Love me for a reason…

by Ashish

Of the many undesirable qualities that we have ingrained in ourselves due to the modern, media-soaked world we live in, the stupidest one has to be our ridiculous desire to judge sportsmen on the basis of everything but the sport they play.

Is Tiger Woods boffing everything that moves and some things that don’t? Did Virat Kohli really show his middle finger to the crowd at Sydney? Were Schumacher and Barrichello not on speaking terms for years together?

There was a time when people who followed sports spoke about Wood’s immaculate drives, or about Kohli’s flicks through the legside, or about Schumi’s brilliant strategizing, and left the gossip and the innuendo to the last pages of the cheap tabloids. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the last pages of the cheap tabloids. I love my dosage of salacious gossip when I’m sitting on the throne in the morning, and have no compunction in admitting it. But I’d prefer to leave it there, thank you very much, rather than have to make it a core argument for deciding how great (or not) a particular guy is at his chosen sport.

And nowhere does this cut more deeply than in the case of modern day tennis players. Nadal, it would seem, is not a great tennis player because (gasp!) he complained to the chair umpire in an effort to disturb the focus of his opponent and (gasp! gasp!) also ‘shoulder-charged’ his opponent during a change-over. Well, knock me down with a feather, why don’t you?

Federer has been the devil’s spawn for years now, because he cries during presentation ceremonies, or is not charitable enough towards opponents who have vanquished him in post match pressers. If you still have that feather with you, swish it around in threatening fashion once again, would you please?

I’ve grown up following cricket, back in the times when Test cricket still used to be played. This was a time when bowlers would be allowed to bowl more than one bouncer a decade, and a time when the Australian team was led by men who would never have gone by the moniker of “pup”. Back in those days, being aggressive about your opponent, or towards your opponent, was a good thing.

Gleen McGrath wasn’t regarded highly by his peers and his fans because he waxed lyrical about his opponents. He was admired because he would get ’em out. He would snarl at ’em, sledge ’em, abuse ’em, and bowl bloody well. And the world hated him for the snarling, the abusing and the sledging, but admired him (hell, still does) for the bowling bloody well.

And thank you very much, but I’d much rather judge Federer, Nadal and the rest on how well they play their tennis. I don’t care if Fedex isn’t an immaculate interviewee at pressers. I don’t care if Nadal takes too much time between points or tries to upset his opponents rhythms by using a little bit of gamesmanship.

What I do care about is the phenomenal level of quality that both bring onto a tennis court. They are two of the most talented players to ever grace the sport, and most of the other players, either current or past, can’t hold a candle to their incandescent genius. And I give the posterior of a mouse to how well behaved (or not) they are off the court.

Personally, I prefer Federer’s game to Nadal’s, but I see plenty of reason to support Nadal as well – something that I do when his opponent isn’t Fedex – but that’s neither here nor there in the context of my argument here.

I don’t know why both of them (and their legions of fans) have taken it upon themselves to behave as if they are the modern day version of Mary’s lambs – but they can only keep up that pretense for so long. In fact, I was glad to see Nadal being a little bit of a so-and-so the other day. If he’s a tennis player, he  aggressive. He must hate losing. And that will come out, one way or the other.

News flash: he’s human. So is everybody else on the tennis circuit.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m off to see Wimbledon.

The tennis, I mean.