by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

WIMBLEDON, England — Give me five minutes, that’s all I ask. Five minutes alone with Stefan Edberg, in a quiet room, with the door locked. The man has a problem. The man needs an image overhaul. You can’t go through life handsome, rich and boring. Steve Garvey already did that.

No, sorry, Edberg must be saved. If he’s going to be as good as he is, if he’s going to keep reaching the Wimbledon final, as he has now done for the second year in a row, if he’s going to whip Mr. Personality, John McEnroe, as he did Friday with blazing backhand volleys and deadly service returns, if he’s going to keep coming into the interview room with the place filled to capacity and then . . .

JOURNALIST: Stefan, can you tell us the biggest reason you won the match?

EDBERG: I played good; he played good.

JOURNALIST: What about McEnroe and his famous, temperamental behavior?

EDBERG: I played good; he played good.

JOURNALIST: Stefan, is it true that Sweden has developed a nuclear weapon and is planning to drop it on New Jersey?

EDBERG: I played good; he played good.

Do you know what I call that? I call that a cry for help. A plea for repackaging. The man is the hottest thing on grass since Toro, and when he made the final instead of McEnroe, everybody moaned. Have no fear. My major in college was repackaging. That’s why it took me seven years to finish.

So allow me to present my 13-point plan for the retooling of Stefan Edberg. His body is fine. His face we don’t touch. There are models in America wearing nothing but Calvin Klein underwear who would love to have that face. But the personality . . .

Well. Let’s get to work, shall we? A Wimbledon champ cannot go through life drinking milk and driving a Volvo. Bjorn Borg already did that. Get a handle on fame

1. Change the name. From now on, no more Stefan. It’s Stevie. Stevie Edberg. Or Little Stevie Edberg. And I don’t want any arguments on this. Check the record; the name works. Stevie Yzerman? He’s big. Stevie Wonder? Huge. Stevie Nicks? Huge. She even looks like Edberg. Stevie. Yes. Trust me on this one. So what if it doesn’t sound Swedish. I mean, that’s part of the problem, right?

2. Get a new outfit. A Batman hat, perhaps. Or boots. Boris Becker got himself six pages in the London tabloids last week just by wearing a blue shirt at Centre Court. Imagine what Stefan could get if he came out Sunday wearing a kilt, or a leather jumpsuit. Or maybe just a giant sock. The Dead Milkmen, Jim Walewander’s favorite rock group, did an album cover dressed like that. In socks. I think the studio recalled it.

3. Hang out with Jim Walewander.

4. Record a rap song. Everybody does rap. Football teams. Basketball teams. Rodney Dangerfield. It’s not that hard. Maybe something like:

My name is Stefan

I come from Sweden

I like to eat toast and

Do some readin’

OK. So we’ll work on that.

5. Bet on a few tennis matches.

6. Deny you ever bet on tennis matches.

7. Yell at the media. Why not? Instead of answering each question in that pleasant monotone — which has roughly the same effect on the questioner as a tank full of nerve gas — how about this: “YOU IDIOT! HOW COULD YOU ASK SUCH A STUPID QUESTION? IN MY COUNTRY, WE FEED PEOPLE LIKE YOU TO COWS.”

It worked for McEnroe. Take a tip from Rodman

8. Get courtside seats for the Lakers.

9. Check that. The Pistons.

10. Spend a month at the Dennis Rodman Academy for Sports Appreciation. Here Stefan will learn such proven personality gestures as 1) the two-fisted wave to the crowd (to be used after serving an ace); 2) the stationary, 360-degree spin with both arms up (to be used after winning a set or a key point); and 3) the leap into the outstretched arms of John Salley while yelling, “Oh, baby, oh, baby, oh, baby!” (To be used at the end of a victorious match. Don’t worry about Salley. If it’s on TV, he’ll be there.)

11. Marry Tatum O’Neal.

12. Check that. It has already been done.

13. Get drafted by another team. Do you think Bo Jackson would be in the All-Star Game if he played only baseball? Nuh- uh. Dual sports are in, babe. How about hockey? They have hockey in Sweden, right? I think they invented it. I can see Stefan playing the Australian Open, then flying back to take a shift for the LA Kings. I like it. So does Nike.

And, ta-da. There you have it. A complete repackaging. Five minutes, I’m telling you, that’s all the time I need. And young Stefan would be wise to take the advice.

After all, being a great Swedish tennis player can only get you so far in the minds of the general public. Just ask Mats Wilander.

“Mats who?” you say.

See what I mean? CUTLINE Stefan Edberg


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