Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:
We play songs by Vanessa Carlton ...
Answer a listener’s question about America’s national game ...
And report about the American sisters who are the best tennis players in the world.
The Williams Sisters
Recently, two young American women played against each other for the top prize in professional tennis -- the Women’s Championship at Wimbledon, England. The two women are sisters. Shep O’Neal tells us about Serena and Venus Williams.
Venus Williams is twenty-two years old. Serena is twenty. Earlier this month, Serena defeated Venus to win the championship at Wimbledon. That victory is perhaps the most important event in professional tennis. And it was only one of many victories in the past three years. Serena had already won the French Open tennis championship before her win in England.
Serena’s recent victories mean that one of the Williams sisters has won seven of the last twelve major international tennis tournaments. Venus won the Wimbledon Championship in two-thousand and two-thousand-one. She also won the United States Open championship both of those years. And the two sisters also won the women’s doubles match at Wimbledon earlier this month.
Tennis experts say Richard Williams is the main reason that his daughters are the two top players in women’s professional tennis. He taught them how to play the game and he taught them well. Both women say their father is the reason for their success. About fifteen years ago, he told Venus that she was going to be one of the best tennis players in the world. He then told Venus and Serena that one day they would compete for the championship of professional tennis at Wimbledon.
No one would have believed Richard Williams at the time. The Williams family lived in a poor area of Los Angeles, California. And only one other African-American woman had ever won the championship at Wimbledon. That was Althea Gibson in the nineteen-fifties.
Critics say the two sisters do not play their best tennis against each other. The Williams sisters deny this. But they say that they know each other’s game extremely well because they have played against each other since they were children.
Sports reporters say the two Williams sisters are not only great tennis players. They are also intelligent and strong young women. One reporter asked Serena if Venus was upset or angry about losing to her sister. Serena looked a little confused. Then she said, “No, Venus is not angry. She is happy for me. We will always be family first, and then tennis players.”
America’s National Game
Our VOA listener question this week comes from India. Ranveer Jayani asks what is the national game of the United States.
Americans enjoy playing and watching many sports, including football, soccer, basketball and hockey. But if you ask most Americans what is the national game, they would probably answer baseball.
Perhaps no other sport is as deeply rooted in American life. None has created so many popular traditions. These include poems, songs, books and movies. Famous players of the past and present are as well-known to Americans as the country’s great scientists, writers and political leaders. Baseball words have even become part of the language. For example, Americans may admit to “striking out” when failing at something.
Part of the reason Americans love baseball is that they have been playing it for more than one-hundred-fifty years. No one knows for sure when the modern game began. Many people believe it developed from a game called “rounders” that was played in the eighteen-hundreds.
Some history experts say Abner Doubleday invented baseball in eighteen-thirty-nine. Others say it was Alexander Cartwright in eighteen-forty-five. He developed a list of rules and formed the first baseball team, the New York Knickerbockers.
Today, Americans of all ages play baseball. Thousands of teams are organized across the country -- school teams, company teams and teams supported by religious groups. And millions of Americans attend professional baseball games and watch them on television.
More than three-hundred-fifty-thousand people travel each year to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. The Hall of Fame explains the history of baseball. It also honors great players of the past and present. This year, the museum has put together a traveling show called “Baseball as America.” The show includes more than five-hundred baseball objects. It explores the relationship between the game of baseball and American culture.
Singer and songwriter Vanessa Carlton released her first album earlier this year. Mary Tillotson tells us about her and her music.
Vanessa Carlton’s first album is called “Be Not Nobody.” Listen as she sings “A Thousand Miles.”
((CUT ONE - “A THOUSAND MILES”))
Vanessa Carlton is twenty-one years old. She was born in a small town in Pennsylvania. Vanessa began playing the piano at age two. She wrote her first song when she was eight years old.
Yet Vanessa Carlton wanted to be a professional dancer. At the age of fourteen she was accepted at the School of American Ballet in New York City. She became one of the top students. But she was very unhappy with the intense training that is required to become a ballet dancer.
Instead, she found a piano at her school and started playing and writing songs. After completing high school, Vanessa decided to be a singer instead of a dancer. Here is another of her songs. It is called “Unsung.”
((CUT TWO – “UNSUNG”))
Music experts are saying good things about Vanessa Carlton’s music. They praise her voice. They say her training as a piano player can be heard in her songs.
We leave you now with a song from her album “Be Not Nobody.” Here is Vanessa Carlton performing “Ordinary Day.”
((CUT THREE – “ORDINARY DAY”))
This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC—VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Lawan Davis, Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson. Our studio engineer was Keith Holmes. And our producer was Paul Thompson