The Boy President is the perfect president for the media's bug pit. A celebrity need not have achieved anything admirable. He or she merely needs to have attracted the curious in large numbers. He could have broken the law and been a celebrity. He could have written a dreadful memoir full of errors and lies, and become a celebrity. He could have made a dreadful hash of his job and become a celebrity. You get my drift. Clinton did all of the above, and he is celebrated beyond any other living president. Yet in his life all he has really achieved is enormous media attention, nothing more and nothing genuine.
In sport, Sharapova has achieved something genuine. She has won a demanding championship that can never be taken from her. The list of Wimbledon champions goes back into the 19th century, where you will have to go to find the youngest Wimbledon women's champion, Miss Lottie Dod, who won it at 15 in 1887. One hundred ten years later, the only other woman to win Wimbledon while younger than Sharapova is Martina Hingis, who was 16 in 1997. One of the reasons sport is worth following is that it is genuine. It is not easy to fake a championship.
The historian Gilbert knows about lives that are genuine, which might explain why he took such delight in the match between Sharapova and Williams. Great historians apply standards to the lives they study and to their own work. What are missing from the bug pit of celebrity are standards. Whether one has achieved something admirable or cheap, honorable or despicable, is not taken into account by the talking heads. Now they want to drag Sharapova into the bug pit of celebrity. They want to know about the parties she goes to and the gaudy endorsements she has signed on for. If she abandons herself to that trashy world, she will get all the media appearances under the sun. She will also lose her place in the hierarchy of champions.