The Switch … The Quiet McEnroe

The Switch

No one in this town likes to talk about it, but with the first cool licks of autumn comes a profound and sudden shift in the sexual power structure of women in New York. Simply put, the body girls go out, the face girls come in.

It goes like this: The women with great bodies but plain faces have been ruling since Memorial Day. These are the women who figured out, a few years back, that as long as you didn’t eat much of anything, spent 20 hours a week at the gym and acquired toned arms, legs and tummy, you could bare your arms, legs and midriff all summer long and the fellas would fall over themselves, no matter if your face lacked a certain allure. In fact, most guys wouldn’t even glance at your face when you passed them on the street–that’s how busy their eyes were with your sculpted body. And on a date, your man would get dreamily lost in your sleek arms, slinky belly and pert derrière. The next day he might even scratch his head, trying to recall what your face actually looked like.

Meanwhile, New York women with comely faces but lumpish bodies–because of genes or the simple refusal to spend every free moment at the gym as opposed to, say, read a book or hold an actual conversation or maybe even eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at 1 a.m .–have been dormant. You’ve been slogging through the summer heat with your plump tummies hidden, your arms sequestered in sleeves, your legs whispering under below-the-knee skirts. You’ve been quiet, maybe even a bit pissed off–but not for long.

For when the naked summer turns into frocked fall, when clothes replace flesh as the dominant theme, the face girls are suddenly the ones the men are staring at. The women with the Olympiad bods turn, overnight, from sidewalk stunners into bony, stricken women with weird faces, while the face girls emerge as radiant, luscious beauties, the Kate Winslets who shine from September to April, ripe for plucking. They look good in expensive sweaters, wool skirts and leather boots. They’re happy that potential mates won’t see their bodies until they want them to–and, since these women have built up a summer’s worth of lust, men can sense a certain Anaïs Nin-like derring-do when it comes to a bit of kink.

Can one apply this paradigm to men? Unfortunately, no. Fat guys in sweaters look like fat guys in sweaters. But they will have their moment, too. As soon as they make their first $10 million.

–Ben Profume

The Quiet McEnroe

It was 5:30 in the afternoon at the U.S. Open, which meant that it was lunch time at the commissary for the CBS television crew. Patrick McEnroe sat on a wooden bench outside a trailer in the shadow of Arthur Ashe Stadium amidst a throng of husky CBS cameramen. Mr. McEnroe picked at a green salad. He’s been working for CBS as a commentator at the U.S. Open since 1996, a year after his brother began doing the exact same thing and earning rave reviews for it. It wasn’t the first time the brothers’ paths have crossed.

“I’ve made my own choices,” Mr. McEnroe said. “I wanted to be a tennis player. I’ve done the same things as my brother, but I made the decision to be a tennis player and do the same things. Now people say, ‘Oh, now you’re a commentator like your brother.’ Well actually, I was doing commentary before he ever did. And that’s the truth.”

So, in this instance, your brother followed you.

“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” Mr. McEnroe said. “He wouldn’t like to hear that. But I actually commentated one of his matches at the U.S. Open when he played David Wheaton in 1990 and USA asked me to come into the booth and call a set. I had a great time. I was a natural at it. So I actually did it first. I wasn’t getting paid. John was the first to have a real paid job. But I decided, just like when I decided to be a tennis player, that I felt like it was what I wanted to do. I wasn’t not going to do it because my brother was one of the greatest of all time.”

During the two weeks of U.S. Open coverage on CBS, Mr. McEnroe hosts a weekly late-night roundup at 12:30 a.m. On the weekends, he’s the studio host. Meanwhile, his brother calls the play-by-play on USA during the week and for CBS on the weekends. They hardly ever see each other, even though they work for the same station.

Mr. McEnroe’s commentary, like his playing, doesn’t have a lot of flash, but it gets the job done and he has a good rapport with his co-host, Bonnie Bernstein. When, after a night out, you simply must find out how Roger Federer fared against Peter Wessels, Mr. McEnroe is there. Somehow, it feels like home.

“I try to get into the players’ heads,” he said. “Tennis is all about how you figure out another person, how you can take advantage of weakness in their game. And I have an appreciation for how hard it is to be number 40 in the world.”

Mr. McEnroe grew up in Douglaston, Queens. At Trinity School, he was ranked third in the country among juniors, good enough to earn a tennis scholarship to Stanford University, where he led his team to two NCAA titles.

Born seven years apart, the McEnroe brothers rarely saw each other growing up. (There’s also a mysterious third brother, Mark, who is a lawyer for Priceline.com.) Even so, John’s considerable shadow was always there.

Mr. McEnroe recalled a junior tournament in Nashville. “I was 15 and there were a bunch of photographers looking on, but they weren’t taking pictures,” he said. “Then, about an hour and a half into the match, I got mad and I went ‘Argh!’ and threw my arms up. Then they took their pictures, and that was the cover of the newspaper the next day.”

At one point in 1995, Mr. McEnroe was the 28th best player in the world. But he didn’t possess the poetry or drive of his brother. He was a dogged baseliner, firing off ground strokes with a functional forehand and an effective two-handed backhand that he modeled after Jimmy Connors. There were a few decent runs, most notably in 1991, when he reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, but his career never quite took off.

“I was a good pro, maybe slightly better than a journeyman,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of natural speed and power. I had good hands and I was smart. But to be a guy ranked between 30 and 70, for me, that was really hard.”

Still, Mr. McEnroe kept at it. He ground out some memorable matches, like a four-hour, five-set comeback victory over the wily Russian Alexander Volkov at the 1995 U.S. Open. But he might be best known for a match he lost.

It was the first round of the U.S. Open in 1991, and Mr. McEnroe was up two sets, three-love in the third, against a 38-year-old Jimmy Connors. Somehow, though, Mr. McEnroe lost his concentration and allowed Mr. Connors to pull off an amazing comeback.

“The one people remember was that loss to Connors. That was very disappointing,” Mr. McEnroe said. “I was way up. I thought the match was over. With Connors, that was the kiss of death. They showed the highlights of that match on USA last night … the lowlights for me. People still come up to me and say, ‘I was in the crowd there till two in the morning. I was rooting for you.’ I’m like, ‘ Please ‘–no one was rooting for me.”

Next year Mr. McEnroe will turn 35, which means he will be eligible to play on the seniors’ tour where his older brother is currently pushing around his former rivals. But don’t expect Mr. McEnroe to be there.

“I could play next year, but I don’t think I will,” he said. “Why would I? Then I would just be doing the same thing. He does his thing and I do my thing. I want to do something different, try some other things. Maybe I’ll try to do more television. I’m always looking for something else to get involved with. I’d like to think I could be more than just a tennis guy.”

More than just a tennis guy? Patrick, did you hear? There may be a job opening Monday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC real soon.

–William Berlind

The Switch … The Quiet McEnroe