TBT: Tennis, Monkey Trials, and Manuel Noriega

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Happy 137th birthday, today, to the first tennis tournament at Wimbledon. July 9, 1877, marked the opening lawn match in this suburb of London, where 21 amateurs showed up to compete in the gentlemen’s singles.

But as far as clay courts are concerned, Florida is where to be. Compared to hard courts, clay ones offer a much cooler surface that don’t radiate as much heat — and also slow the game down making it easier on knees. Clay courts are expensive to maintain, requiring ample watering, but Florida’s humidity makes this a lot easier to accomplish than the climate of other states.

This year, multiple Florida players were runners-up at Wimbledon, including Bob and Mike Bryan, and Stefan Kozlov. It has been 14 years since Florida’s Venus Williams won Wimbledon in July, 2000; and 12 years since her sister Serena did the same in July, 2002.

Tennis enthusiasts feel strongly about playing on their favorite type of surface — but in terms of true controversy, this week offers a much bigger historical first: the Scopes Monkey Trials.

On July 10, 1925 — 89 years ago — John Thomas Scopes was tried for the offense of teaching evolution to a Tennessee high school science class.

The Scopes Monkey Trial (known more formally as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes), was landmark in that it upheld the state’s prohibition against teaching evolution on grounds that it contradicted the Bible. It would not be until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968 that such bans would be struck down as contrary to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Another First Amendment case tried in July is New York v. Ferber, in 1982, in which the U.S. Supreme Court added child pornography as another category of speech excluded from protection.

Finally, it was 22 years ago tomorrow, on July 10, 1992, that former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega stood before a Miami court and was sentenced to 40 years in prison for drug and racketeering charges.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.