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Meet Murphy Jensen, Redskins Fan


Before I began interviewing new Washington Kastles head coach Murphy Jensen, I mentioned to him the particular challenges of covering sports like World Team Tennis in this town, and the dominance of a certain football team when it's in news-generating mode.

"I'm a huge Redskins fan," Jensen offered. "Huge fan of the Redskins.

"That's why Murphy's our coach, because his whole life has been about the Washington Redskins," team owner Mark Ein chimed in.

"Huge," Jensen continued. "The HogMaster or whatever? I loved that offensive line."

Trust me, Jensen is gonna glide seamlessly into the D.C. coaching fraternity, headlined by characters like Jim Zorn and Bruce Boudreau. A former elite doubles player with his brother Luke and current host of two Tennis Channel shows, Jensen's stories are filled with references to, say, former national economic adviser Gene Sperling (they played together at the White House), Simpsons voice Hank Azaria ("He looks like William Dafoe in Platoon when he plays tennis") and the wrestler Goldberg. Really.

"Big time wrestling was really popular in '93," Jensen explained. "Goldberg, that guy was a killer, he retired Hulk Hogan all by himself, and my brother said if we won the French, he was gonna tackle me and pin me for a 10 count. Next thing you know I'm serving match point and I say, 'Hey man whatever you do don't hurt me...

"We ended up winning and he went up to hug me and he misses me and breaks my jaw, and I'm like passed out on the court. I was so angry, I'm cursing in seven languages. I had surgery. Broke my upper jaw, lower jaw and chin. My knees buckled and he carried me to the net and I shook hands. I mean, it wasn't that dramatic but I couldn't feel my face."

See? He's even shouting out to DeShawn Stevenson. Anyhow, he has plenty of stories, like the time his brother suggested they wear bulletproof vests during a match. Or when they decided to protest their clothing by wearing their outfits inside out and adidas responded by pulling their contract. "That wasn't a really smart move," he said.

The last time Jensen played professionally in D.C., he won the Legg Mason doubles crown in the summer of '97. He didn't remember how he celebrated, but he remembered heading down to the Lincoln Memorial that week; "just me, a cigar and Abe Lincoln," he said.

The brothers became famous for riding motorcycles out onto the court, which Murphy said he hated.

"Would you do it again?" Ein asked, sensing a sponsorship opportunity.

"Of course I would, I'd do it in a minute," Jensen said.

The brothers also once wore U.S. soccer jerseys onto the court during a World Cup, and had numbers on the back of their jerseys. Jensen was No. 44. Why 44?

"For Riggins," Jensen said. "Mr. October. I'm a huggggggge Riggins fan. He will get a ticket every night to the Kastles games. I'll leave two tickets for John Riggins."

Just like Talladega Nights! I'm going to pretend he didn't follow this exchange up by asking me "how important is the truth?" Anyhow, Jensen said all the right things about World Team Tennis, and about how he wouldn't coach in any city besides D.C., but clearly a good deal of his appeal comes from his personality, like his "Body Is a Temple" pose, seen above, which he breaks out when waiters ask whether he wants dessert.

Also, he had thousands of superstitions, only bounced the ball before serves in multiples of three, wears six necklaces, is the personal tennis coach for Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale, has thumb wrestled Maria Sharapova ("Crushed her," he said, "She's got little thumbs"), will tutor Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson for the Tennis Channel this spring, and is writing a screenplay. I asked him whether it was about tennis.

"Maybe," he said with a wink. "What else would it be about? The Redskins?"

Oh, and he learned the secrets of head-shaving from Andre Agassi, which turned into a discussion of James Blake's tricks (he uses Skintimate on his head) and Jensen's expectations for the upcoming season.

"If we don't win the whole thing, I will shave my head, I guarantee it," he told me. "And you will too."

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 3, 2009; 12:14 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins , Tennis  
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Comments

Wait, the Kastles have a new coach? What happened to Thomas "Sideshow Bob" Blake?

Posted by: MaxWass | April 3, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

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