Wimbledon 1984 found John McEnroe at the absolute peak of his powers, yet he was only the second most dominant force in the sport
On its face, it was a benign American summer. Big budget movies filled the theaters. Sugary pop songs wafted from the radio. An elderly woman asking “Where’s the Beef?” was a national laugh line. Ronald Reagan Era was in full free-market, take-cutting bloom, a few months before his resounding re-election.
But in retrospect, the June-July-August of 1984 marked a pivotal season, 90 days that would change the country. Americans fell in love with the personal computer; and realized a universe of television channels beyond the three major networks. Bruce Springsteen and Prince would release the albums – Born in the USA and Purple Rain – that would vault them to a new plane of celebrity. This transformation was especially pronounced in sports.
Compressed in the summer of 1984: Michael Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, won an Olympic gold medal and lent his name to a signature shoe. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird faced off in the NBA finals for the first time, cementing their rivalry – to the delight of the league’s new visionary commissioner, David Stern. Donald Trump would – as owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals – use sports to become a national figure, while Vince McMahon would consolidate pro wrestling, bringing it into the mainstream.
In the following extract from Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 and the 90 Days That Changed Sports and Culture Forever, the author Jon Wertheim writes about Wimbledon that year, John McEnroe at the peak of his powers and Martina Navratilova, breaking ground on grass.