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Martina and Me

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My hockey teammate, the international tennis super-star.   By Hannah Wallace    Martina and a hockey husband after a Ms. Conduct game.   It was going to be a busy week anyway, what with Kegtacular on Saturday. I didn’t need the added stress of interviewing an international sports icon. Fortunately, me and Martina go way […]

August 6, 2008


My hockey teammate, the international tennis super-star.
 

By Hannah Wallace

 

 Martina and a hockey husband after a Ms. Conduct game.

 

It was going to be a busy week anyway, what with Kegtacular on Saturday. I didn’t need the added stress of interviewing an international sports icon. Fortunately, me and Martina go way back.

 
Ok, I’m not quite tight like that with tennis great Martina Navratilova. (She’s not even coming to Kegtacular, alas.) But she’s played for Ms. Conduct for a year or so now, and she’d recognize me and know my name if she saw me on the street. When I showed up at her Casey Key house for a Wednesday morning interview and photo shoot, she greeted me with a hug before introducing herself to the styling crew.
 
(Word recognizes “Navratilova” as a word. That’s just badass.)
 
We’re putting together a SarasotaMagazine feature about her as an icon of fitness, especially now that she’s over 50 (just barely). But Wednesday, while she was getting her makeup done, we talked about the quality of Ellenton Ice and the time she fell into the boards a couple of months ago and gave herself whiplash.
 
Early on, the Ms. Conduct gals decided “Martina” was too difficult to shout mid-game; hence, in true hockey fashion, she’s “Marty.” Marty skated as a kid in Czechoslovakia—in figure skates. (Her mother thought hockey skates would be unladylike.) Now, she says, she’d “move mountains to play hockey.” Lucky for us.
 
Still, somehow, blogging about her always seemed kind of cheap—like snapping a shot of Alan Alda while he’s eating on the other side of the restaurant. (My aunt did that once.) If I was going to tell you that Martina Navratilova was just another teammate, well, I couldn’t go scrambling for my keyboard every time she got her skates sharpened. Now that she’s legitimately tied to work, though, she’s fair game.
 
But she is like any other teammate in a lot of ways. She comes to practices and tournaments around the state (when she can; she travels a lot), stays with the team in Marriotts and Best Westerns, jokes with players in the locker room, has an occasional beer with the team after a game. She fights for the puck, high-fives teammates after good play, gives opponents the what-for if they get chippy. She even yells at the referees—once, CCB told her to “Settle down, McEnroe.” (It did not go over well.)
 
She’s got a Ms. Conduct hat with her name on it. Just like any other teammate, except she’s signing autographs on her way to the locker room.
 
I don’t necessarily think we should be amazed that celebrities are people, too. But a lot of people with a lot less power behave a lot worse, and I guess we’re just grateful that she doesn’t take advantage of the fact that most of us would’ve kissed her feet at first meeting. Instead, at any given tournament, I wander down to the Continental breakfast and who makes fun of my bed hair? Martina Effing Navratilova, that’s who.
 
Of course, she was gracious and casual from her first Ms. Conduct practice—even as the team, collectively bug-eyed, forgot how to tie our skates, much less carry on a conversation with ESPN’s 19th best athlete of the 20th century. As we waited by the rink for the zam to get off the ice, she walked up near to where I was standing. “You have a blog? A friend of mine writes a blog,” she said as though we were in line at the grocery store. “Oh?” I tried to be casual, even as I felt close to blacking out. “Yeah, that’s cool.”