It doesn't matter if John McEnroe or any man could beat Serena Williams. Here's why.

John McEnroe's decree that Serena Williams would "be like 700 in the world," on the men's tennis circuit predictably set the internet on fire.

The former seven-time Grand Slam champion told NPR in a June 25 interview that while he thinks Williams is an incredible player, it would be "an entirely different story," if she had to compete against men.

Photo by Greg Wood/Getty Images.


Whether McEnroe is right or wrong, many saw the comment from the famously loose cannon as unfairly dismissive of one of the most dominant athletes of her generation.

We're all human; we all say misguided things from time to time. Growing and learning and owning up to mistakes are all a part of running on this crazy hamster wheel we call life and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately, last night, when Stephen Colbert tried to give McEnroe an out, he ... didn't exactly take it.

When pressed by "The Late Show" host, the former world #1 doubled down on his assertion that Williams would have a hard time beating most men.

McEnroe unequivocally credited Williams for being the "best thing that's happened to American tennis in the last 15 years" and praised her as "one of the greatest athletes of the last 100 years."

Unfortunately, he also said some other things:

"Do they say that about girl basketball players? That they're as good as Michael Jordan?"

"My girls don't think I could beat her now. I thought I could beat her. She's pregnant, so maybe I should play her now."

If you've ever wondered what getting about 80% of the way to an apology before spinning around and slamming a deep corner shot to that apology's backhand looks like, now you know.

Athletes are competitive, and no one wants to willingly relinquish the title of "greatest," especially not a notoriously prideful player like McEnroe.

Photo by Rob Taggart/Getty Images.

As an all-time great tennis player, McEnroe has certainly earned the right to consider himself a member of the sport's elite. And his comments likely resonate, in part, because people actually want to know what would happen if Williams went head-to-head with the top men of her era.

I'm curious. You're probably curious. No doubt McEnroe himself is curious.

But to dismiss William's claim to greatest-of-all-time status on the basis of her gender is particularly gross.

Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.

It's true that women are, on average, smaller than men. But sports — particularly individual sports like tennis — have always categorized players by physical stature.

Take boxing. Floyd Mayweather and Evander Holyfield are both among the greatest fighters of all time. Mayweather presently competes as a welterweight. Holyfield, however, is a former heavyweight champion. If they fought each other in their primes, Mayweather would probably dance around Holyfield for about 30 seconds, at which point Holyfield would punch Mayweather full on in in the face and Mayweather would die.

It is self-evident that Mayweather would get creamed (though I'm sure Mayweather would insist otherwise). That's why boxing has weight classes in the first place.

And yet, there's little public debate about that scenario, likely because they're both men who dominate in their respective rings. It's simply accepted that their innate physical differences prevent them from engaging in a fair fight.

Meanwhile, former male tennis greats and fans can't stop asserting Williams' inferiority.

Williams is by far the most dominant player of her era — perhaps any era.

She has exceeded her opponents in wins, points, championships, you name it. That's where her greatness lies. Beating or losing to a bunch of men wouldn't change that.

Would Serena Williams succeed on the men's circuit? It's possible she wouldn't. But McEnroe truly has no idea. Like everyone else, he's speculating.

McEnroe on the court in 1982. Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Such speculation from a figurehead of the sport sends a poor message to young girls and women involved in tennis.

It's the message that tells aspiring female players that "you can be good, but all the biggest trophies are reserved for boys." A message that suggests their abilities and strengths as a tennis player are somehow considered less than because of their gender.

McEnroe is entitled to his opinion, but Williams' accomplishments speak for themselves.

Grand Slam singles titles: 23.

Doubles titles: 14.

Four Olympic gold medals.

Over $80 million in prize money.

Any athlete, male or female, would envy a G.O.A.T.-worthy stat line like that, as they should also envy Williams' record of leadership on and off the court.

Such towering achievement might, understandably, make a woman uninterested in dwelling on hypotheticals.

How would Williams fare against the top men in tennis today? We'll probably never know.

And that's a good thing.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less