Bernard Tomic, an eminently sensible young man

Ben Pobjie Columnist

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    The question, as always, is this: why do you care about Bernard Tomic?

    Of course many people genuinely don’t, and I applaud them. But there are many others – media commentators, former tennis stars, and fans – who care deeply about the man who was considered the shining hope of Australian tennis back in days of old, when the world was young and hope still dwelt among us.

    They care passionately, and are furious at the man. Their rage cannot be contained at Tomic’s disrespectful attitude, laziness, lack of commitment and general failure to have a go.

    Why is this so?

    The fact is that Tomic, like more than one local prodigy before him, has fallen foul of the great Law of Sporting Self-Analysis, the law that states one must never publicly state the obvious truth that a young man who happens to be very good at something which he’s not all that interested in, but which can provide a comfortable livingĀ for him if he ekes out the bare minimum of effort, would be foolish not to make that bare minimum and gather the harvest while he may.

    Whether Tomic is truly bored by the game and unwilling to do what it takes to succeed, or is just going through a moody phase, I don’t know. But if it’s the former, I don’t blame him at all.

    If I could travel the world raking in a fortune for playing a game I didn’t like much, without having to try all that hard, I would. I think most of us would. You’d be a sucker not to – deliberately choosing to avoid an easy path to riches isn’t really that intelligent.

    Of course, that also means I’m never going to be all that fussed about what happens in Tomic’s career. I wish him all the best, but I’m not going to cheer him on, because cheering a sportsman who doesn’t care whether he wins or loses is a mug’s game. If he won’t care, I won’t either, and as far as I can see everyone’s happy.

    Bernard Tomic mid swing

    (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

    So why are so many of us unhappy? Why does his lack of passion exercise us so? Why does it seem so important to some people that Bernard Tomic put in the hard yards, and why is it so offensive when he doesn’t?

    The reason is, in a nutshell, that he is Australian. If he wasn’t Australian we would care about him as much as we care about all the other non-Australians who never win tournaments: not at all. But because he is Australian we feel a sense of ownership over the man. We believe he owes us.

    This is not an attitude rooted in any kind of logic. Outside those rare tournaments like the Davis and Federation Cups, or the Olympics, tennis players don’t actually represent their countries, and even when they do, it’s at best in the way that our national cricket or football teams “represent” us: that is, they come from the same landmass that we do and wear colours denoting the fact, and that’s it.

    But obviously sporting fandom is not a logical exercise: if it was I wouldn’t still be planning to watch the Bledisloe Cup even though I know it will make me suicidal.

    The sporting community is an irrational assemblage, and when one among us sees through the fog enough to shine a light of reason on the absurdity, it should be done with the humility that comes with knowing we’re still just as absurd as all the rest.

    But still. Bernard Tomic hasn’t let you down. He hasn’t let me down. He hasn’t let anyone down except himself, and he seems pretty happy with his current arrangement, so not much to worry about there.

    His fellow players should, if anything, be grateful for his approach to the game, as it makes their jobs that little bit easier.

    And as for us, we have plenty of great tennis players to cheer for, true professionals who can always be relied upon to gratify our thirst for entertainment by treating the game they play with an obsessive earnestness wildly out of proportion to the objective significance it holds in the wider scheme of things.

    And for that we should be grateful, and leave young Bernard alone to live his life in whatever maddeningly sensible way he sees fit.

    Ben Pobjie
    Ben Pobjie

    Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.