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Wednesday, June 27, 2012
WTA declares war against tennis grunts

By Steve Etheridge
Special to ESPN.com

Sharapova
Maria Sharapova, one of the louder tennis players, could find her volume under scrutiny.
The Women’s Tennis Association has voted to phase out grunting in its sport sometime in the foreseeable future, a move that comes suspiciously close on the heels of a “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” episode mocking the same issue.

The organizing body hopes to introduce a grunt-o-meter of sorts to measure the grunt decibels and keep players in check, though it seems a gag or a mouthful of mashed potatoes would be far more effective in this regard.

First off, I think we need to establish that those noises emitted in women’s tennis, they’re not grunts. A grunt is what happens when CC Sabathia bends over to unlace his cleats. A grunt is what happens when Tim “The Toolman” Taylor observes a relic of fine American craftsmanship. Those sounds the tennis players make are like yelps of the possessed, fit to be dubbed over a heart extraction scene in “Mortal Kombat.” Not grunts.

Second, is the “grunting” really so egregious? It’s a primal impulse, one that’s bound to escape during spells of intense physical exertion. Seems like phasing it out would mostly be an effort to appease the easily ruffled crumpet crowd, bolstering the sport’s longstanding tradition of inaccessibility.

The sports world has given us plenty of sounds more unpleasant than grunting, and we’ve endured them just fine.

• Carl Lewis singing "The Star-Spangled Banner".

• The salivary smacking when LeBron James yanks out his mouth guard to whine about a call.

Scott Stapp’s Marlins song.

• Takeru Kobayashi compressing soggy hot dog meat deep into his esophagus.

• Joe Flacco patting himself on the back.

• Pretty much every athlete album ever made.

So let the ladies have their grunts. Or at least offer them a replacement sound to fill the void. I’m thinking laser noises or maybe some fierce, competitive mooing.