A quarter of a million people dead in Haiti, and Sampras and Agassi took a charity event to raise money for earthquake victims and turned it into a night about themselves and their stupid bickering over Agassi calling Sampras a bad tipper.
For Pete's sake, what an embarrassment.
"Wow, you got personal,'' Sampras said to Agassi, getting upset. "You got personal with me.''
"It's all fun and games,'' Agassi said, "until someone gets hurt.''
What the hell is the matter with these two?
Let me back up. Tennis tried to show that it had a heart Friday night, that it's not all about self-absorbed, entitled athletes, as its image often says. Eight legends of the game past and present, came together for an event called Hit for Haiti. They raised $1 million.
And at the start of the men's event, Agassi stood next to Rafael Nadal by the side of the court, and Sampras walked in, and then Roger Federer, and you could not help but to get chills.
Rod Laver came for the coin toss, and Federer took off his ballcap in respect.
This was going to be one special night.
Instead, Sampras and Agassi humiliated themselves, humiliated tennis. These two actually got upset with each other, and shared it with a sold-out crowd of 16,000 people. Keep in mind, the players wore microphones, and they knew their little hissy fits were going out to the world.
"Andre, Andre, Andre,'' Nadal said a few games before the bickering started, apparently sensing the tensions building. "Stop with the lip.''
It is almost unbelievable what happened Friday night. Sampras and Agassi acted like the overly drunk guy at the party, leaving everyone else feeling uncomfortable and just praying for the moment to end. I mean, thank God for Martina Navratilova, who, apparently is a wonderful human being. Same with Lindsay Davenport. In fact, all four women who took the court first, including Steffi Graf and Justine Henin all were in the spirit.
Selfless. Caring. Jovial.
Just a couple hours earlier, Henin had lost her way out of the real tournament in a shocking upset to Gisela Dulko. But there she was on court, smiling, thanking the crowd and saying it was an honor to be there.
And thank God for Nadal and Federer, too. They all did give of themselves and did raise money and help people. That's the most important thing. But it was not the impression anyone left with.
When the bickering started, Nadal stood quietly, smiling. And Federer tried to lighten the moment, saying to him, "This rivalry's intense, man.''
Federer knew why he was there. Everyone else did, really.
Agassi gave running sarcastic commentary the whole night, poking little insults at all three others, telling Nadal that he runs faster on TV than in person. Stuff like that.
Basically, he was having fun and doing exactly what he should have been doing. He and Nadal were beating Federer and Sampras, and then, with pride starting to step in, Sampras started giving a little more effort.
"You always have to get serious, huh Pete?'' Agassi said.
Remember, Agassi ripped Sampras in his book, Open, late last year, saying that Sampras was as robotic as his parrot, Peaches. Agassi also wrote that he and Sampras were in the same restaurant once, and when Sampras left, Agassi got the valet to confide to him that Sampras had tipped him just one buck.
The restaurant, by the way, was right here in Indian Wells.
Sampras had been upset about the book, and said a few weeks ago that he and Andre needed to talk man-to man.
Then Sampras stood pigeon-toed and started waddling, the way Agassi walks.
I'm pretty sure I saw smoke come through Agassi's teeth.
"Say something,'' Sampras said. "Say it.''
"I want to impersonate you,'' Agassi said.
He pulled out his pockets and said, "I don't have any money. I just like ... I ... ''
"Oh,'' Sampras said. "About my tipping? OK.''
"No,'' Agassi said. "No wait. I've got a dollar.''
Sampras: "That's how you want to play, huh?''
It seemed that these guys understood the "Hit'' part of the night, but not the "for Haiti'' part.
Federer tried to step in. Agassi said it was all right.
And then Sampras cracked a serve at Agassi's head.
I did not make that up. It was one of those half-tongue-in-cheek, half-temper tantrum things. Maybe 40-60.
Think about this: Everyone was here for charity, for other people.
"You know what,'' Agassi said. "It's better than being a valet driver when you pull up.''
"Let's talk about our baggage,'' Sampras said, referring to Agassi's book. "There we go. I'm a bad tipper. I'm sorry Barack Obama.''
I could talk a little here about rivalries, and how intense they can be. But that's not what this was about.
It was about two people acting like idiots.
And don't get the idea that maybe these guys were just joking, part of an act. Maybe at first, for 30 seconds or so. After that, it got very real.
You should have felt the night at that point. You know the cliché about the air leaving a building? That happened. The place went dead silent. The fans were shocked, embarrassed for their sports heroes.
The Tennis Channel's Justin Gimelstob came on court and tried to make things better, only making them 10,000 times worse.
"Hey guys, that got a little awkward,'' he said. "Let's have a Dr. Phil moment.''
"All for Haiti, baby,'' Agassi said.
"I don't know where he got that from,'' Sampras said. "But you know, whatever.''
Federer and Sampras won 8-6, and when it was over Sampras met Agassi at the net with open arms. They hugged.
Too bad they couldn't fake it like that all night. Too bad these legends let their little feelings get hurt on a night like this.
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