Sports

How does a scolding from McEnroe feel? Ask the judge

By Casey Olson, Sidelines

It’s never fun to get yelled at.

Who likes to be told they are doing a terrible job at something? I know I don’t.

But Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Michael Morgan wears his scoldings as sort of a badge of honor. That’s because Morgan has been yelled at by the best of them, and I’m not referring to the Federal Way residents arguing over whether they really ran a red light on Pacific Highway.

Those people don’t hold a candle to the tongue-lashings Morgan received during his years of umpiring professional tennis matches at the highest level during the heyday of the sport in the 1980s and 90s. That’s when tennis bad boys like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase directed their displeasure with some of Morgan’s calls during matches.

“McEnroe has yelled at me,” Morgan said. “But not as bad as some other guys. I was his age and he actually liked umps who were younger. He thought they were more alert. I remember one time when he yelled at all 10 officials, but me. Connors persistently rode me and Nastase was the worst of them all.”

Morgan’s foray into professional tennis umpiring came after he graduated from law school in 1983. He had a long history of playing tennis and was part of three state championship teams while attending Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma.

“I got into it because I had a lot of friends playing at PLU and that opened a lot of doors,” Morgan said.

Morgan eventually umpired several Davis Cup matches, the U.S. Open and World Team Tennis before hanging up his “out” call in 1992 to concentrate on his burgeoning law career.

“It was a good time for me to get out,” Morgan said. “I got to work matches with Connors and McEnroe and (Pete) Sampras and (Andre) Agassi. I picked a great time to do it and saw some great matches. I have a lot of good old pictures from some of the matches. I have no regrets about that portion of my life. I had fun.

“I actually didn’t mind McEnroe because he called a lot of attention to some of the problems with officials. He made it so there was a lot more training that went into it. I miss it sometimes. But I get to sit back and tell the war stories.”

Now, Morgan is just a tennis fan. He is currently in Portland taking in this weekend’s 2007 Davis Cup finals between the United States and Russia. The three-day event will run through Sunday at the 12,000-seat Memorial Coliseum.

“It’s a pretty neat event,” Morgan said. “The Ryder Cup (in golf) is a pretty good comparison. You can tell that the players get nervous and the best player always doesn’t win. The level of patriotism is much greater. I’m looking forward to it.”

This is the first time that Portland has hosted a Davis Cup final and tickets sold out in a half-hour. This is the first time the U.S. has hosted a Davis Cup final since 1992.

“I’m super excited for the guys and tennis in general,” said Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe on a teleconference last month. “Yes, I knew it was going to sell out quickly because I can’t tell you the amount of requests I’ve had with people that want to come from all over the place, to come to the final. Portland’s had some great events out there. I love the city. I think it’s a great place to go for the final.”

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Morgan said. “I have never been to the Davis Cup as a fan. You are going to have people rooting and being very demonstrative. It’s different than the New York crowd at the U.S. Open at night because they are raucous because they want controversy. The Davis Cup crowd just wants to see their team win.”

This weekend will also be a good one for Morgan because he will be the one yelling, not the one getting yelled at.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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