Today in Sports History – McEnroe’s Outburst

Today in Sports History – McEnroe’s Outburst

Thirty-one years ago, John McEnroe made history with his “you cannot be serious” scream at Wimbledon.

Certain moments end up defining a career. They end up being so spectacular, whether it be in a a negative or positive manner, that they’re still discussed decades after. John McEnroe’s 1981 outburst at Wimbledon is one such example. This was the first time, at least in public, we heard McEnroe yell “You cannot be serious!”, a phrase he would later use repeatedly, and one that still gets brought up in modern day interviews with the tennis legend.

During a first-round match against fellow American Tom Gullikson, McEnroe enthusiastically disagreed with umpire Edward James over the call, arguing he had hit the ball inside the court. Gullikson was serving at 15-30 and 1-1 in the first set when that McEnroe shot was ruled out.

You can’t be serious man, you cannot be serious!

That ball was on the line. Chalk flew up! How can you possibly call that out?!

Soon after, he called James the “absolute pits of the world”. In response, the umpire awarded a point to Gullikson. The audience seems to be clapping the whole time, first in support of McEnroe’s disapproval of the point, then for the judge scoring against McEnroe for his ‘misbehavior’.

In the finals of the same tournament, McEnroe went on to defeat his Swedish arch-rival Bjorn Borg, claiming the first of his three Wimbledon titles. The phrase “You cannot be serious” ended up the title of his autobiography, and he even trademarked it. Must be nice to get paid for a tantrum thrown in your early-20s.