Well, this is kind of weird. I have watched Dancing with the Stars in the past, but for some reason I wasn't really thinking about it too much when it began this season. Possibly I have simply seen too many ice-cold tangos and lifeless jives performed by truly untalented people who stay for three weeks too long. At any rate, I got quite a shock when I discovered that a fixture of my childhood was on the show, looking absolutely terrific and dancing extremely poorly.
I grew up watching tennis. I'm not sure why, since I can't play it very well, but I always admired the speed, the finesse, the breathtaking excitement of a long, hard baseline rally that ends with each player pasting every line before somebody finally goes long. And Martina was one of the best - a superb athlete who raised the bar for conditioning and physicality in the women's game like nobody before her. Martina played that game harder than a lot of the guys, and even though I tended to root for Chris Evert when they played against each other (what can I say? I tend to root for underdogs) I always respected her immensely. So it was quite a shock to see her on Dancing with the Stars.
Gotta say this. She sure cleans up better than I ever expected possible. She was downright pretty, and she looked younger than she's looked in some time. When I saw this glamorous blonde I barely recognized hit the dance floor, and I remembered her remarkable athleticism in a time now gone by, I fervently hoped she would show some fluidity and an ability to move.
I should have known better. Monica Seles wasn't able to do this show well, either. Martina had great extension on the tennis court, but she was extremely tentative and she never really let the music move her. Well, they don't have a dance track at Wimbledon. She never had to blast a winner past her opponent in time to the rising crescendo.
Darn that jive, anyway. I can't help wondering if she would have fared better with a less frenetic dance, like the waltz - heck, even Jerry Springer did a pretty respectable waltz. All I could say was that she probably did better than I would have, since she did occasionally remember some of the steps and she showed herself to be capable of dancing in high heeled shoes. (This is an accomplishment that I believe will forever escape me.) So long, Martina. Part of me is really quite sorry that you weren't this year's Chaz Bono - the celebrity who can't dance but stayed because everybody was rooting for you as a person. On the other hand, you are a woman of genuinely legendary accomplishments; perhaps it would not be appropriate for you to be handed a bye through the draw because folks felt sorry for you. It was a pleasure to see a different you than the one I am used to, and we'll be looking for you at the finale.