John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors should be kicked off the U.S. Davis Cup team immediately.
Get 'em gone. Can't do it too soon.
For everybody's good, especially their own.
It's all right for McEnroe to act like McEnroe and for Connors to act like Connors when they're playing on the pro tennis circuit. The only reputations they ruin are their own. If they still have reputations.
But when McEnroe and Connors play Davis Cup, they represent America.
As for this 1/220,000,000th part of the nation, I don't want either of them representing me.
What McEnroe and Connors have done in the past few weeks is a new low, even for them. It's time to drop the big one on these guys.
Last week, the U.S. Tennis Association felt it necessary to write a code of conduct for future U.S. Davis Cup players.
Why? Because McEnroe and Connors acted like such spoiled babies in December when a Swedish team full of underdog teen-agers trounced them, 4-1.
In Goteborg, Connors was fined $2,500, some of it for his familiar obscene gestures and foul mouth. McEnroe was his usual petulant, name-calling, match-delaying, equipment-smashing, gamesmanship-playing 12-year-old self.
These prima donnas were such pips that USTA President Hunter Delatour felt he had to apologize at a postmatch dinner. Also, the sponsor of the team (Lousiana-Pacific Corp.) wrote to the Davis Cup chairman, saying the U.S. team "fails badly when it comes to living up to minimum behavior standards on the court, during awards ceremonies and at other Davis Cup events . . . . Abusive language, gestures, abuse of rackets, balls and court-side accessories -- all such irresponsible and immature behavior should not be tolerated."
When you violate "minimum behavior standards" in tennis, you've really done something because, in my opinion, pro tennis has no behavorial standards. It is ironic that the American sport that most aligns itself with money and social status -- the game that thinks it's so ritzy -- has become the most nouveau riche, no-class game on the map.
And McEnroe and Connors epitomize it.
Their reactions to their latest flap were revelatory. They're both so shell-shocked by years of criticism, so deep into the mind-set that nothing is their fault, that they have no idea how far over the line of socially acceptable behavior they've wandered.
"I resent finding out about this from a carbon-copy letter," said Connors of the sponsor's letter concerning his misconduct. "McEnroe and I are big boys. If someone had something to say, they could say it to our face."
Gee, Jimmy, too bad about that carbon copy. Guess you've never hurt anybody's feelings. See how it feels? At least you were right on the "boys" part. Oh, yes, about that "to our face." You seemed to forget the recent Volvo Masters, when you made an obscene gesture behind Ivan Lendl's back so all the fans and a hundred reporters could see it but he couldn't. But that's just you -- always so cute.
McEnroe even topped Connors in his supercilious reaction. "I think the whole thing is one big joke. I didn't even see the letter," said McEnroe at first. "I might have gotten one. Maybe they sent it to my father and he didn't tell me about it. He knows better than to tell me about things like that."
As for the USTA president who apologized to the well-mannered, and shocked, Swedes, McEnroe said, "If Hunter Delatour thinks we're embarrassing, he should take a look in the mirror."
Hey, nice comeback, Mac. Learn that one at recess and remember it all these years?
Told of the new Davis Cup team rules -- which don't call for an organ donation, just "courtesy and civility" -- McEnroe, in his stop-picking-on-me whine, said, "If they don't want us playing, they should just tell us."
Oh, if only somebody would.
If only we would finally stop giving them a thousand and one chances. For 10 years, I've been among the bleeding hearts who've looked for something decent beneath McEnroe's boorishness and excused Connors' public indecencies because he had guts. But we're not doing them any favors.
Excuse them all you want, they're still a pair of prize jerks. And they're the only ones who don't know it. It would be funny if it weren't sad.
What we need to tell McEnroe and Connors now is, "Who needs you? We can lose the Davis Cup without you."
Unfortunately, the only time a jock finds out what people really think of him is when he stops winning. It's typical that nobody in the cringing tennis community managed to raise a stink until the Davis Cup was lost. You don't think anybody in tennis would have the backbone to stand up to a winner?
Now's the time to give Jimbo and Mac the magic words.
All together now: "Get lost."
As matters now stand, McEnroe and Connors both say they'll sit out the first-round '85 Davis Cup series in Japan. Funny how all that patriotism disappears when you have to fly 10,000 miles to beat a weak foe and the PR you get out of it might be bad, not good.
Despite their absence in Japan, the betting is that, with king-of-the-good-guys Arthur Ashe back as team captain, McEnroe and Connors will get one more chance to wear "USA" on their jackets.
"There were certainly people who wanted to see me (and McEnroe and Connors, as well) fired. That's no secret," Ashe has said. "We're the only team in the world that has this problem. We're talking about two players. I think the guys know that if I choose them to play and they don't behave, we're all fired."
Unfortunately, McEnroe and Connors will probably be picked, manage to be on their best behavior and win. That's their smart course of action -- to keep their bad guy images from putting a dent in their endorsement contracts.
A year hence, all may end up being forgiven and almost forgotten.
But that's not what should happen -- not for the good of tennis, the good of the U.S. Davis Cup team or even the good of McEnroe and Connors. Ashe has stood between this pair and their comeuppance too long.
What they need is the hardest slap in the face that we can give them. They should be "fired" now. On merit. Who cares if we win the Davis Cup? Do we really want it if McEnroe and Connors are the ones who bring it home?
Maybe someday one of them will even say, "Thanks, I needed that."