My generation of tennis fans was already incredibly lucky to grow up watching two of the best tennis players of all time, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, in their prime years.
Yesterday, Malcolm Knox wrote what I would loosely describe as a ‘think piece’ urging the Australian public to turn their backs on Nick Kyrgios, as he has “zero regard for what we think.”
By ‘we’, he must of course mean ‘the media’, a group that has quite a hold on the Australian sporting sphere, and whose many pastimes include hounding tall poppy athletes into shrinking down.
It appears he missed Kyrgios’ signing more autographs for supporters than most other tennis players, regularly inviting kids who are watching on during his practice sessions to hit with him on court, attending numerous family and charity days, and constantly engaging in a jovial and candid manner with fans on social media.
I reiterate, when Malcolm Knox uses the term ‘we’, he’s – even if he doesn’t know it – most likely talking about the media.
Australian sport has become bogged down in recent years by an overkill of media analysis- not of the dynamics of any given sport, but of the flaws of many personalities in the sport and how they conduct themselves.
I find it very self righteous for journalists- many of whom enjoy their ‘golden years’ or the primes of their careers in their late 30s, 40s and even 50s – to badger a bunch of people who usually have only their 20s to maximise their talent. If not, they are forever cast as failures and underachievers. This is an incredible burden to carry for a person in their 20s, male or female.
Living in the sport-obsessed Melbourne, it appears young professional athletes constantly quake in their boots at the media scrutiny of their every move – on or off the field. If a player does something genuinely untoward and sinister, of course they deserve criticism.
But recent years have seen the media make headlines out of the least newsworthy things one can imagine. Ask Michael Clarke, or an AFL player who dares to post a cheeky joke on social media, like the Brisbane Lions’ Tom Rockliff.
People may say “well, there is a demand for these ‘stories’, so why not write them?” That’s like saying “if you put fast food and a salad in front of most people today, most people would choose the fast food, so why not keep serving it?”
Just like the abundance of fast food companies and burger joints that seemingly pop up everywhere these days, it’s pointless to tell certain members of the media to stop doing what they’re doing. The journalists who have taken that route will write whatever fills their pockets, and over the top criticism of big personalities seems to do it.
Enter Nick Kyrgios. An Australian athlete who regularly takes members of the media on – in press conferences as well as on social media – refuses to be cowed by their scrutiny, and has charisma that shows many of them up for the ‘buzz killers’ that they are. If the media aren’t going to monitor themselves, at least let there be an athlete who is willing to defy and challenge them.
After his hard-fought win over John Isner in the Davis Cup on Friday, Kyrgios said he will likely “still throw my racquet”, “challenge the umpire”, “say what I think” and display his “emotional” side every now and then, “but I will compete for every point”.
To me, that means something to the effect of “I care very much about the fans and public, and will give my all for them, but I will not be bowed by the nit-pickers who try to shut down my individuality”.
I’m grateful for that, Kyrgios. Keep being you and challenging the all-powerful mainstream media. Somebody has to.