The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - April 13, 1992 - Page 3
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Former Michigan tennis champion talks
about his current broadcasting career
Barry MacKay was a member of
the Michigan men's NCAA cham-
pionship tennis team of 1957. Since
then, he has played on the Davis
Cup team, on the professional tour,
and is currently a tennis announcer
for several major television
networks. MacKay also started his
own sports company which now
runs the annual Volvo tennis
tournament in San Francisco. Daily
Sports Writer Sharon Lundy got a
chance to speak with MacKay
recently about tennis and his career
Daily: What was the most mem-
orable moment of your Michigan
MacKay: I would have to say it
was when I won the singles NCAA
Championship in Salt Lake City in
June of '57. I think for sure that was
the highlight. Even though it wasn't
in Ann Arbor, it was a big moment
D: Why did you decide to come
to Michigan? Was it because of the
M: Not really. I had an uncle
who had gone to Michigan and lived
in Chicago, and he brought me up to
Ann Arbor in my junior year in high
school, and it was a great fun week-
end. I met a lot of pebple up there
and went to a couple of fraternities,
and met all the guys at the frater-
nity where I ended up living. But it
was just the general atmosphere, I
think, and he was a big influence on
my going there.
D: Were you involved in any-
thing else at Michigan or did tennis
demand most of your time?
M: No, I did a lot of stuff. I
played a lot of intramural sports,
'(Tennis is) much more
of a business, or a
"career", than it was
when I was playing.'
played intramural football, intra-
mural basketball for the fraternity
- I was a Phi Gam (FIJI). I did
other activities and played all kinds
of other sports. I had aspirations to
be in the Glee Club, but I never
quite had enough time to do that.
D: What was your major?
D: After Michigan, where did
your tennis career head?
M: Well, the very first year of
tennis after I got out of Ann Arbor,
that fall, I was chosen to be on the
United States Davis Cup team. My
first trip was to Australia and I
ended up playing in the final round
which then was called the challenge
round. I beat a fellow by the name
of Ashley Cooper, who was a
Wimbledon champion, so that was
really a big thrill for me, and that
was my first year out of school.
D: Are amateurs still allowed
to play on the Davis Cup team?
M: Davis Cup competition is
now totally open, so it could in-
volve amateurs as well as profes-
sionals. When I was playing, it was
strictly an amateur competition, but
today its totally open, so you could
h have an amateur play on the Davis
Cup team but it's highly unlikely
because most of the best players are
D: When did you start to play on
the professional circuit?
M: Well, I played amateur ten-
nis from when I graduated Mich-
igan, in 1957, through 1960. Three
years. I turned pro in January of
1961 and I played on what was then
the Kramer tour from '61 through
D: Was that like what the ATP
tour is now?
M: I wish it had been. But unfor-
tunately in those days professional
tennis was strictly a barnstorming
tour. And about 4-5 years into run-
ning that tournament, I had my own
event, and started doing courtside
interviews, broadcasting, and that's
how all that got started.
D: From a broadcasting stand-
point, what are some of the memo-
rable matches you covered?
M: Well, certainly the Borg-
McEnroe final at Wimbledon which
I ended up doing for an American
radio network - that was a big
thrill, a big match in 1980. I've cov-
ered Wimbledon since '83, so I'd
have to say the Becker win in 1985
was one of the biggest matches I've
covered, because he was so voung and
I still think he should have stayed in
D: What do you think about the
new ATP circuit? How do you think
it is working out?
M: Well, I think it is a big im-
provement over the days of what
was called the Grand Prix circuit.
The ATP tour is run much more like
a business than it was before 1990.
'When I played my first
tournament it was just
six of us, so it was a
atmosphere than the
days of the tour
There is excellent support from the
ATP organization down in Florida
for all the tournaments. When I say
support, I mean there is a lot of pub-
lic relations support. When we have
our event, they always send people
to help with the pressroom and gen-
eral player liaisons, and I think it is
a big improvement.
D: Compared to the days when
you were on the professional tour,
do you think tennis has changed for
M: I have mixed emotions about
that. Obviously from an economic,
dollars and cents standpoint, it's
vastly improved. There are over 300
players making more than a good
living playing professional tennis
today, where then there were 14 or
15 guys who were barely making a
living, and those 14 or 15 guys were
certainly at the talent level of the
15 top players of the world today.
But that's just a sign of history and
the sports world.
In terms of camaraderie, enjoying
life and having a good time out on
the professional circuit, I think in
many respects we had a lot more
fun. But on the other hand we
weren't playing for the kind of dol-
lars that the players are today. So its
much more of a business, or a
"career", than it was when I was
D: What was your reaction when
you found out that Arthur Ashe has
M: I was obviously very disap-
pointed and disturbed. I was proba-
bly more disturbed about the pri-
vacy situation. I know Arthur aw-
fully well, and though he had never
said anything to me directly I had
heard from some other people that
he wasn't well and there were some
rumors circling around, but to actu-
ally see him up there in front of the
world explaining everything was
very touching. I felt for him. I felt
bad for him.
D: What was the reaction among
the tennis community in general?
M: I think most of the people
I've talked to are very upset with
the whole issue of invasion of pri-
vacy. That's the issue that has been
jumping out in front. It's terrible
that he's contracted this thing
through the transfusion. In fact, I
ended up going to Wimbledon in
1983 when Arthur had his first
heart bypass done. I think there is a
general disappointment in the press
and in the media.
Smith was rightto prit
Ashe's AIDS condition
Ethical debates about the printing of Arthur Ashe's AIDS condition
have raged on since Ashe announced he has the disease Wednesday.
Some claim USA Today tennis writer Doug Smith violated Ashe's right
to privacy; others find no fault with Smith's decision to expose the
I subscribe to the latter. Smith's decision was a no-brainer - once
he knew it, he had to print it.
My heart goes out to Ashe and his family, whose suffering will un-
doubtedly increase since the announcement. Because I had spoken with
Ashe just last September, during an interview about Black collegiate
athletes, the news of his illness struck me more immediately than if he
had been just a distant celebrity.
But if there is a villain in this case, besides AIDS itself, it is not
Smith, who confronted Ashe with the question after learning of his
condition from a source close to Ashe. Rather, it's the source who
"ratted" Ashe out.
Ashe trusted this undisclosed person with information of the most
sensitive nature. Going public with it was irresponsible and cruel.
However, printing it was right.
Cynics claim that Smith reported the news for self-advancement.
That USA Today printed the story to sell newspapers. That the public's
right to know is simply a principle guaranteeing that its appetite for in-
formation will be satisfied. Smith didn't think about whom he'd be
tour in which people would play
one night stands on a roll-out court
in high school gymnasiums, in small
towns all over the country. When I
played my first tournament it was
just six of us, so it was a totally
different atmosphere than the days
of the tour today.
D: Did the tour have the same
type of rankings as it does today?
M: Not really, because there
were no computer systems, and in
the early '60s we weren't even play-
ing tournaments. It was more just
challenge matches and one-night
stands. So until the actual open ten-
nis came about in 1968, and until '68
there were no virtual rankings at all
in professional tennis.
D: What did you do after playing
with the Kramer tour?
M: Then I came back to Northern
California and settled down in 1967
and went into the investment busi-
ness. I was a stockbroker for about
three and a half years.
D: How did you get involved
with sports broadcasting?
M: That all began after starting
my own company in 1970. I formed
my own little sports company
called BMK Sports, Inc., and started
running the major tournament out
here in San Francisco which is now
called Volvo Tennis San Francisco,
the kickoff for the worldwide ATP
rsn to5,- - - ~ Itutu
surprised everybody. I'd have to say
some of the McEnroe events at the
US Open were very exciting. I cov-
ered those for USA and for CBS.
McEnroe's first US Open victory
back in, I think it was 1979, was
pretty exciting to cover.
D: Have you been following
MaliVai Washington's career?
M: I have - he was obviously a
University of Michigan student for
a while. MaliVai and his dad were at
a big conference for young players in
New York about four or five years
ago and they asked me to just come
and chat with him since we had both
gone to Michigan.
The only difference was that I
graduated from Michigan, and my
whole goal was to try to get him to
stay in school. So I was telling him
how great it was, and how if he
stayed he could play big league
tennis while he was at Michigan,
and then turn pro after he graduated.
Well about 12 hours later, the New
York Times had a big article in
sports that MaliVai Washington
turned pro. I was telling everybody
- I was a big influence, wasn't I?
He's a real nice kid, I like him.
He's got a lot of talent, and he
should have a big year this year. He
won the tournament in Memphis
against Wayne Ferreira, who got to
the semifinals of the Australian, so
MaliVai is really coming on strong.
hurting, they say.
, But he couldn't have thought about whom he'd be hurting.
I don't know why Smith wrote the story, but I do know that once he
learned of Ashe's condition, he had no choice. As a journalist, Smith
had to print what he knew. Journalists can't speculate; they must simply
abide by the rule of reporting the facts.
Good, as well as bad, will come from Ashe's announcement. Just as
there are reasons for not printing, there are reasons for printing.
For instance, attitudes about AIDS will change. Empathy for its vic-
tims will increase. The stigma that burdens them will fade. It's unfair
that this must come at Ashe's expense, but then it's unfair that he con-
tracted the disease. And let's be pragmatic - it would have come out.
At some point, a reporter would have learned about Ashe's illness. The
sooner the story broke, the more helpful the message could be.
I don't know if these thoughts entered Smith's mind. Maybe none of
them did. Maybe they all did. But there was simply too much to con-
Journalists mustn't abandon all compassion for their subjects,
However, they mustn't let compassion backfire. To avoid complicating
this dilemma, they must stick to their jobs - reporting the news fairly
As for readers, many of whom disapprove of Smith's action, they
must understand that Ashe didn't want to keep his secret from the press
- he wanted to keep it from everyone. The press is but a small minor-
ity of the public. It's therefore up to everyone to try and compensate for
If people treat Ashe with the dignity and respect he deserves, as I
feel Smith did in treating AIDS just like any other illness, the detriment
of this incident will be limited. If people think Ashe deserved more
compassion, then they should give it to him.
I wish Ashe didn't have AIDS. And I wish him the least suffering
possible both from his disease and the publicizing of his disease. And I
wish his trust hadn't been betrayed.
But it wasn't betrayed by Smith.
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