Sport as a mass experience demands controlled emotion, and its practitioners should play by the rules.
Anger, frustration and passion are the stuff of sporting champions, but when the stuff is snuffed out, it sears the spirit that nourishes them. Lost is the killer-instinct and the shot of confidence to win tournaments on a trot; that helps mould their craft and inspires them to push the boundaries as they compete with themselves and their opponents.
Sport sans emotion is for dummies; a prosaic, deadpan interpretation of rules would be a great disservice to free-spirited emotional physicality that makes it human.
An expressionless playing field or court that bows to the new wokeness can be barren. Immersing the experience in some blithe, naive wokeness only serves to sink sport like tennis into a commercial exercise fit for TV and streaming screens. It makes it devoid of the accompanying joys and despair that make our champions more human and the experience more inclusive.
Sport as a mass experience demands controlled emotion, and its practitioners should play by the rules. That said, sporting wokeness and correctness may be viewed as weakness when competition is at its peak.
It also takes the thrill and passion out of gruelling matches. Indeed, champions are not above the rules but a code of conduct that is paraded to dehumanise and kill their instincts and spirit over a fleeting act of frustration that went wrong, is shameful. Tennis world number 1 Novak Djokovic, has become its latest victim, trolled and trampled for letting his human side get the better of his prowess on court. Some reports called it a fit of madness – not a ‘woke’ expression but wrong nevertheless and he was forced to pay the price.
The joke may have gone too far. The ‘Djoker’ does not deserve to be treated thus for his expression of frustration (not madness) on court after losing his serve (and nerve) to trail 6-5 in the first set to Spain’s Pablo Carreno Bustaa at the US Open.
Reports said he ‘swatted’ the ball in frustration. It was ‘unintended’, as he admitted later but arm-chair experts were quick to sight the missile’s dangerous trajectory and its target – a lineswoman who was hit on the throat. She was stunned and was seen writhing on the court. Apologies by the concerned champion for his rash act did not pacify officials. Game, set and match to Busta on a platter.
It was clear that Djokovic, who has 17 Grand Slam titles in his kitty, had no previous fallout with the official. She wasn’t the target, but headlines screamed their outrage and bayed for blood. The rule book was swiftly thrown at the champion after a brief deliberation on court and the Djoker was made to look like a truant schoolboy and given the marching orders.
Djokovic could have been docked a game for his act that betrayed his emotion. He deserved better but rules are rules, deemed the officials , so he got more than what he deserved. His past conduct should have been taken into consideration before handing out the harsh verdict.
Let’s be clear here. Djokovic isn’t a patch on a John McEnroe whose tantrums on court later became the toast of tennis circles. McEnroe wore his badness with elan – it made him lethal and predictable.
Big Bad Mac was packed off for boorish behaviour in 1990 at the Australian Open after three warnings. He argued with, abused and taunted officials on court. Tim Henman, the big-serving Brit, also defaulted after a ball he hit in fury struck a ballgirl during Wimbledon in 1995.
One can look back in anger after the Djoker’s Arthur Ashe Stadium incident but all is not lost for the Serbian as he looks ahead and chases Roger Federer’s record 20 Slams. Perhaps he should start wearing his new avatar with pride and bask in the ‘notoriety’. The best is yet to be.
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