The first time I had ever heard of Joey Porter, the Miami Dolphins linebacker, was while watching a quarterfinal match between Andy Roddick and Roger Federer. It happened here in Miami, at the Sony Ericsson a couple weeks ago.
After a close 6-3 disappointment in the first set, Andy Roddick’s sail lost wind, and the second set looked like Federer was going to perform another easy dispatch to advance to the semis against Djokovic.
Then Joey Porter got out of his seat and took matters into his own hands.
Garbed in a bumblebee yellow Ed Hardy t-shirt, the football juggernaut walked down the stairs just above where Andy Roddick was going to begin his service game, and he raised his linebacker arms (guns) in protest and started to rally Roddick not so much with flattery, but with fighting words.
I’m not sure what he said, but based on his emphatic gesticulations this reproduction can’t be that far off:
Don’t wuss out, A-Rod! C’mon, champ, don’t quit on me! Stand up and take it to Federer like a man! If not I’m coming down there to woop your ass, son!
Yes, whatever Porter said to Roddick, he wanted to make it clear that he wasn’t leaving the grounds without seeing more tennis, either that or someone (Roddick) was going to suffer his wrath.
Put another way, Porter left his home expecting to watch two of the best tennis players in the game battle each other on full throttle until the final point, but instead he was at risk of witnessing yet another Roddick straight-set loss, leaving the NFL superstar no choice but to go home early, and he wasn’t in the mood to go back home early.
Porter demanded better. A weak performance like Roddick’s would not be tolerated, not tonight and not ever. He was an athlete; he knew that athletes weren’t quitters. Since he couldn’t win the match for Roddick, he was determined to save his fellow American from the infamy of Quitter’s Row.
Thanks to Porter’s peremptory heckles, Roddick held service to win his first game of the second set. The 0 got upmodded to a 1, and the number 5 tennis player in the world eventually caught up with the number 2.
Throughout it all, Porter never abandoned his A-Rod; he was the first in the stadium to give the 26-year-old kudos after a winner, and the first to help him get over the litany of clean winners off Federer’s racket.
Against all odds, the second set went to the Roddick/Porter team, 6-4.
It’s common knowledge now that Federer won the deciding set 6-4 after a passing shot on deuce that got him match point. But by then Porter got what he had come for: full-throttle tennis action into the late night Miami hours.
He also got his name put into the tennis vernacular when Justin Gimelstob said, “The whole stadium’s pulling a Porter,” while announcing the next day’s semifinal match between Andy Murray and Juan Martín del Potro.
What Gimelstob accurately communicated to his audience with this phrase was “The whole stadium’s getting behind del Potro with threats, and it’s working.”