We are all guilty.
Guilty of entrancing ourselves with the concept of fame in the world of sports. Guilty of wanting to settle for nothing less than perfection from the world's star-studded athletes. Guilty of putting our youngest and brightest at risk by exposing them to the working world too soon.
The obsessive quest to become the best can be a destructive force--a force which tears apart futures, families and lives. Nowhere is this force more evident than in the seemingly innocent and passive world of professional women's tennis.
Two weeks ago, Mary Pierce raised the victor's trophy in the air at the 1995 Australian Open Championships. For Pierce, the struggles that have led up to that moment of glory can never be erased or forgotten.
Like many professional women athletes, the 20-year old Pierce has lived her life under the reigns of a dominant male advisor--her father--and the stories of his persistent abuse are endless.
After seeing Pierce play many times, there is one less-publicized episode which vividly stands out in my mind. Playing in the Easter Bowl National Championships, in an age division for juniors fourteen years old or younger, Pierce lost a match to a girl one year her senior.
She did not just lose, she got demolished.
And her father would not let her forget it. After approaching and cursing at Mary's scared and teary-eyed opponent, Jim Pierce told the victor that he had $10,000 in his bag and he would gladly give it to her for a rematch. Fearful of his threatening comments, the victor ran off, but not before her mother threw soda on Jim Pierce.
After the defeated parties--father more than daughter--fled the scene, screaming could be heard in the distance.
This scene epitomized the relationship between Pierce and her father. Last year, Jim Pierce was officially banned form Pierce's tournaments, and soon after, Pierce fired him as her tennis mentor.
But, she was unable to fire him as her father.
Whether screaming, causing scenes at tournaments around the globe or having late night practice sessions in the darkness of the night, Pierce's father stunted his daughter's personal development.
The image of her father's brutal outbursts followed her and the rest of her family everywhere. Before making her mark at the top of the women's tennis ranks, Pierce and her family lived out of their car, going from tournament to tournament with one goal in mind--success. If Pierce could succeed in the midst of all of this turmoil, then it would all be worth it.
Now, although Jim Pierce lives without his daughter and her tennis, he has been hired by another young protege.
How could any parent hire a man who has gained worldwide recognition for his unruly and obnoxious behavior? One word answers the question: fame.