John McEnroe’s Plan to Save Pro Tennis? Get Rid of Umpires, Make Players Officiate Own Matches.

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 22 2014 12:01 PM

John McEnroe’s Plan to Save Pro Tennis? Get Rid of Umpires, Make Players Officiate Own Matches.

Are you not entertained?

Photo by TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

John McEnroe—to put it mildly—never quite saw eye-to-eye with the umpire during his tennis-playing days. If the image of him berating officials and smashing rackets has dimmed in your head, here’s a quick refresher on his pretty epic bad boy ways. McEnroe has since given up the baseline for the broadcasting booth on tennis' biggest stage and has refashioned himself as an outspoken reformist ambassador of the game. Now, in what is part mission statement and perhaps part wishful thinking, McEnroe has a plan to boost tennis’ sagging popularity: “Do away with the umpires and linesmen completely,” he says.

While that may sound anarchic—and it is, really—McEnroe thinks it could inject some new energy into the game. Sort of like a reality TV version of Gladiator meets Wimbledon. Here’s what Johnny Mac has in mind, via the Guardian:

“You’d have a system where the players would call their own lines. All of a sudden things would get a whole lot edgier. But you could challenge it. Say the guy was, like, blatantly cheating and you challenge, people would be, like: ‘Boo!’ People would get way more into it. And then you’d be, like: ‘See this guy? This guy is such a cheater!’ It would be unbelievable for tennis, I promise you. The problem is, there’s no way in hell they’ll do it. But I guarantee you that tennis would be like 30% more interesting.”

“You can’t just stand on your heels and do nothing,” McEnroe said. “We’ve got to keep trying to do things, in my opinion, to grab fans.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.