Tennis. Australia. Two words that could mean an organisation that runs tennis in Australia. Or it could also refer to a wonderful sport, a wonderful country and the troubled tennis stars that we’ve created.
Enough has been said about the young men who are excellent at tennis but troubled in life and how those struggles have in turn affected how they play.
But these guys don’t grow up like this as a random act of horror. There’s a pattern, there’s a reason and all of us have played a part. We treat our professional sports people like celebrities. We have this disgusting dichotomy where we laud them for their brilliance and arrogance on the playing field and then berate them for the same brilliance and arrogance off the field. Or the brilliance and arrogance crosses some imaginary line on the playing field and we decide we hate it.
Well it’s our fault. Why do tennis players get paid millions? Why are NFL players making like $50 million in a year or something? Because that’s how we’ve set it up! I don’t have the answers, but I’m telling you we need to start asking different questions.
Maybe the question we asked was, ‘how can we be the best in the world at tennis?’ The problem is, when that’s your attitude ahead of everything else then no wonder we’re producing excellent, number 1 potential tennis players who have never been celebrated or rewarded for anything other than winning.
That’s what got them to where they are. And then all of a sudden, things that have never mattered to us in the positive like attitude and sportsmanship are all we care about in the negative!
So maybe the right question is, ‘how is sport affecting our society? How is sport affecting our children? How is sport affecting our future?’ When you ask that question, it’s less about success, money and fame and more about the things that really matter long term. It makes questions like, ‘should gambling advertising be allowed around sport?’ very simple. No! No no no. Get rid of it. I know people stand to lose millions. I don’t care. I’d rather my great-grandson Jack to be pursuing a career, a wonderful marriage, a loving family and not the pokies.
And maybe if we actually cared about how sport affected all of those other things that are more important than being world number one, well maybe we’d have a player ranked 80 but we’d celebrate the fact that he/she has a wonderful attitude and treats everyone well on the tour.
And here’s my gut feeling. As a result, we’d end up with some world number one players. And they’d rock. After all, Switzerland must have asked the question, ‘how can we bless everyone, everything and bring 2x the wonder in every area including children?!’ because Switzerland produced Roger Federer.