Jailed Tanner's losses: Game, set, match . . . family

Updated: June 24, 2006, 10:23 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

When Roscoe Tanner's letter arrived earlier this year from a northern Florida prison, there was no apology. The future, Department of Corrections Inmate No. R35415 wrote, is "in God's hands."

Daughter Tamara and her mother, Charlotte -- the second of three Mrs. Tanners -- were furious.

This, Tamara said, is what she wrote back: "Once again, when it's time to take care of your responsibilities, you put it off on something else. Dad, when are you going to step up to the plate?"

In an interview from her home in Aliso Viejo, Calif., an Orange County suburb, Roscoe Tanner's daughter said, "He's a charmer who will say whatever he needs to get what he wants. I don't care to hear anything he has to say."

Tamara grew up exceptionally close to her father. He attended her soccer games and tennis matches and helped sharpen her skills in practice.

But lately, Tamara, now 20, finds herself wondering if those things ever happened.

Roscoe Tanner
Gary M. Prior/Getty ImagesShown here at a seniors event in 1995, Tanner was still charming the crowds . . . and, apparently, fooling his friends and family.
"All of a sudden one day, he's gone," she said. "And he never came back. The things he's caused our family to go through -- it puts doubts in my mind about how real it was. How could he really love me and not come home?

"He pretty much erased us from his life. I didn't think that was humanly possible."

Roscoe Tanner was one of the finest tennis players of his 1970s generation. He won the 1977 Australian Open, and lost to Bjorn Borg in a memorable five-set final at Wimbledon in 1979. He was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, and won 15 titles.

But over the years, the pattern that emerges from Tanner's pathological lies and deceit speaks more about losses than wins:

• Tanner drove California tennis club owner Cecil Spearman's $28,000 Ford Explorer across the country, without permission, fleeing from child support and alimony responsibilities in California.

• Numerous investors in various projects, including the proposed 130-acre Tanner Tennis Lodge in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Roscoe Tanner Tennis Club in San Fernando Valley, were never repaid.

• Florida yacht salesman Gene Gammon sold Tanner a $39,000 Wellcraft, but Tanner's personal check bounced and Gammon never saw the boat again -- the case that would effectively land Tamara's father in jail.

Tanner made a habit of separating well-intentioned people from their money -- including, reportedly, Borg himself -- which he used to support the world-class lifestyle to which he had become accustomed. The pursuit of his particular brand of happiness included a consistent devotion to women, alcohol, cocaine and gambling.

Boats and vehicles and money, though, are mere things. The more important loss in the wake of Tanner's erratic, self-centered journey into chaos is the relationship with his daughter, who is a scholarship tennis player at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and her mother.

"On the court, Roscoe's real skill was focusing on just the ball, not the opponent," said Charlotte. "Well, that's what he's done with us. He's tuned us out and now we're the opponent."

Tanner, now 54, is incarcerated at the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Fla. He is scheduled to be released in February 2007, but his legal problems might not end then. The state of California, aware that Tanner owes Charlotte in excess of $500,000 in back alimony and child support, could insist on extradition and send him back to prison.

As it is, Tanner has had a great deal of time to reflect on the past: His prison time in Karlsruhe, Germany (six weeks), in Pinellas County Jail in Tampa, Fla., (three months), in Somerset County, N.J., (five months) and Lake Butler, Fla., (approaching five months). The five daughters he created with four different women -- and he concedes there could be more. The several millions of dollars that have passed through his hands. The deep debt that still threatens to engulf him.

"Roscoe's greatness was that he saw the glass overflowing -- never half full," said Dick Gould, his coach at Stanford University and now the school's director of tennis. "He just couldn't understand that other athletes might be his equal. It was pure confidence.

"My feeling is that this also might have been his greatest weakness. He refused to see where the glass really was. As one thing led to another, he'd say, 'I can get out of this,' and not accept responsibility. That confidence turned out to be his greatest enemy."

Today, that confidence seems significantly diminished.

Over the years, regardless of the particular predicament, Tanner was a willing and colorful interview subject. But in late April, a letter hand-written in neat, tight, cursive on white spiral-ring note paper arrived from the Lake Butler prison. It read, in part:

Right now is still not a good time for me to be having publicity. I know that you have a job to do, but I am trying to allow my family some peace and begin a little healing. As such, I am not doing any interviews. I am sorry, but that is what I have to do.

Sincerely,
Roscoe Tanner

P.S. Sorry about the stationery!

The All-American boy
The black-and-white photograph, circa early 1960s, features a mischievous, smiling, freckle-flecked face. Leonard Roscoe Tanner, eyebrows nearly invisible, wears the mandatory crew cut of the day and a white tennis shirt emblazoned with "Roscoe."

The photo was featured in a promotional brochure for the national 12-and-under championships held at Tanner's home club in Chattanooga. Dick Stockton, who first played juniors with Tanner two years earlier, stayed at his Lookout Mountain, Tenn., home for the event.

Roscoe Tanner, age 12
Triumph Books This promotional photo featured an impish, 12-year-old Roscoe Tanner, left, before he hit the tennis big-time.
"He was the All-American boy," said Stockton, who played doubles with Tanner as a professional. "He was from a great family and people loved to be around him. He was kind of like the Pied Piper. He just drew people to him."

Leonard and Anne Tanner, Roscoe's well-to-do parents, put Roscoe into his first tennis lesson the summer after first grade. Leonard was a lawyer and had played tennis at the University of Chattanooga. Roscoe, who was left-handed, began playing in sanctioned tournaments three years after that first lesson. After Roscoe won the Boys 16 National Indoors in Dallas, his father followed up on a promise and bought him a 1965 Pontiac Tempest.

"He never lived in the real world that most of us lived in," said Liz Stockton, Dick's wife. "Looking back, I'd say entitlement has a lot to do with it."

Leonard Tanner, now 90, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Roscoe was the first important national recruit for Gould at Stanford, and he even played the legendary Stan Smith in an exhibition match during his freshman year. Although Tanner turned professional after his junior year -- he earned All-America status for three consecutive years -- his success was the platform for a Stanford dominance that would produce 17 NCAA Division 1 men's team titles (the NCAA record) after Tanner's time there, and draw future professionals such as John McEnroe and Alex O'Brien to the program.

Tanner's game translated well to the professional level. He reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open as a 20-year-old junior, and his heavy left-handed serve -- coming from a different side than players were accustomed to -- was lethal.

"At the time, it was the biggest serve in the game," said Steve Flink, a senior correspondent for Tennis Week who has followed Tanner's entire career. "He had a very low toss -- he almost caught it on the way up. He was a good volleyer, but never had great groundstrokes. Still, a very solid player."

Roscoe Tanner
Getty ImagesTanner might have had the biggest serve in tennis back in 1976.
Tanner and his American contemporaries -- Brian Gottfried, Harold Solomon and Stockton -- made nice livings in the burgeoning game. Financially, Tanner did better than all of them. He won $1.7 million in official prize money and probably more than that in appearance fees and endorsements for brands such as Sergio Tacchini sportswear, PDP rackets and Pony shoes.

"That was a ton of money in those days," Stockton said. "He had it all going for him, but he was always a little suspicious with that smile on his face. He might tell you one thing; and five minutes later, it was a different story. He told people what they wanted to hear."

Tennis Magazine's Peter Bodo, who has covered tennis for more than 25 years, developed a similar opinion.

"He wasn't a cheater on the court, but there were a number of people who weren't crazy about him," Bodo said. "He had that high giggle, something off the mark. Roscoe wouldn't always say what he was actually thinking. You'd hear things, though. The rumor at the time was that he was a womanizer."

In his 2005 autobiography, "Double Fault: My Rise and Fall and My Road Back," Tanner admits he began to cheat on his fiancée, Nancy, later to be his first wife, whom he had met at Stanford, in 1973. According to the book, he regularly joined doubles partner Arthur Ashe in search of post-match conquests.

It was, co-author Mike Yorkey, believes, the first serious misstep by Tanner's moral compass.

"In the book, I tried to illustrate the consequences of those moral lapses," Yorkey said from his La Jolla, Calif., home. "In the beginning, it was two or three degrees, not that much in the scheme of things. Gradually, a few more degrees here, a few more degrees there, it got worse."

On the court, Tanner enjoyed his finest years in the middle and late 1970s. In 1976, he won titles in Cincinnati, Columbus, San Francisco and Tokyo. In 1977, he won the Australian Open, defeating Guillermo Vilas in a straight-sets final.

His finest moment, though, came at Wimbledon in 1979, oddly enough, in a loss.

Roscoe Tanner
Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesTall, blond, handsome, athletic . . . no wonder people were attracted to him.
Previous Wimbledon championships always had been shown on tape back in the States, as the first serve at the All-England Club went up at 9 a.m. in the East. NBC's Don Ohlmeyer, who first produced Wimbledon the year before, was captivated by the event and lobbied hard to telecast it live.

"They thought he was crazy," said Bud Collins, who broadcast the historic match with Donald Dell. "They said, 'Nobody will watch a tennis final early on a Saturday morning.' Don said, 'We've got to try.'

"We wanted McEnroe or [Jimmy] Connors against Borg, but what we got was Roscoe."

Indeed, while McEnroe and Connors fell during the second week, the fifth-seeded Tanner defeated Jose-Luis Clerc, Tim Gullikson and fellow Stanford player Pat DuPre to reach the finals opposite the spectacular Swede.

Borg had won three consecutive titles at the All-England Club and was an overwhelming favorite. Yet somehow Tanner, his big serve skidding on the slick grass, won two of the first three sets. He erased three match points in the ninth game of the fifth set, but Borg ultimately prevailed 6-4.

"That's where 'Breakfast at Wimbledon' began," said Collins, who still writes for the Boston Globe. "I don't think there would have been another one if he hadn't played such a great match."

Downward spiral
In 1981, when Nancy gave birth to daughter Lauren in Santa Barbara, Calif., Tanner's tennis career was already in decline. He avenged his Wimbledon loss to Borg, beating him in the quarterfinals of the 1979 U.S. Open, but never again reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam.

In 1982, after he turned 30, an elbow injury reduced his searing serve to something more mediocre. Two years later, he played the last Grand Slam match of his career and told Nancy he wanted a divorce. But when the Colorado woman for whom he was leaving her said she was pregnant -- the baby, according to Tanner's autobiography, wasn't his -- he saw himself as a free agent.

He met Charlotte, a divorced single mother, at the nightclub she managed in Santa Barbara.

Two cathartic events that would color his future occurred in a span of three months in 1984. His mother Anne, the guiding force in his early life, died suddenly. Those close to him say her death weighed heavily on Roscoe. Then, in a bitter divorce case, Nancy was awarded their Montecito home, a lump sum of $500,000 and monthly payments of $10,000 in child support and alimony.

A year later, according to Tanner's book, his net worth was approximately only $100,000.

Charlotte, who married him in late 1984, spent the next 15 years with Tanner as his high-end lifestyle slowly disintegrated.

"He had the world in his hands," she said. "He chose to make major, major bad decisions. To me, he became a narcissist and a pathological liar."

Roscoe and Charlotte Tanner
Simon Bruty/Getty ImagesRoscoe and Charlotte in 1987, in happier times.
Thus began a transition from tennis player to tennis personality. Tanner could no longer compete at the highest level, but his name still opened many doors. He was engaging and could command five-figure paydays at corporate outings. He could run a clinic, tell a few stories and challenge anyone in the audience to return his serve.

Tamara was born in 1985, and Anne arrived in 1990. Tanner, who admits in his book he used cocaine, ran up the bills on his credit cards and lived well beyond his means. Gradually, the corporate events grew scarcer. Even playing on Jimmy Connors' 35-and-over circuit didn't allow the Tanners to break even.

But in what became a familiar pattern, Roscoe found someone to bail him out. A Southern California billionaire named David Murdock made him the director of tennis for the prestigious Sherwood Country Club. Tanner, though, couldn't remain content for long with the modest prosperity offered by that job.

In New York a few years later for a senior doubles tournament, Tanner celebrated his match with a half-dozen beers with his playing peers before he returned to his room at the Waldorf Hotel. From there, he called an escort service; and 30 minutes later, a woman named Connie Romano knocked on the door. Two months later, she called Tanner at the Sherwood Country Club and told him she was pregnant. Her lawyer, as detailed in the book, told him it would cost him $500,000 to keep it quiet.

Tanner couldn't afford it. But after a DNA test proved him to be the father of Omega Anne Romano, he quietly agreed to the settlement. He would finance it, he believed, with his $1 million cut from the proposed Roscoe Tanner Tennis Club in San Fernando Valley -- a project that, predictably, never came to pass.

Although the DNA test was accurate to within 99.9 percent, Roscoe, with typical charm, managed to create reasonable doubt in Charlotte's mind. For a time, he had her convinced the test was wrong.

When Murdock finally fired him, Tanner relocated. He took a job as the tennis director at Groves Isle, a Miami resort, and purchased 130 acres in Tennessee that he and Charlotte envisioned as the Tanner Tennis Lodge. Roscoe believed he would pocket $1 million from investors and take care of Romano.

He was playing in a senior event in Naples, Fla., in 1997, when he was arrested for the first time. New Jersey authorities charged him with nonpayment of child support to Romano.

"He has a problem with women," said Charlotte. "I think he has a sex addiction."

Tanner posted the $500 bail, but there was no outrunning this financial debt. He and Charlotte declared bankruptcy, and lost their 130 Tennessee acres in the process. They were divorced in 1999, but there were few assets to divide. According to the terms of the divorce, Tanner was to pay Charlotte $7,000 monthly to support their two daughters.

Tanner soon met another single mother, Margaret Barna, who became his third wife. He took a job at the Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club near St. Petersburg, Fla., and moved in with Margaret and her two girls.

Margaret, like Roscoe, had tastes beyond her means, according to those who knew the couple. In the summer of 2000, they decided to buy a used 32-foot Wellcraft for $39,000 from a broker named Gene Gammon. Tanner put down a $3,500 deposit and told Gammon he would write a check for the balance as soon as he received a $150,000 consulting fee for his participation in another development in the works -- Roscoe Tanner Tennis Villages in Knoxville, Atlanta and Palm Springs.

Tanner called Gammon a few days later and asked when he could pick up the boat. Gammon, who was traveling, told him to write a cashier's check for $35,500 and deposit it in his account at First Union Bank.

"As it turned out, it was a bad personal check, not a cashier's check," Gammon recounted recently from his Florida office. "The bank told me the check cleared, so I figured we were good to go. But the check didn't clear; they were just looking in my escrow account to see if it was covered. I paid the previous owner and transferred the title.

"Thirty-five years in the boat business and I never got a bad check. He knew he was passing a bad check. He gave me more lies about some deal that wasn't coming through. This went on for several weeks before I confronted him."

According to Gammon, Tanner used the boat, "Nora's Cruisin'," as collateral for a $10,000 loan, and it already had been repossessed.

"He's a professional," Gammon said. "You talk to him and believe him -- want to believe him. He's been doing this a long time. I went to the state authorities, but they dragged their feet."

And so Gammon began a dogged search that consumed three years. He tracked Tanner via the Internet and found him across the Atlantic Ocean, playing senior events.

"I wasn't going to give up," Gammon said. "He was living the high life over there. They thought he was a hero."

Roscoe Tanner
Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesTanner's groundstrokes might not have been the best, but he certainly had the gift of gab.
After stops in England, France and Switzerland, Tanner settled with Margaret and her daughters in Germany, where he was arrested on a warrant from Florida for writing the bad check for the boat. He was jailed in Karlsruhe, Germany, on June 18, 2003, and later extradited to the United States, where he spent jail time in Florida (for the boat) and New Jersey (for nonpayment of child support).

His father didn't intervene, although he clearly had the means. It would have cost Leonard $5,500 to get his son released in Florida.

"When I heard he was in jail, I called Leonard and said, 'What can we do about this?'" said Gould, Tanner's coach at Stanford. "He said, 'Dick, there comes a time when you have to learn to help yourself and take responsibility.'"

He pleaded guilty for lack of support in the Connie Romano case and was sentenced to time served, getting his release on April 19, 2004. A civil court was charged with sorting out how much Tanner owed Romano.

Free again, Tanner returned to California, where he took a job as a tennis instructor for Cecil Spearman, who owned three Orange County clubs. Tanner was paid a monthly salary of $500 and allowed to keep 70 percent of his earnings from the hourly lessons he taught, for which he usually charged $75.

"I'd be stupid not to hire this guy," Spearman explained. "The members applauded our efforts to help a fallen angel, and everyone agreed he'd be an asset to the clubs. Plus, he said one reason he wanted to come back to California was that he was estranged from his three daughters and he wanted to get those relationships going again."

But if he was going to commute between the three clubs -- Laguna Nigel, Racquet Club of Irvine and Monarch Beach -- Tanner would need a vehicle. Spearman found a white Ford Explorer for $28,000 and guaranteed the loan. For the first few months, Tanner made the payments and was a model employee. He even played with the senior-citizen members when they needed a fourth.

In the fall, however, Tanner, now living in the exclusive beachfront community of Balboa with Margaret, reverted to form.

"He started chiseling," Spearman said. "He had sticky fingers."

Tanner stopped paying his bills and stopped passing along the club's portion of his teaching money. Worse, at least in the eyes of Spearman, he stopped showing up for his weekly one-hour lesson with Spearman's grandson, Cameron. Perhaps on hearing that another warrant had been issued for his arrest because he missed a court date in the child support case concerning Charlotte, Tanner left in June 2004, for another tennis job in Tennessee. But he told Spearman he would be back by the end of the summer.

To get to Tennessee, he drove Spearman's Explorer. And Spearman, who had made six of nine payments on Tanner's behalf, was livid when he discovered his name on the title.

"I told him to take my name off the title or I'd put out another warrant for his arrest," Spearman said.

The SUV, ultimately, was repossessed; and Spearman was out more than $10,000. According to Spearman, 25 empty poker chip trays were found inside when the vehicle was recovered.

"He and Margaret loved Vegas," he said. "Roscoe had a real gambling habit."

Steve Annacone, the brother of longtime Pete Sampras coach Paul Annacone, hired Tanner to work at the Smoky Mountain Tennis Academy in Knoxville. Annacone felt Roscoe deserved another chance, and Tanner seemed to have found an equilibrium.

Until his past surfaced again.

He was arrested in Tennessee in October 2005, extradited to Florida and charged with violating his 10-year probation for the November 2003, grand theft conviction involving Gene Gammon's boat. In January 2006, a judge sentenced Tanner to two years in prison. That's the term he is currently serving in Lake Butler, Fla.

Not long after he was put behind bars, Margaret gave birth to her third daughter. She and Roscoe named her Lacy.

The Christian Coalition
In July 2003, Tanner says he first saw the light.

It was his 17th day in the German jail, and he was watching television. Specifically, he wrote in his book, Tanner was watching a CNBC broadcast of Reverend Robert Schuller's "Hour of Power."

Schuller referenced Paul's letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4, Verse 6, and Tanner followed along in the Bible left in his cell by a German pastor: Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to the Lord.

"I knew I was tired of going through life Roscoe's way," he wrote in his autobiography. "When I looked at the sum of my life, it added up to a big, fat zero. I was crawling through life at rock bottom … I felt an urge to kneel."

After he prayed, Tanner wrote, he "immediately felt God's sweet presence" in the jail cell.

On the last page of his book, Tanner addressed those who might be skeptical: "I know what you may be thinking: This has been a nice story, Roscoe, but your jailhouse conversion sounds a little too convenient to me. When you're behind bars, when all your freedoms have been stripped away, and when you're suffering deprivation, your eyes are opened. I did things Roscoe's way for more than 50 years. Now I'm going to do things God's way."

Tanner's biggest support system now is a group of Christians, a so-called accountability group in Tennessee that began to help him manage his affairs before his current recent prison term and continues while he serves his time. Jim Hiskey, a former PGA Tour professional and now a minister, organized the group in 2004. Turner Howard, a Presbyterian pastor and lawyer who knew Roscoe back in his junior days, is the leader of the local church group. Howard speaks often with Tanner.

"He is decidedly Christian, and he's focused on changing his life and becoming a new and better person," Howard said from his Knoxville office. "His mind-set is such that he's trying to make it as positive an experience as possible. It's my duty to attempt to put him in a situation where he can function.

"The liens and the warrants … it's like he's a Mafia figure. Every time you turn around, somebody's lurking. He can't get out of jail and face the same music. He can't step into that quagmire. We're working on that."

Last fall, Gene Gammon got a call from the support group.

"They were claiming he'd found God," Gammon said. "Yeah, right. They offered me $25,000 if I'd drop everything. I said, 'Go ahead, send me the money.' I got the money and he was arrested [for nonpayment to Romano] a few days after the check cleared."

Stan Smith
John Heller/WireImage.comGood friend and former tennis great Stan Smith still stands by Tanner.
Stan Smith, who won two Grand Slam singles titles, is part of the group. He testified on Tanner's behalf in the Florida sentencing hearing, and wrote the forward to Tanner's book.

Why has he continued to stand by Tanner?

After a long pause over the line from Hilton Head, S.C., Smith said, "I think maybe people think he has the potential to do something positive with the rest of his life.

"I don't know much about addiction, but he's struggling with trying to be straightforward and honest and not mislead people. Like an alcoholic who goes through sobriety and then falls back … you look like you're doing better, and then you take a step back.

"It's a demon he has to deal that deal with."

Jim Pitkanen, the tennis coach at Knoxville's Webb School, played juniors with Tanner and got to know him better last year in regular church meetings. He defends Tanner's conversion as true.

"A faker?" Pitkanen asked. "I can definitely 100 percent say that is not true. He does not use it as a crutch. You ask him, he'll tell you he's done wrong. He sinned; there's no question. Roscoe has one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen in a person, but he has a savior complex that has never been checked. It's a sickness that he has, a matter of self-discipline.

"Roscoe never understood the need for help or understood that this is who he was -- 'I am a liar, a thief.' He never saw it like that until he became a Christian. I hope he can turn it around. I do know that the Lord lives in him."

Yorkey, who wrote the book with Tanner, has worked in Christian publishing for many years.

"The religion piece, I'm awfully sure is genuine," Yorkey said.

Yorkey has been criticized for the book's myopic perspective, which is Tanner's alone.

"Autobiographies are, by nature, unbalanced," Yorkey said. "If it was a biography, yeah, the rules change. The story is Roscoe's perspective."

Yorkey, who like Tanner received an advance of only $4,250, said Tanner had hoped that book sales would ease his financial burden. According to the publisher, Triumph Books, fewer than 3,500 copies have been sold.

Ever the charmer?
More than 40 years have passed since his photo was featured in that promotional brochure. A more recent photo, a mug shot, circa January, can be found on the state of Florida's Department of Corrections Web site. There is no longer a boyish ridge at the front of the light-brown buzzcut, and no mischievous smile. Instead, a grim, almost resigned look plays across the pink face of Leonard Roscoe Tanner.

Roscoe Tanner
Florida Department of CorrectionsTanner's look as a prisoner in Florida isn't so fun-loving.
Apparently, however, he remains the engaging charmer. According to Howard, Tanner has made many friends among the inmates who are aware of his celebrity.

"Roscoe has the ability to be a chameleon," Howard said. "He has melted into the populace without acting like he's special. Some of the big, honking guys have adopted him as somebody they want to protect."

The RMC Main Unit in Lake Butler might be the safest place for Tanner, less than 10 months from his scheduled release. There is still the significant matter of child support for daughters Tamara and Anne outstanding in California. It would not surprise people familiar with the case if Tanner were to be extradited to California and receive additional jail time next year.

The District Attorney's office in Santa Ana would not discuss details of the case. But Charlotte's attorney did.

"He's insulted a lot of people here," said Michael Heicklin, who represents Tanner's second wife. "I know the D.A. is not very happy with him. She's owed half a million dollars. He is absolutely going to have to deal with this, or we're going to court."

Heicklin said he is negotiating a settlement with an Orange County lawyer who was working for the tennis player when Tanner left California for Tennessee. Heicklin said he would consider renegotiating the current arrangement if Tanner or his supporters make a down payment in the vicinity of $250,000 into an escrow account. Then, Heicklin said, he would be willing to discuss a monthly payment of around $3,500 -- half the current sum -- as long as Tanner can prove his ability to pay consistently.

Heicklin said he had a conversation with Howard more than a year ago on the subject, but hasn't heard back from him.

Howard's initial response: "Quite frankly, we're very concerned. We'd like to work something out, because Roscoe wants to support his children and reconnect with them. I don't know what purpose there would be in incarcerating him in California."

Later, however, Howard added, "The ball is in their court."

Charlotte, who says she struggles to support herself and her daughters financially, isn't convinced a settlement will occur.

"If he has to go back to jail, I don't think Roscoe will be able to handle it," she said. "I think he'll kill himself. I really do."

But beyond Charlotte, her daughters and a handful of others victims, there is a surprising absence of anger toward Tanner, considering the breadth and depth of his misdeeds. Cecil Spearman's perspective is typical.

"I really have no hard feelings," said the California tennis club owner, laughing. "He's a dichotomy, if there ever was one. But, overall, I believe he's a really fine person, one of the most interesting people in tennis. His one major flaw is that he just wants to please you so badly. He'll tell you what he thinks you want to hear -- instead of the truth."

At 54 years old, does Tanner have the capacity to change?

Gould, who has known him for 44 of those years, isn't sure.

Dick Gould
David Gonzales/WireImage.comLongtime Stanford coach Dick Gould wonders if Tanner can ever change.
"With a wife and a baby, I hope so," he said. "I'm not much of a betting man, but the amount of money I'd put down is getting less and less. He is going to have to want to do this for himself and the people he loves."

Which raises this issue: Are would-be friends merely enabling Tanner by cleaning up his messes?

Asked that, Stan Smith fell silent on the phone.

"It's a good question, a very good question," he said, finally. "Leonard [Roscoe's father] and I were at a function recently, and we talked about it. Certainly, he's been to the depths of society, and it's my hope he can be productive. Chuck Colson followed a similar path and had a tremendous impact.

"I haven't talked to him since the day he was sentenced. I have his address. I'm going to send him a letter."

Those close to Charlotte and her daughters question Tanner's sincerity about beginning a new relationship with them. Heicklin said that when Tanner was in court last spring in California for a hearing attended by Charlotte, Tamara and Anne, he never acknowledged them or even said hello.

"He has to get past blaming God or blaming me for his problems," Charlotte said. "He needs to make peace with Tamara and Anne. That's his No. 1 responsibility."

Tamara has had a rough year. She had surgery on her left ankle last November and missed the bulk of the tennis season at Loyola Marymount. She is, however, on course to graduate next year with a degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing.

For years, she has tried to understand how her father came to be the way he is. But no longer.

"Honestly," Tamara said, "I've stopped trying to figure it out. It used to be too painful. I guess I have no idea.

"If I could answer it, maybe I could help him. But I don't want to figure out what's going on in his head. I'd rather keep mine clear."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.