, that would typify a legacy King has left on the sporting world - her ability to understand, then deal with a situation straight on.

I don't want to hear that it's because of any other issue. I want it to be for a simple breaking of a rule. Personally, I don't think there's enough of that.

In this day, everyone wants a second chance. Then it's stretched into a third chance, a fourth, a fifth and so on.

Darryl Strawberry, the sure-bet Hall of Fame baseball player, was sentenced to 18 months in jail for breaking probation.

He knew the rules. He broke the rules. He got a second chance. He broke the rules. Not sure really how many times he broke the rules, but now he's off to jail.

Jennifer broke the rule and was tossed. I hope it's a simple as that. PTI will say otherwise.

Al Ditzel is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at alfredd@herald-mail.com or 301-733-5131 ext. 7520.

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