Nick Kyrgios throws a point, in the distance…sirens.
Every time Nick Kyrgios does some new dumb thing, Facebook comment sections light up with the word ‘flog’, that 55-year-old man on the train ‘tsks’ smugly to himself as he scours the Telegraph’s back page, and the pants of Australia’s morning talk-back host’s collectively stiffen at the prospect of straddling their high horse for the next 48 hours.
And because Nick Kyrgios is Nick Kyrgios – he’s gone off and done some new, dumb thing in the second round of the Shanghai Open.
If his donkey drop serve last night didn’t at least make you chuckle, and instead filled you with a violent rage – maybe it’s time you asked yourself why?
Why are you either surprised or upset that a 21-year-old kid who’s openly admitted he doesn’t really like the sport, occasionally just doesn’t give a toss?
He’s on record saying he can’t see himself playing beyond 27, and he “doesn’t love tennis”.
Of course he doesn’t.
His formative years were spent in the Australian junior circuit which is a nightmarish hellscape of precocious man-children attempting to live out the broken dreams of their helicopter parents, and then after sacrificing school and a social life he’s thrust onto the single most gruelling professional sports tour in a hopelessly lonely sport.
To be fully devoted, like the Roger Federers and the Novak Djokovics of the world, you have to have an almost pathological obsession with it.
Kyrgios clearly doesn’t have that.
He’s said he kinda prefers basketball, but he “doesn’t know what else he’d do” because it’s all he knows – he happens to be uniquely talented at it, and people keep paying him for it, so he keeps on doing it.
And that’s completely fine.
He doesn’t owe it to you, or anyone to treat the game with some sort of hallowed reverence – and it’s not the end of the world if occasionally he spits the dummy and treats tennis for what it really is: a fundamentally meaningless game where two people hit a ball at each other.
A spectator heckled him during the match, “respect the game”, and perhaps that’s part of why we get so irrationally enraged when he pulls these antics.
It shatters this comforting, but wholly manufactured idea that the realm of sport is sacred ground.
That maybe a tennis tournament literally named in honour of Rolex watches doesn’t have any higher purpose.
For sports-lovers like myself that can be a daunting realisation, given the frankly shameful amount of time we devote to it – but maybe it’s not the worst thing to be reminded of once in a while.
As petulant and puerile as it was, there’s something strangely refreshing about someone who refuses to pander to our delusions.
We need Federer and his mates at the front of the class to give the sport status and distinction, but every so often we need the Nick Kyrgios’ of the world to throw the script out the window and pull our heads out of our butts.
After all, sport is so precious and unique, because it is completely meaningless.
Because it’s one of the few things in the world that can mean everything and nothing, sometimes at once.
It doesn’t demand our unflinching fealty and we can play like our lives depend on it sometimes and other times we can just treat it for what it is, some dumb game that shits us to tears.
Of course the standard is higher for professional athletes, but so are the burdens and if sometimes people crack under the pressure, that it’s not a disgrace – but completely human and normal.
You can think that he’s a dickhead, or a tosser (you’re probably right!) – but can we please put away the confected outrage that this is some great slight on our sport?
And while we’re at it, let’s dismiss any idea that his behaviour was ‘un-Australian’. Yes, Australians are known for diggin’ in our heels and toughing it out – but we also love chucking sickies and hitting the tins early on a Friday.
In fact, I bet a decent chunk of you are reading this at work right now – so maybe we should put our stones away until we get out of this glass house.