The Dark Side
The Dark Side welcomes tennis

Forget it, it’s all the same. As John Manyama, manager of 1989 New York City Marathon champion Juma Ikangaa lamented after visiting a big time Manhattan disco then comparing it to the one he’d built back home in Arusha, Tanzania with lights he bought at Home Depot, “we have only just been kidding ourselves”.

Well, we have only just been kidding ourselves, too. After all the rigmarole about the two WADA-commissioned Independent Committee reports outlining corruption, extortion and willful blindness in the IAAF, now we hear that 16 players who have been ranked in the top 50 in tennis have been fixing matches or sets or games over the last decade, with the outcomes determined by Mafioso in Russia and Italy.

Come on, people, it is officially over. First FIFA, then IAAF, now tennis? And before that MLB and its complicity with steroids, and football’s case with concussions, lead poisoning in the Flint, Michigan water supply?  Kids, this is who we are. Not that we don’t try to keep things above board, but how can we not see all of this as anything other than the human condition regardless the sport, regardless the national origin, regardless the political affiliation?

Put a lot of money on the line in a competitive arena, and the sharks and short-cutters begin to circle like the water has been chummed. It’s in their DNA, and too good to pass up.  The only thing that can’t be fixed is the human drive to beat the system.

Jean Gracia named interim IAAF CEO
Jean Gracia named interim IAAF CEO

Yes, today compromised IAAF president Sebastian Coe announced that Frenchman Jean Gracia has been appointed interim CEO/General Secretary for the embattled organization as they look for a permanent head by the middle of the year before the Rio Olympics. And they will eventually bring in their Mr. Clean and the stink will get disinfected, and for a while things will smell sweet. But slowly, over time the same human propensity will rise up again, because what better does God have to do with His spare time than mess with us?

I think that’s it. You might argue and say it’s the devil who’s behind it, but who created him? So unless you’re willing to credit Satan with the ability to create something ex nihilo, then who else is there but the Big Guy who must’ve written some bad code way back when that allowed evil to exist in the first place.  Poor engineering is all. But give Him a break.  There’s a learning curve to everything, and evidently that goes for Creation, too. After all, it was His first attempt, and He might have gone out a little too hard with “Let there BE Light!” Then we only came along on day five, which means he buried the lead.  Plus, He was bushed after day six, so…

Any-who, that’s a whole different argument.  What it comes down to is, by whose ever hand, we are flawed creatures.  And now there’s too damn many of us, which makes us even harder to regulate, cause there’s only so much room in the lead car on this roller coaster. So there will always be the kids who pay the guy guarding the turnstile to move them up in line. And eventually the price will be right, and the shift will happen. And we’ll go through the whole process once again, but with nothing changing in the macro sense, because that’s the raw materials we have to work with.

Gilda Radner as Emily Litella
Gilda Radner as Emily Litella

Wish it weren’t so, but where else does the evidence point? So, to Lamine Diack and his viperous tangle, for all the negative stuff I have written about you and the bag of snakes that is the IAAF, I apologize. As Gilda Radner used to say on SNL as Emily Litella, “Never mind”.



  1. Finally, someone nails it.
    All are tempted. The strong say no; the weak, yes.
    There’s no fix. Only varying degrees of interior fortitude and exterior incentive.

  2. Some relevant dialogue from “The Color of Money”:

    Eddie Felson: If you got an area of excellence… you’re the best at something, anything… then rich can be arranged. Rich can come fairly easy.

    Carmen: Vincent, you win one more game… you’re gonna be humping your fist for a long time.

    Eddie Felson: Pool excellence is *not* about excellent pool.

    (Also worth finding the “The Hustler”, the prelude to this movie.)

    Lifetime bans for first time offenses. And civil suits for the (monetarily) wronged. Instead of wrecking the lives of the innocent, anyone have the guts to wreck the lives of the guilty? Sorry, no other way.

  3. Yep! And Walt Kelly succinctly captured the essence of the human condition, still driven by our precambrian brains, in that delightful quote of Pogo the Possum more than 60 years ago: “We have met the enemy, and he is us”.

  4. For clarification, it’s not 16 of the top 50 players in tennis. It is 16 players who have been ranked however briefly in the Top 50 at some point within the last decade.

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