Other than chess players and scuba divers, Tour players are probably the quietest sportsmen around. Yeah, sure, there’s an occasional outburst of profanity (not to be confused with the amateurfanity you hear in your foursome), but otherwise the game is a regular shhhh-fest.
The other day I was watching a National Geographic show about screaming and its ability to make people stronger. (Think karate chops, or 1,000 hairy Scots with their bums painted blue charging down the glen into battle with the English.) Apparently there is evidence that if you’re in the mood to break several blocks of masonry with your forearms, and you let out your best primal gulder (an Ulster yell) before and during the act, you develop measurably more kinetic energy than if you attempt such demolition gulder-free. Nat Geo had the brain images, stress monitors, and numbers to prove the theory, but She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are building a house, and have watched in agony as the stonework in our kitchen was butchered and torn down three times in a row by an elderly white man who labored to the mercifully quiet sound of some really dreadful country music.
Still, screaming has definitely made its way into sports, probably starting with competitive cave-farting before creeping into ancient martial arts, and then weightlifting, all of which I understand. But how the hell did it start in tennis? I seem to remember Monica Seles squeaking like an acid-crazed gerbil every time her strings met the fuzz, but now everyone with a racquet seems to be making a racket. It makes me want to break out the duct tape. How can any umpire say, “Quiet please,” and then in good conscience have some poor drunk in the crowd ejected, when the contest on the court sounds like it’s between a pair of howler monkeys in the mating season?
It’s the women in tennis who scare me the most. They start their scream on the backswing, change the tone and volume at impact, and let it subside on the follow-through: “Aaaaaa-WEEEEEH-gaaaaah!” Some of the men are in on it too, but not at the same level as the women, who are just plain better at screaming in general, even if a male lion’s territorial call can be heard for miles.
All the yelling has made tennis almost unwatchable with the volume up, which is a damn shame, because John McEnroe might be the best analyst in sports (and is probably tied with me for Most-Likely-To-Get-Fired-For-Saying-Something-Insulting), so I hate not to hear him. It all makes me wonder how long it will be until we have a giant Neanderthal in bad plaid pants teeing it up on Tour, with a pre-shot routine like a rutting bull moose making some kind of primal bugling noise on the downswing, and caving in the face of his 50-inch driver in the process. It doesn’t sound pretty, and I reckon golf’s governing bodies should put some noise restrictions in place before it’s too late. A simple decibel limit would do it, but as the game’s self-appointed mental hygienist, I feel there should be a cutoff after the swing, at which point a player can make as much noise as he wants. I mean, let’s be fair — it’s one thing to mute players before a shot, but if we mandate that they have to be silent after the ball is gone, we’ll lose some of the color in the game, and might even cause an head injury due to pressure build-up. I’ve never felt the urge to scream at the ball before impact, but if I have to watch that rotten, little black-hearted swine of a sphere fly out of bounds, I reserve the right to yodel obscenities louder than I do at a digital prostate exam. I’ll go blue in the bum before I give that up that inalienable right.