In John O’Grady’s classic Australian novel They’re a Weird Mob, main character Nino Culotta struggles to understand the psyche of Australia in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
As an Italian immigrant he struggles to come to terms with the odd and sometimes convoluted social norms that make up the Aussie way of life.
Fast forward to 2014 and not much has changed. The structures and social rules may have changed. but the complexity and seeming contradictions still exist.
In Australia, a politician can admit to lying if he is not reading from a prepared speech, yet he can still be elected Prime Minister.
One can murder a police officer, hold up banks, try to derail a train, hold a hotel hostage and still be feted as a folk hero.
Yet if you play sport, particularly if you do fairly well at it, and you pick up an injury that means you can’t finish the match. your very right to call yourself an Australian is questioned.
Your past deeds off the field of play are brought up as evidence of you clearly not being a suitable fellow to play professional sport.
Your commitment is questioned, your ability is maligned, people who have never strapped on a boot or picked up a racquet rant about your ‘lack of ticker’.
We’re a weird mob alright.
Bernard Tomic is an athlete who polarises the tennis world – some like him, many hate him, few are ambivalent. The reaction to his retirement from the Australian Open, however, has been staggering.
Why are so many aggrieved at him? Why are so many taking it personally?
At the end of the day, Tomic plays tennis for himself. If he forfeits or loses it is him who does not get paid, or risks losing sponsors and endorsements. It is not the fans who lose out.
Some say “he is a dick”, but so what? The fans pay to see him play tennis, not give advice to their teenage sons.
He is a sportsman, he is in the entertainment business. He is not running the country or robbing banks. If he can’t or doesn’t want to play on, that is up to him.
It isn’t a national scandal.