We all use the Latin abbreviation, NB, when we want to emphasise something. Nota bene. But NB can also stands for something, or rather someone, else.
Do you know the American tennis coach, Nick Bollettieri? Our friend Nick is surrounded by some very scary characters in the hillarious book, 50 People Who Stuffed Up The World. It is written by Alexander Parker and Tim Richman, with cartoons by Zapiro. Need I say more?
Nick Bollettieri shares the stage with a number of baddies, including Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, OJ Simpson, The Guptas, and even Osama bin Laden.
But then, to be fair, there are also Steven Spielberg, Diego Maradona, Mark Zuckerberg, Kim Kardashian and poor Justin Bieber!
How did Nick end up in a book about people who stuffed up the world? The first five words of the chapter about him categorically justifies his inclusion. “A-Yaaah!” “Nnggggg!” “a-Yaaaaaah!” “Nngggggggggggg!” “a-Yaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!” And then this short description: “Nick Bollettieri: High-profile tennis coach; mentor of Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova, the Williams sisters and others who have made modern women’s tennis unwatchable.”
According to the authors, it was Monica Seles who opened the floodgates. “Grunting” is the word. It is described as the one consistent controversy that has for the past couple of decades unsettled the women’s game “like an annoying background drone”, or, if you’d rather, “like an annoying foreground shriek”.
And who do we have to thank for this phenomenon? His initials are NB. Nick Bollettieri is the golden thread running through the growing army of grunters, which include, apart from Venus and Serena Williams, Sharapova and “the godmother of female grunting”, Seles, names such as Azarenka, Schiavone, and the loudest of the lot, Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito, with her “affected falling-bomb whistle”.
But the times they are a-changin’, slowly but surely. The Women’s Tennis Association is aiming to eliminate “excessive grunting” from the next generation of female players. In time, the noise-makers will be steadily phased out, “like solar panels replacing diesel generators.” Let’s hold thumbs.