Dear critics, I’ve enjoyed your willingness to open up and discuss your thoughts on the perceived mistakes and errors in judgment made by Nick Kyrgios.
Some of them have been earnest, well written and kind of informative. Many of you may have even watched Nick’s matches at Wimbledon this year and not just formulated your opinion based on what you were told on Sunrise – which probably gives you more credibility than many journalists.
So well done for getting it out there, opinions being like… well, you know what they say about opinions.
Just quickly though – do you remember what it was like to be in your early 20s? Fair bit of fun for the most part? Maybe a mistake or two along the way?
If you’re over 30 now then you probably managed to scrape through those formative years without having to concern yourself with social media. Facebook and Twitter weren’t around, email was only just gaining momentum and you probably still had to go to the chemist to get the pictures of your overseas trip developed, only to find your photographic talents didn’t extend to removing the lens cap.
Oh, the regret.
Like me, you might have even enjoyed a drink or two with your friends, partook in what you considered to be harmless banter about things you probably didn’t fully comprehend or even ran naked around a racetrack at your mate’s 21st – all of which you were able to do without having to worry about someone filming it on their iPhone, uploading it to Facebook and having your grandmother in England watching it within minutes.
I honestly don’t know what my employment prospects would have been had I grown up in the social media age? Probably ticking the self-employed box on my tax return with regularity I’d suspect.
So, can we really relate to young people like Nick today? Maybe. But not entirely. The landscape has changed too much.
Now I used to play a bit of tennis – and I should add that mentioning my tennis career in an article about Nick Kyrgios is akin to John Howard sitting at the bar with his mates saying ‘Yeah, I played a bit of cricket in Pakistan‘.
However, I have watched a lot of tennis at various levels for many years and if you think there is anything different about Nick’s behaviour compared to players a decade or two ago, then you’ve got a short memory.
The difference is today we have a frenzied media telling us what is news and whether we should choose to love or hate a sportsperson, depending on what angle will help them sell more papers or get more clicks.
And so brings me to the point. The large majority of the things Nick Kyrgios has done on court this year are so far removed from what would have made the news 10 years ago that when you take a step back and look at it without bias it’s almost laughable.
Arguing with an umpire and smashing a racquet is now front-page news? Channel 9 commentator Todd Woodbridge would have barely been able to make it to the practice courts through the throng of paparazzi waiting to catch him mid-tanty.
Now you can’t even find footage of him spitting the dummy on YouTube – believe me, I tried.
And remember Lleyton Hewitt asking the umpire to remove an African-American linesman from his US Open match in 2001 with African-American James Blake because he had been foot-faulted by him?
“Look at him,” Hewitt said, gesturing at the linesman. “And look at him,” pointing at Blake. “You tell me what the similarity is”.
Hewitt denied this was a racist statement and wasn’t fined or reprimanded by the very white tournament referee, so after a day or two in the newspapers the whole story fizzled out. The fact he went on to win the tournament that year probably also encouraged the Australian media to quietly sweep that one under the rug.
We do love a winner.
Now, do me a favour – close your eyes and imagine for a second that Bernard Tomic had said that at Wimbledon this year. How do you think the media would react to that? I believe the word you are looking for is Sh*tstorm.
And while we’re speaking about statements that could potentially be considered racist if you were to interpret them exactly as they were said – then allow me to introduce Dawn Fraser, who was able to articulately voice what everyone in Australia that has been booing Adam Goodes recently was thinking.
Thanks for the sound advice Dawn, but maybe sit out the next few plays for us, hey? If we want to try and nurture a sporting talent like Nick and help him mature into a positive role model for our kids then the last thing he needs is to be sent back to Canberra. Nobody deserves that.
As for the Today Show and Karl Stefanovic’s magnificent smile – don’t you tell me you didn’t see this coming…. “Ok, let’s get a 77-year-old swimmer who was an outspoken supporter of Pauline Hanson and the One Nation Party to voice her opinion on two controversial young tennis players from ethnic backgrounds – she’ll be sure to give us a balanced, educated opinion”.
Really? We’re expected to believe there weren’t any former tennis players without strong views on immigration available to come on for the show? You sneaky bugger Karl. You crafted it and you’re loving it. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at that smile the same way again. Ok, maybe a little.
Since everyone else has been willing to share their advice on how we should treat Nick, how about I put mine out there as well.
Let’s give him a break.
He’s just a kid who has known nothing but tennis his whole life, it’s not exactly a lifestyle that’s conducive to giving you a well rounded view of society. You spend most of your life having everyone around you falling over themselves pandering to your needs so you can develop into an elite tennis player, then when it happens you’re supposed to instantly become humble.
Not only that, but with the addition of social media, Nick is growing up under a level of scrutiny that is not only like nothing that we in the general public can properly comprehend, it’s also like nothing those who’ve come before him in the game can properly comprehend.
Sure, Nick is brash and cocky – but you do realise that’s part of the reason he can play the way he can, right? You think someone could save those two match points against Gasquet in the third set tiebreaker the way he did without that sort of belief in himself? That was gutsy and incredibly impressive.
And how do we react? We haul him over the coals for tanking a game in the second set. Come on – name a player who lasted longer than Nick in the tournament that hasn’t given up on a game or two to conserve energy in a match? Or maybe you can’t because they don’t show those highlights on Sunrise?
Now I’m well aware there’s a considerable level of hypocrisy involved in a person who writes satirical sports articles telling people not to be too hard on a sportsperson. Anyone who’s read any of my other articles on bobnightly.com.au may well explode from an overdose of irony. And I’m not saying Nick hasn’t been acting like a bit of a tool.
I’m saying a 20-year-old shouldn’t be subject to the level of scrutiny and condemnation Nick has for acting like a bit of a tool. If a kid that age competes in an individual sport on the world stage and is mature enough to be humble and grateful for the opportunity and support they’ve received then good on them.
Hewitt wasn’t able to at that age, nor was Mark Philippoussis, or Pat Cash. Pat Rafter, who every Australian tennis player or grown man with a ponytail will unfairly be compared to for the next decade or so, didn’t break through until he was 25, which is a big difference.
Let’s give this kid a go as well.