Harper Lee – The Tennis Connection


Gregory Peck And Mary Badham In 'To Kill A Mockingbird' : News Photo

Harper Lee Made Music for us All

Bill Simons

The recent passing of Harper Lee suggests much that applies to our sport. The transformative effect of “To Kill a Mockingbird” brings to mind the impact of the game-changing Billie Jean King. Of course, Lee’s central character was the inspirational (why can’t we all be like him?) Atticus Finch. Ironically, tennis’ answer to the courageous, racially-aware, modest, paternally-gifted and brilliant hero would be the late African-American Arthur Ashe. Former NY mayor David Dinkins said, “Arthur was just plain better than most of us.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” has been said to be the fourth most impactful book of all time. Similarly, Martina Navratilova is said to be the No. 4 male or female in history. And what about Atticus’ vulnerable, wide-eyed and gutsy daughter Scout? Our favorite scouting report was Jay Berger’s quip that “the best weapon in tennis is Mats Wilander‘s brain.”

Lee had a pretty good mind herself. Together with her heart and gift for storytelling, she touched millions and changed the world. She told us, “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see.”

She wrote that, “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks,” and added that, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” She suggested that Atticus, “who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” Ultimately she advised, “Shoot all the bluejays you want…but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird…Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.”