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AGASSI’S RIGHT: MUSIC HAS NO PLACE ON TENNIS COURT

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I never thought I'd line up alongside Andre Agassi on an issue that didn't involve either a threat to our country or the benefits of a fast-food diet.

But Agassi made sense this week, so I think the occasion deserves to be commemorated.Young Andre became enraged during his match Tuesday at the Volvo International tennis tournament in New Haven, Conn. He was upset by Jan Siemerink, but was more upset by what occurred during changeovers.

In an apparent effort to transform the sport of tennis from a dignified and honorable pursuit into a tawdry and obnoxious sideshow for brain-damaged cretins who make Beavis and Butt-head look like Nobel laureates, the ATP has decided to play music during matches.

They've got a little rock. They've got a little soul. They've got some easy listening. Some country. Just about anything to keep slow-witted ticket buyers from drooling on themselves while they watch this sport that apparently is not artful enough to keep anyone's interest save for college professors or debutantes.

Agassi complained loudly. "This is an embarrassment to the game," he told ESPN. Andre is afraid it will cheapen tennis.

Andre is wrong. It has already cheapened tennis.

By the mere fact that the people who run this sport have so little faith in their product that they think the way to revive interest is to blast music during matches so people can sit and tap their feet instead of walking out is testimony to the desperation they must feel and the misguided approaches they'll take to correct the situation.

I like music. I even have my own stereo, which allows me to play music at my leisure. I can play many kinds of music on my stereo - and I often do. I could even play new-age music if I wanted, but I'm saving that for a day when I want to get back at my neighbors.

When I go to a tennis match, I want to see tennis. I want to see today's players carrying on a tradition of decorum and sportsmanship that has been handed down by people like Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen.

I don't want to hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I don't want to hear Tony Bennett. I don't want to hear the 3 Tenors. I just want to hear silence, and then the sounds of tennis balls being hit, and then the calls of linesmen and the chair umpire, and maybe some applause.

Agassi is not my favorite tennis player. He espouses an opinion that image is everything. After seeing him play, I believe him. This is not exactly a man who has earned the privilege of carrying the eternal torch of tennis etiquette.

Yet, when he's right, he's right. And he's right.

Playing music during changeovers is tennis' version of the Frisbee-catching dog, or the rodeo clown, or the halftime acrobats, or the beach ball bouncing around the stands.

Tennis doesn't need this. It is a great sport, played by ladies and gentlemen, and it can stand on its own. You can introduce gimmicks into other games, but not tennis - or golf for that matter.

Why doesn't the PGA allow comedians to do short monologues to warm up the gallery before a group reaches the hole? Why doesn't golf have dancing girls on the fairways? Why don't they paint the greens red?

Because golf, like tennis, has dignity, a sense of honor and a grand heritage.

I'd like to see the reactions of Tom Watson or Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus if they played "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" after a double bogey at the Masters.

I guess I find this practice so appalling because the desire to add cheap theatrics to sports seems to have no bounds.

You can't go to an NBA game nowadays without having your eardrums attacked by the ravings of some hyperactive public-address announcer who feels that unless he speaks at the decibel level of an airplane engine, you won't know who's starting that night.

They don't just have the friendly ballpark organist at baseball games anymore. They have to knock you out of your seat with heavy metal. The band that plays at Raiders games reminds me a little of Spinal Tap, only without the refinement.

Up until now, I thought tennis was above all that.

Instead, in response to dwindling interest due to a dearth of stars and rivalries, tournament organizers have determined that the best way to revive the sport's image is to institute new rules that allow fans to behave boorishly by walking around the stands whenever they want to with their sodas and burgers instead of waiting for changeovers, and to stimulate brain waves with a run through the Top 40.

I never thought I'd see the day when we'd need Agassi to show us how crass tennis is becoming.