U.S. SOLOMON/CARTER TEAMS SELECTED,
A third official grievance was filed against Mehas, but the Grievance Committee found this grievance, also, did not warrant any penalties. Mik Mehas had earlier told CROQUET WORLD that he trusted the Grievance Committee to make a fair judgment and on that basis he expected to be exonerated.
CROQUET WORLD ONLINE MAGAZINE apologizes to readers and to Mehas for characterizing the Mission Hills incident reported in our previous story as a "brawl." The writer accepted as fact accounts of persons at the tournament who declined to be quoted and therefore cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of their statements.
BURRIDGE COMMENTS ON THE BRITISH TEAM SELECTIONS
Ian Burridge, chairman of the British Selection Committee and the sixth-ranked member of the British team, responded at length to CROQUET WORLD's request for comment on the upcoming Solomon matches. "Unlike your selection committee," Burridge said, "ours does not have guidelines for selecting for events. We tend to start each meeting with a discussion about what our policy will be towards selection for that particular event. Usually we decide to pick the best team (for team events) or the best players for individual events - although we do not want to be tied to this by announcing it as an official policy.
"On this particular occasion for the Solomon Trophy we chose to select our best team - whatever that means! - from the available players. From a personal point of view I regard this as the only just decision, as there are not many croquet test matches in the calendar, and I do not feel it is fair to deprive one of your top players the opportunity of playing for his country in favour of giving someone else a chance. I was exceedingly pleased at the number of our top players who made themselves available for the event, given that it is totally unsupported and the players are having to pay all their own expenses.
"I am looking forward to the match tremendously. Hopefully I will improve on my previous performance in the event!" Burridge continues, referring to his failure to win any games in the previous Solomon matches in 1995 in England.
"Looking at the record books," Burridge observes, "all the matches on American soil have been much more closely contested than those in Great Britain. The scoreline from last year's MacRobertson match is unlikely to be repeated, indeed the individual matches in that match (particularly the doubles) were much more closely contested than the scoreline suggests".
Burridge is referring to the sweeping 20-1 victory of the Brits over the Americans last year. John Taves provided the single America match win in that meeting.
Continuing, Burridge comments, "I see our primary goal to be winning the match and the secondary goal being to improve our chances of winning the 2000 MacRobertson Shield. Obviously the opportunities for such improvement are small, but every little counts. In particular, the experience of playing a test match out of season is invaluable.
"I suppose I can't really finish without expressing my opinion on controversial selections. I do not think that personality should really come into selection for individual events - the best players should be selected. However, for a team event the possible negative effect of an unpopular player on the results of other members of the team (particularly doubles performances) must be carefully balanced against the positive contribution that player can make."
Noting that usually the British put a weaker team into the one-day American rules President's Cup matches following the Solomon, Burridge said, "I'm afraid I have to report that our President's Cup team will be the same as the Solomon Trophy team - no withholding this year!"
CARTER CHALLENGE COMBINES AMERICAN AND INTERNATIONAL RULES
Following the Solomon Tropny matches in Thousand Oaks, California, April
7-11, the Carter Challenge in Palm Beach pits another 6-person American team
against an Irish team in matches that are played in both American and
International rules. The Irish have selected these players for the Carter
With barely a month before the beginning of the Solomon, only the question of the Mehas selection - and the possible shuffling into place of Kelley as an alternate - remains to be settled, and that question will not be answered until March 18. Until then, the USCA Solomon players will be wondering about the shape of their team.
Solomon player Wayne Rodoni, frequent partner of Mik Mehas for many years, and in full command of his own considerable reputation as "nice guy" as well as a top-ranked player, shakes his head over the Mehas brouhaha. "I don't doubt that Mik has done and said some things it would have been better for him not to have done or said. But most of the stories have been greatly exaggerated. The man is not a saint. But who is?"
Rodoni sheds light on perhaps the clearest lesson to emerge from the investigation of Mehas by the Grievance Committee. If not for this investigation, the ad hoc embellishments of unknown persons to the story of the now-famous incident at Mission Hills might have stood as fact. According to widely circulated stories, Mehas was smuggled into Mission Hills in the trunk of a car. Untrue. Some accounts described a violent confrontation of Mehas with security officials. Untrue. In fairness, one must wonder how much other Mehas stories are exaggerated or fabricated.
Wayne Rodoni has a national reputation as one of croquet's most unflappable "nice guys," despite his frequent partnership with Mike Mehas (left), who's constantly in trouble with the establishment. Here they accept the doubles trophy at the 1996 San Francisco Open.
THE DARK LEGEND OF MIK MEHAS
In the short history of USCA croquet, several personal legends have emerged, all of them benign - until Mehas. First there was the legend of a country bumpkin in overalls and a pick-up truck rolling into Palm Beach and confounding the socialite glitterati with his expert play; then there was the legend of the tiny wunderkind from the Southernwestern desert who, with his similarly scaled-down mallet, took on the champions and beat them at their own game. (The actual persons who carry the burden of these legends are among the 1997 selectees: Archie Burchfield of Stamping Ground, Kentucky; and Jacques Fournier, of Phoenix, Arizona.)
But the legend of Mehas has shaped itself in darker, ominous tones. For some, it is simply about a figure of irrepressible vulgarity. For others, the subject is deliberately evil, forever unrepentent and unredeemable. Many believe that such a presence can poison the image of the croquet establishment as it sees itself and wishes to be seen by the world. Opinions fall out broadly in these two camps:
One side seems convinced that Mik Mehas is a hopeless case, that his association in any way with USCA croquet is bad for the sport. As one respected figure who declines to be identified said, "He is a bad man. He is bad for croquet. Something needs to be done about it." On this side of the issue, facts of particular grievances are beside the point. The ultimate truth of the issue, for these hard-liners, is that the corrupting influence of Mehas should be excised from the body of USCA croquet.
The other side can be repesented by a member of the Management Committee (also asking not to be identified) who sighs wearily and declares with more than a hint of disgust: "This is a waste of time! This is a non-issue! Instead of spending all this energy trying to get rid of one USCA member, we should be working on getting 10,000 more people into the USCA!"
Mik Mehas in form and in action cuts a sporty figure on the court.
Whatever decision is taken by the Management Committee on team selections, one thing is certain: The dark legend of Mik Mehas has already colored the image of America's most elegant sport - a sport that in coming of age learns to accommodate more than one single, iconographic image, style, and personality. If Mehas did not exist, he would have to be invented, and he is being constantly invented and reinvented. The legend of Mik Mehas, as we have seen, may bear little resemblance to the man, and it is beyond his or anyone's control.
Wherever croquet is played in America - in country clubs and resorts, on public lawns in municipal parks, at private residential developments, in the back yards of croquet fanatics, on the estates of the wealthy - players linger at courtside, idly looking out over a manicured lawn where a white-clad figure plays a break, and into the silence broken only by the clack of roqueted balls, someone breathes the name of croquet's dark legend. "Have you heard the latest?" Ears prick up, the air is electric with expectation. "No! What's he done now?"
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