All I Want for My Birthday

I probably should have done this last year, since I was turning THE BIG 4-0 and this idea would’ve been perfect then. Oh well. Better late than never…

My birthday is one week away. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how blessed I am. About how blessed most of us are. I know there are a lot of people reading this who are walking through the valley, and if so, I hope you know my heart goes out to you and I am praying for you.

But most of the people I know are pretty blessed as well. We have roofs over our heads, don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, don’t have the threat of violence hanging over our heads. Most of us don’t worry when we go to bed at night if we’ll wake up the next day.

And it’s been hitting me harder and harder over the last year, at least, that we shouldn’t keep our blessings to ourselves.

So if you want to know what I want for my birthday? I’d like everyone who cares about me, if you are able, to donate just a small amount to a charity.

If you don’t know of a charity you would like to donate to, I have one I would like to recommend. It is the International Justice Mission.

IJM works all over the world in violent, war-torn areas, places that are brimming with slavery and sex trafficking. Places with broken justice systems, where the poorest people can’t even begin to think about lifting themselves out of poverty because of the nonstop threat of violence.

This group brings to the table specialists in justice: lawyers, investigators, social workers, activists, and other people who specialize in fighting for the rights of the poor and abused.

Money donated to IJM will help them provide rescue operations, care for victims of violence, investigation of cases, legal services, and the like.

You can read about the work of IJM here and donate here.

If you can’t donate? That’s okay. You can pray, or you can make yourself aware of these issues. You can consider ways to reach out in the future. If not to IJM, then certainly to other worthwhile causes.

Oh, and lest you think I’m just trying to get my friends and family to part with their hard-earned cash, lol…I’m going to donate, too.

Thanks for reading! And thank you for considering what you can do to help change the world.

What Your Favorite Male Tennis Player Says about You: My Version

Recently a writer for SBANation wrote an article with a similar title. It was kind of funny, but being the smug hobby blogger I am, I thought I could write a better one, mostly because I spend entirely too much time hanging out on Tennis Twitter.

So without further ado, I offer you the following collection of what you might learn about yourself based upon your male favorite tennis player. (I’ll post one for “female tennis players” later.)

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You are a drama queen. You live for the moments when you can make everything look like a failure in the making, then fix everything so perfectly that everyone wonders how they ever doubted you. You probably also pride yourself in being a trailblazer, as represented by your declarations that “I’ll have you know I was a Novak fan BEFORE 2011!!!” You are a sucker for a good joke (and have been known to crack plenty of them yourself), bad singing and embarrassing dancing, and you are impossible to embarrass. Much to the chagrin of your friends, probably.

RAFAEL NADAL: You are a drama queen too, but in a different way. You love to suffer. You LIVE to suffer. In fact, you may not be truly happy unless you ARE suffering. Your happiest memories are not your greatest successes, but your biggest failures. Despite all this, you are a blazing success, which might be why you haven’t yet been institutionalized. Also, your body is held together by duct tape and Krazy Glue. You are far smarter than you let on, because you are a Spanish speaker in an English-language world. Only your fellow Spaniards realize just how brilliant you actually are. You are also, needless to say, a cat person.

ROGER FEDERER: You pride yourself on being a tennis purist. Tennis, to you, should be ballet in sneakers with racquets and balls. Your favorite motto is “Never let them see you sweat. Or hear you grunt.” You believe everything should be done a certain way, and anyone who dares to do things differently should be shot. Or at least shunned. You are popular no matter what you do; in fact, you tend to get away with things that other people would be jeered for doing, because you are just that elegant and charming. Or so everyone thinks, anyway. You also like kids. You REALLY like kids.

ANDY MURRAY: You are British (or even better, Scottish). Or, you are an Anglophile. You consider a win for Andy to be a win that bolsters the Union Jack, the Throne, and the holy empire of the United Kingdom. You bask in the reflected glow that the brightness of Andy’s victories cast over everyone close enough to catch it. You have an intense attention to detail. You concern yourself with weather forecasts, medical reports, and gossip. You know that ANYTHING could affect the march of Murray, and so you keep a close eye on all things Murray. You may have even started learning French so you can see what Amelie mumbles as she watches Andy. Especially when he starts cursing himself. Speaking of which, it’s fair to say that you may have a bit of a potty mouth.

DAVID FERRER: You like pretty people with hearts of lions. You’re fond of overachievers, and you may even be one yourself. You pride yourself in giving everything 110% (although you would never actually use the term yourself, because hello, that doesn’t even make sense). You are a gymoholic who would make Pat Cash collapse if he attempted your intense regimen. You are fond of underdogs. You’re also the type who loves to cheer for the one who rarely wins “the big one” because when s/he DOES win “the big one,” you can enjoy one long celebratory night of getting very, very drunk without it affecting your liver.

STAN WAWRINKA: You have hideous taste in clothing, as well as facial hair. But damn, are you buff. You’re used to being overshadowed, but you have used it to drive you to make yourself better. You are proud of your failures because you know they have made you the Man you are today. (Assuming you’re male.) You’d rather not talk about your private life and would prefer to focus on your professional life, though to be frank, it has its ups and downs. Anyone following those ups and downs, in fact, would probably feel like they’ve been on the world’s biggest, fastest roller coaster. You’re also a bit of a hipster who prides yourself in appreciating the “less obvious” things in life.

TOMAS BERDYCH: You’re a handsome person with a goofy sense of humor. But when you’re working, look out. You can be dour and lose focus at the drop of a hat, then will blame everyone for your issues. Of course, you’re usually apologetic after such episodes, and your natural good humor and charm tend to win people over to you again. (Or don’t, but who needs them??) You tend to lose your mind at inopportune times. You don’t mind taking advice from people younger than you, as long as they are attractive. In fact, you prefer to surround yourself with people as beautiful as you are. (And why not? You know everyone would if they could.)

Texts to my Husband: My Thoughts During Novak Djokovic’s QF win over Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros

I knew it was going to be tense. So I decided that, for the sanity of myself and everyone who follows me on Twitter, to stay mostly off of Twitter while I watched Novak play Rafa.

But at the same time, I knew I needed an outlet. So I sent a whole slew of texts to my poor but patient husband, Eric.

In retrospect, I find this kind of amusing. So I thought I’d screenshot our texts (which, let’s be real, are pretty well dominated by me) for the amusement of all.

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And there you have it. Apologies to Rafa fans. But at least now you know the torture he puts fans of Novak Djokovic through. ;)

But  I Turned Out Okay: Some Thoughts about Adrian Peterson, Spanking, and Discipline

Yes, I should know better not to read the comments.

One quickly learns that, when you’re reading a news article on the Internet, the comments below the article tend to come from the lowest common denominator. “Don’t read the comments!!!” has become a rallying cry for many intelligent people who read an article to find out what’s going on, and then make the mistake of raising their blood pressure by reading the comments from barely-literate Neanderthals.

But I was sincerely curious to find out what people thought about Adrian Peterson.

Adrian Peterson, in case you’re not at all a football fan and never watch or read the news, is a player for the Minnesota Vikings who was recently arrested for child abuse. He admitted — please let’s be clear about this — to beating his 4-year-old child with a “switch” — that is, a tree branch.

I have not looked at the photos taken of the child’s injuries, but I have heard about them. He was left with cuts on his thighs and even part of his private area.

No, he has not been tried and convicted yet. He may not even go to trial, choosing to make a plea agreement instead. But seeing that he confessed to doing this, and that photos make it clear the extent of what happened, I don’t see that it’s a stretch to say with certainty that Adrian Peterson beat his child.

Several varieties of comments responding to this news have truly upset me. I’m going to take them one by one.

  1. “Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty???”

This is the kind of comment made by someone who complained first about Peterson’s being suspended from the Vikings originally, then his subsequent re-suspension (after the Vikings lifted his suspension following the team’s loss to the Patriots this past weekend) just today.

It is also a frequent complaint from those who see the discussion swirling around Peterson as a “mob mentality.”

First, I don’t see how you can possibly claim that Peterson is “innocent.” He confessed, and there are photos. I’d like to think that the people who ask about “innocent until proven guilty” don’t realize these basic facts.

Second, “innocent until proven guilty” goes for a court of law. There’s no “innocent until proven guilty” in the world of employment. Employers are perfectly free to do whatever they want with or without convictions. Heck, employers are perfectly free to fire someone without showing just cause, unless there’s discrimination or a crime (such as extortion) involved.

What I’m saying is, don’t feel sorry for Peterson because he’s being deprived of his “due process.” No such thing is happening.

  1. “No parent should be prevented from disciplining their children as they see fit.”

This complaint blows my mind. So… we should be allowed to discipline our children any way we want? No lines drawn whatsoever? Fine. Let’s beat them black and blue. Let’s slash them with knives. Let’s shoot at them. Let’s strangle them. Let’s chain them up and refuse them food and water.

Yes, I’m being extreme. That’s my point. I think all reasonable people would agree that none of the preceding things are remotely acceptable. So, yes. Parents should be prevented from doing terrible things to their children in the name of “discipline.” It absolutely should be against the law to brutalize your children.

I also believe it should be against the law to injure your children. Yes, I know accidents happen. You can accidentally strike your child. That’s one thing. But if you strike your child intentionally and injure him or her, that should be a crime. You should never, ever hit your child hard enough to bruise, raise welts, or cause cuts.

That brings me to my next point.

  1. “We’re going to bring up a generation of spoiled-rotten brats if we keep parents from disciplining their children.”

AAAAAAAAAARGH.

Sorry, I needed to vent. This one drives me absolutely insane. Why? Because it assumes there are two kinds of parents in the world: parents who spank their children, and parents who don’t provide any sort of discipline to their children whatsoever.

Why are there only two choices here? Why is it presumed that parents either spank their children, or they don’t discipline them at all?

I’m not going to claim I’ve never spanked my daughters. I have. But it’s been years, and it was very occasional. Aside from one time, the only time I have ever spanked either of my children is when they were being deliberately defiant: in other words, I gave them a command, and they made it clear that they were not going to do it, even after being given several chances.

The one time I’m referring to came when my older daughter was probably about the age of Peterson’s son. We were on our way to her babysitter’s house, and she was screaming her head off about something. I was so infuriated that she couldn’t behave for the five-minute drive to the sitter’s house that I pulled off, stopped the car, and got in the backseat and spanked her.

That incident scares me because I was filled with such rage. I was pretty close to being out of control.

After that, I never spanked either of my girls when I was that angry again — because I realized how easily I could have crossed the line and injured my daughter.

Also, I never spanked one of my children more than maybe 3 times on the bottom. (Once was much more common.) And ALWAYS with my hand.

But spanking was never a frequent punishment. When it did happen, it was always a last resort.

So, how do I discipline my daughters most of the time? Believe it or not, I send them to their rooms. That is always enough for them. They hate being isolated from the rest of the family.

(I’ve also yelled at them far more often than I should, but I’m getting better!)

These days, merely threatening them with being sent to their rooms, or with the loss of a privilege, is enough to keep them in line.

The thing is, there are so many more effective ways to discipline your children than by striking them. I feel like my daughters learned a lot more from other forms of discipline than from spanking. The only thing children learn from spanking is that you are bigger than they are, and you can hurt them. Therefore, they should not make you angry.

I don’t want my children to behave properly because they’re afraid I’ll hurt them if they don’t. I want them to behave properly because it’s the right thing to do. It’s really hard to teach your children what is the right thing to do if they’re afraid of you.

  1. “I was beaten when I was a kid, and I turned out okay. Therefore, beating your children is perfectly fine.”

Yeah… here’s the thing. If you believe it’s okay to beat children, you did NOT turn out okay.

I don’t think spanking is a great idea. But I do believe there’s a huge difference between occasional spanking and spanking as the first (and only) method of discipline. And there’s an even bigger difference between spanking as the only method of discipline and beating.

To me, spanking is an open hand on the bottom. Period.

Beating is any other way of hitting your children. Using any other object on your child’s bottom is beating. “Switches” (what a nice word for “branches,” honestly – who came up with that??), paddles, belts, or any other kind of object — that’s not spanking. That’s beating. That’s hitting your child to cause injury.

And it is wrong to cause injury to your child.

We believe it’s wrong to cause injury to other people, right?

(I mean, aside from self-defense. But when exactly are we trying to defend ourselves against our children? Only when something has gone seriously, seriously wrong with our children. And this is not always their parents’ fault. Some children are mentally ill through absolutely no fault of their parents.)

Then why does anyone believe it’s acceptable to cause injury to children? I don’t care if it’s in the name of “discipline.” It’s not okay. Ever.

  1. “That wasn’t abuse. I’ll show you abuse.”

My heart cries for people who were abused as children. I can think of no more horrible experience than to have suffered any kind of abuse — emotional, physical, or sexual — at the hands of adults you trusted. I am grateful to have had a childhood where I never had that problem.

And so I cannot fault someone who was abused who hears of or sees the injuries suffered by Adrian Peterson’s son and says, “Oh, that was nothing. You should have seen the injuries I had.”

I don’t want to downplay anyone else’s suffering. Because anyone who has suffered abuse has suffered wounds that I can’t even begin to imagine. But I think we make a grave mistake when we say that because Peterson’s son suffered no gaping wounds, that his scars will fade over time, that he wasn’t more seriously injured, that the beating he suffered from wasn’t really “abuse.”

I think we need to take a hard stance against any kind of injury to a child. Even bruises. Bruises heal and fade, yes. But the memories of what caused those bruises… those may never fade.

I still regret the spanking I gave my older daughter when I was out of control. I don’t know if she remembers it, but I do. Even though it left no bruises or any kind of marks, it was me at my most horrific, and I cringe every time I remember it.

Parents are supposed to nurture their children. Love their children. Even when they’re at their most unlovable. The world will try to knock them down soon enough. Let’s not do it for them.

Marching Band and a Fundraising Raffle

So Kiersten has started marching band this year. This has been a wonderful thing in many ways. The two weeks of band camp prior to the start of school helped her get over her anxiety not only about all that marching, but also about her new school in itself. (This is her first year of — *gulp* — HIGH SCHOOL.)

She has already made a bunch of new friends — a truly big deal for my mini-me, who has almost as much tendency to be socially awkward as I do. And I think she’s even more motivated to do well in her classes this year. I’m excited for her, and I can’t wait to start going to football games and seeing her take the field.

There is, however, one small negative to marching band. It is freaking expensive.

Annual fees alone are kind of scary. I’m very fortunate that I’ve done enough freelance work over the past couple of months that I’ve earned enough to cover that hit to our budget. But it barely begins to cover what will be our biggest expense this year: the annual Spring Break trip.

It is so very cool that marching band has a huge Spring Break trip every year. I know it will give Kiersten some amazing opportunities to travel not only the country but also the world. This year, the kids are going to Disneyworld in Orlando, and they’ll actually get to participate in a recording session at Disney. That’s an incredible opportunity.

And it’s going to cost somewhere between $1,300 to $1,500.

I don’t, of course, believe we’ll have to pay entirely out of pocket for this. There is a fantastic Blue & Gold Sausage fundraiser coming up that should help us cover some expenses. Eric’s coworkers have already let him know they’ll be interested when he brings the brochures to work. (And if any of you Bartians out in Readerland would also be interested, please let me know! It’s yummy sausage – Eric bought some from a previous year’s fundraiser.)

I think this will help. But, I don’t know if it will help enough.

So I’m turning to all of you out in Readerland, not just Bartlesville residents.

You see, I’m working on an afghan. If you follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen a photo of the afghan in progress. Below you’ll see just a bit more progress.

Beginning of the afghan

Beginning of the afghan

I’m making an afghan-of-many-colors out of the ridiculously large stash of yarn I own. (A lot of it was given to me by very generous folks who had too much yarn themselves, lol.) What you see here is one row, and part of a second row, of what will be 18 rows of multicolored rectangles. I’m already really excited by how it’s turning out.

For a better idea of what this afghan will look like when it’s finished, you can see a photo here: http://www.lionbrand.com/stores/lionbrand/pictures/l20376a.jpg

How would you like to own this? Or maybe a pair of handknitted fingerless gloves? Or a behatted teddy bear? Or a set of crocheted coasters or a scarf?

If this sounds good to you, then maybe you’d like to participate in my raffle!

You may remember that a few years ago, I had a charity raffle to benefit relief efforts in Japan after the devastating tsunami. This will work very similarly to that, except that the proceeds will go toward helping my daughter get to Disneyland with her band.

Here’s what I’m going to do: I’ll sell raffle tickets for $1 per ticket. You will buy as many tickets as you like. You can buy as few as one or as many as… well, as many as you want! Obviously, the more tickets you buy, the better your chances are of winning a prize.

The raffle tickets will sell for one week. At the end of the sale time, I will hold the raffle by drawing numbers using http://www.random.org/, a random number generator. I’ll draw however many prizes I have total (I’ll have at least 4 prizes available, possibly more), and then notify the winners. The prizes will go out as soon as possible. Most prizes will have no more than a week’s turnaround in shipping; the afghan may take a little longer, depending on how long it takes me to finish it.

So what do you guys think? Would you be willing to support a raffle like this? I know it’s not a charitable cause. But it would be an opportunity to help create a great experience for my daughter — and you have a chance to win some fun prizes. (She will be helping with the prizes, by the way; I’ve taught her to crochet, and she’ll be crocheting the squares that will become either a coaster set, a scarf, or perhaps even both.)

Please let me know if you’d like to participate! You can leave a comment here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Road to Redemption: The Peculiar Case of Neil Harman

A few days ago, my new tennis blogging friend Matt Zemek wrote what I’m sure wasn’t intended to be eerily prescient, but wound up being so anyway: a column about “sports forgiveness,” or how much we are/can be/should be willing to forgive an athlete’s misdeeds.

I found it an intriguing little piece, absorbing and thought-provoking. And when the news came out about the plagiarism of Neil Harman, writer for the London Times, I soon thought of Matt’s column.

The news first broke on the Changeover blog. The sporting website Deadspin expanded on the story. Then, finally, came Ben Rothenberg’s article on Slate, detailing just how far and deep and wide went the plagiarism (as well as the knowledge of it).

As I often do when tennis-related news breaks, I spent a lot of time perusing my tennis timeline on Twitter, reading the reactions of others. I saw, first, a lot of reactions just like mine, which can be represented thusly:

1. Complete and utter shock. “Neil Harman did WHAT?!” Most of the people on my timeline are not great fans of his, yet most never dreamed that he would commit the incredibly serious journalistic crime of plagiarism.

2. Dismay. “How could he be so stupid?? He’s been a journalist for a long, long time!” Without really knowing precisely what he had plagiarized (at first, anyway), it was hard to know how he could have done something so dumb, something that every journalist knows is a huge no-no.

3. Sadness. Most of us were dismayed at the end of what had been a rather respected career. For after so great a breach of trust, I personally couldn’t see how Harman would have a career in journalism anymore, and I think most agreed with me.

However, as more details came out as to the breadth of this thing, I saw the opinions on my timeline begin to fracture. I personally did not see anyone say how much they empathized with Harman, but I read others’ surprise at seeing empathy for him. I was very surprised to see a journalist tweet to Harman saying, in effect, “everyone makes mistakes… no biggie.”

I saw anger develop, both toward Harman and toward Wimbledon. Some of that was my own. I remain not so much angry with Harman as puzzled — primarily with how “shocked” he kept saying he was at hearing that he had committed plagiarism. I, along with many others, wondered how on earth you could plagiarize without meaning to. Harman steadfastly maintained that he “must have forgotten” to attribute material, time and again, because of the tremendous time pressure he was under to churn out the annual Wimbledon yearbook.

I personally felt a heck of a lot more anger towards Wimbledon, who found out that Harman had plagiarized material for one of their yearbooks (never mind, for the moment, that he had actually plagiarized for a lot more than simply one yearbook) and then did precisely nothing about it. Oh, sorry. They told him he wouldn’t be authoring the 2014 yearbook. But he still received a press credential, he was still asked to write something about Andy Murray for the Wimbledon program, and he was still invited to the Champions’ Dinner. What’s more, they didn’t even pull the yearbook from their online store or physical store until one of the journalists he had plagiarized confronted Wimbledon about it.

This was where I started thinking about the whole idea of “sports forgiveness” that Matt brought up in his piece. Obviously this was not a question of forgiving an athlete as much as forgiving a sports writer. But some of the same questions came into play.

Here is where I am coming from. I am a Christian, and as such I believe very strongly in the tenet of forgiveness. However, in Christianity we view forgiveness mostly in regards to people we have some sort of relationship with, good or bad. Forgiveness is not an option for a Christian, but a requirement, to anyone who has hurt them. There are a number of reasons for this that I won’t get into, but one of the strongest reasons is because refusing to forgive causes us to think more highly of ourselves than of someone else. And that is one of the very things that Christians are called upon to not do.

Christians are also, however, called upon to extend mercy to people who have been wronged and hurt. Plagiarism hurts so many people. It hurts the people whose words are plagiarized. It hurts the reputation of the publication in which the plagiarism appears. It hurts the readers who no longer know who to trust.

I feel bad for Neil Harman. And I don’t feel bad for him. I feel bad for him because his reputation is now shot and his career is in ruins. I feel bad for him because somehow, in some way, his journalistic ethos went out the window in choosing to plagiarize. I feel bad for him because he had a terrible series of lapses in judgment — which all of us has had at some point or other — and now he will pay dearly for it. I even feel bad for him because he seems so confused as to how it happened.

However, I don’t feel bad for him because he chose to do this. I would assume he believed he would never get caught. Perhaps he assumed that the All-England Club had better things to do than to make sure everything in the yearbooks he wrote were either his own unique work or properly attributed. Perhaps he assumed that readers who stumbled across previously-written words in his yearbook would write it off as déjà vu. Perhaps he simply assumed that no one would really care. (That certainly seems to be the case for Wimbledon, if Rothenberg’s article is any indication.)

I sincerely hope that Harman, as a fellow human being, can turn this around. I hope he learns from his mistakes and stays a million miles away from the dark road that led him to believe plagiarism was an option. I hope he can rebuild his career. I also hope he learns to show true, real remorse, rather than the current apology that makes it sound like all of this was just a terrible accident and a brief lapse in professionalism.

I’m not sure I can really discuss “forgiveness” as it relates to Harman. He didn’t hurt me personally. He hurt a lot of others, though — the writers he plagiarized, the readers who purchased his yearbooks, possibly even the newspaper he works for. He even hurt the profession of journalism, at least in the tennis world, as it will be tempting for tennis fans to lump all journalists in with Harman and declare “they’re all a bunch of hacks!”

For their sake, I hope Harman finds true remorse in himself and will take it upon himself to apologize to the people he wronged. I think they deserve that much. And I think the road to redemption will be much shorter if he can fully admit to his wrongdoings and sincerely seek their forgiveness. Theirs is the forgiveness he needs. Not mine.

A Fan’s Perspective: Petra Kvitova & Novak Djokovic

While I, like most of the rest of the tennis world, first came to know Petra Kvitova when she won the 2011 Wimbledon championships, I first became her fan at the Year-Ending Championships (YEC) the same year.

That fandom had a bizarre beginning. Why, you might ask? What drew me so to this shy 21-year-old who happened to win Wimbledon and then the YEC?

She shrieked.

She didn’t shriek during points, vis-à-vis Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka. No, Petra let out a pterydactyl-like shriek of “POJD!” after every winning point. I know a lot of people detested it. But I adored it. I think I related to the unbridled enthusiasm that led to that piercing exultation.

As I watched Petra win the YEC, I – along with much of the tennis world- felt like I was seeing the next World #1.

That, of course, was not meant to be. Azarenka, Sharapova, and Williams played Ping-Pong with the #1 ranking, resting finally with Williams. Petra, meanwhile, stumbled early and often, increasingly revealing a maddening inconsistency and tendency to struggle to control her nerves.

Yet even as frustrating as it was for me to watch her fail to fulfill her potential again and again, at the same time I learned more about her as a person (outside of her tennis), and it made me like her more. I learned she was shy and found coping with her Wimbledon fame difficult. (That’s something I can understand, as a shy person myself.) I learned she was down-to-earth and sweet. I learned she was a hard worker, constantly working to improve her fitness, patience, and nerve.

When Petra joined Twitter, I followed her immediately, and her persona there left her down-to-earth fingerprints everywhere. After her losses, she would thank fans for their support and promise to continue working hard, which I found endearing.

Sometime between 2013 and now, Petra earned the somewhat mocking nickname of “P3TRA,” owing to her unfortunate propensity for playing 3-set matches, almost regardless of the level of her opponent. How she found out about the nickname, I don’t know, but she did and embraced it. A few times she tweeted and referred to herself with that nickname, like so:

https://twitter.com/Petra_Kvitova/status/443218506440392704

If there’s anyone I love more than a down-to-earth sweetheart, it’s a down-to-earth sweetheart who doesn’t take herself seriously. Petra’s embrace of P3TRA made me love her all the more.

After Wimbledon 2013, when Petra lost to Kirsten Flipkens in the quarterfinals, I basically gave up hope that she would win another major title. But I couldn’t stop being her fan. By this time, not only was I a fan of the person, I was also a diehard fan of the game.

When she’s on, Petra has an easy power that enables her to hit jaw-dropping winners from anywhere on the court. She has a great lefty serve and deceptively sweet touch at the net. Her movement, traditionally a liability (tough to move a 6-foot frame quickly), has improved over the years.

Sure, there’s lots to admire in the games of the other top women: the nearly weakness-free, devastating power and variety of Serena; the tough-as-nails and never-say-die attitude of Maria; the creativity and variety of Aga Radwanska; the consistency and toughness of Victoria. But I can’t help adoring Petra Kvitova — maddening inconsistency, frustrating nerves, P3TRA and all.

No one’s winning smile makes me happier. And I am so very, very proud of her for having made the Wimbledon final once again. She might not win, but she’s fought so much nonsense within herself to get there.

My love affair with Novak Djokovic goes back far longer ago than my Petra fandom. It’s necessary to start with a bit of background. I was a diehard Pete Sampras fan from 1990 to his retirement in 2003. For several years afterward, I barely kept track of tennis, and so I wasn’t really ready to embrace a new dominant champion. In fact, Roger Federer’s dominance kind of offended me. People embraced him far more readily than they embraced Pete, and he started threatening (and overtaking) all of my boy’s records.

For that reason I was delighted by the emergence of Rafael Nadal when he began to challenge Federer. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to fully embrace him either. It might have been that I couldn’t bring myself to adore his game. Call it elitist and snobbish if you must, but I couldn’t bring myself to love his grinding game after years of adoring the floating Sampras (and the balletic Stefan Edberg before him).

Then, in 2007, I heard bits and pieces, rumblings if you will, about some Serbian kid named Novak Djokovic. I heard he had started challenging Federer and Nadal a bit, even beating them both at a hard court Masters tournament. I didn’t pay a tremendous amount of attention, though, until the U.S. Open. I don’t remember the round, but I remembered feeling a little frustrated with my lack of whole-hearted desire to follow tennis, and then I happened to turn on the TV and found that Novak was about to play.

I thought, I’ve heard of this guy, but I’ve never seen him play. Let’s check him out.

It was love at first sight. I fell head-over-heels in love with his tennis. I loved the defense. I loved how he seemed to track everything down and send it back with interest. I loved his easy, fluid service motion. I loved his spirit and fight.

And then, after he won, the on-court interviewer asked him if he would be willing to do some impersonations. After he impersonated both Maria and Rafa, I died laughing and fell even more deeply in love. This boy, I thought, has SPUNK. He’s FUN.

I never looked back, and 7 years later, I’m still proud to be a Novak Djokovic fan.

Much like Petra Kvitova, I found out more about Novak off-court over the years, and it led me to love him even more. I learned about his intense love for his home country of Serbia and all the work he did to try to better life for the natives of his homeland. I saw his tremendous sense of humor and refusal to take himself too seriously.

On court, aside from the tennis, I saw a lot to admire as well. I saw the applause for his opponents’ winners, both when he was ahead in the scoreline and when he was behind. I saw the willingness to concede points to his opponents after faulty line calls – again, both from a winning and a losing position. I saw the deep respect for everyone on the court. I saw genuine handshakes as well as hugs after matches both won and lost.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of complaints about some of the things Novak has done that had him labeled as “arrogant” or “disrespectful” or even “classless.” Some of these things, of course, I wish he wouldn’t have done. I’ll forever cringe at the memory of the 2008 U.S. Open post-match interview following a win over Andy Roddick. I wasn’t really paying much attention to tennis after Novak retired from a match versus Rafa at the French Open and asserted that he had been “in control” of said match, but if I had been, I probably also would have considered him arrogant (as well as ridiculous).

However… no one is perfect, and especially when one is young and has been deeply invested in by his family since he was even younger, mistakes and missteps are inevitable. But I have seen Novak grow and mature and settle into an young man (I’m 13 years older than he is, I can call him “young!”) who conducts himself with great dignity and integrity.

I am fully aware that Novak continues to have tremendous flaws, some of which absolutely harm him on the court. One of them is his desperation for crowd love. I hate that crowds so often root against him, but I hate even more that he lets it affect him as much as it does. Maybe because I have fought with a lifelong desperation for people to like me, it frustrates me that he hasn’t yet learned to let it go. He has certainly gotten better, but he’s still a work in progress.

Of course, like most of Novak’s fans, I’m also frustrated by his recent difficulties in Grand Slam finals. We were spoiled by his near-inability to lose major matches in 2011 and the beginning of 2012, only to see him crash and burn repeatedly on the sport’s biggest stages since then. Though he’s been arguably the most consistent man on the tour over the past 4 years, it’s devastating to see so few Grand Slam titles result from all that consistency.

But much like I can’t quit Petra, even with her struggles, I know I’ll never quit my Novak fandom either. I’ve watched tennis for most of my life, and not a single player has made me as fiercely proud to be a fan as Novak Djokovic has. On and off the court, no tennis player has delighted me more.

And after all his difficulties, I couldn’t be prouder that Novak keeps reaching the final round of majors, including this one.

Godspeed, Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic. Best wishes for your Wimbledon finals. I’ll continue to love you both, no matter what happens.