Archive for the ‘Tennis’ Category

The perpetual seesaw of sports opinion

As a sports fan, do you ever fancy yourself to predict exactly what the headlines from the columnists are going to be after a game of cricket, rugby or whatever your chosen sport is? I know I do, and I’m quite bored with being able to do that, to be honest.

I think the problem strings from making a holistic argument based an individual fixture. Of course some sports lend themselves to this sort of thing more than others. Cricket is the ultimate example of this unique genre, as a quick gaze at the scoresheet will tell you everything you ever needed to know about the fixture.

“Johnson took 2/57 and only scored 8 in a One-dayer? Well, that’s far below his average and is an unacceptable economy, therefore he must have performed poorly.”

Article done, 800 words written, $800 made.

Tennis is another sport that fits into the genre, and we have seen a great example of this play out recently. Until he started doing well in the Sydney International, as far as I was aware, Tomic wasn’t fit to tie Pat Rafter’s shoes. Funny, though, as soon as he wins his maiden ATP victory, how he instantly becomes a reformed twit, reforming his body and his mind to become the consummate professional. A week ago he was telling Pat Rafter to shove it, and a year ago he thought the po-po were jealous of him.

The police aren’t jealous of you Bernard, not even now you’ve won your first title.

But don’t tell sports opinion columnists that.

It’s not their fault, and I’m not saying they suck or the Australian sports journalistic landscape might as well resemble the start of my S bend or anything like that. What I am saying, nay asking, is why we have to have such knee jerk reactions to every single fixture?

If the Wallabies win a game against England, they’re back, baby! Just as good as they were in the glory days. But, God forbid, should they lose to Samoa, well, then they’re literally the worst thing that ever happened in the universe, ever. No, no, no, don’t tell me they’re not! They lost to Samoa. It’s there, right on the page.

It either speaks to a lack of perspective in our writers or, more likely, a lack of willingness to make an argument in spite of the most recent result (singular).

One loss doesn’t make the Wallabies a bad team.

Mitchell Johnson didn’t become out of form between Melbourne and Sydney, nor did he become in form between innings in Sydney.

Bernard Tomic didn’t stop being himself because he won a tournament. That’s not to say we should all swallow the story about Bernard being an arrogant prick (see: last year’s worth of Bernard Tomic stories) as that mightn’t be true either.

No, I think we should be able to make an argument that is not necessarily backed up by the last match’s statistics, but is backed up by the stats from the one before, and the one before, and the one before.

First serve statistics are important.

First serve statistics are important.

For those of you who are philosophically inclined, you might be aware that this kind of thing is called inductive reasoning. Too often we are caught out pretending deductive reasoning (making a conclusion that necessarily [in a philosophical sense of the word] follows from the premises) will fly in sports opinion articles.

A classic example of this: Steve Smith bowls legspin, like Shane Warne. Steve Smith is blonde, like Shane Warne. Steve Smith bats with aggression, and can score hundreds, like a good batsman. Steve Smith is a good fielder, like Michael Clarke. Therefore, Steve Smith is the perfect cricketer.

I think this example clearly illustrates the failure of deductive reasoning as it applies to sport.

Rather, we should go on results not just from yesterday, but from a whole bunch of days before yesterday, as well as yesterday; identify meaningful trends and correlations and then make our arguments from there.

And more that that, too. We should actually watch games and make an informed statement on them. Analyse them. How did this bowler bowl? Was he unlucky? Was Nadal a bit flat that day? Or was he on fire?

These things are much more informative that saying: “Well this guy got 3/41 so get him in the Test side!” That’s what got Trent Copeland in the Test team, and, unfortunately for Trent, I doubt he’s coming back anytime soon.

Sport, for me, is more about emotion, flow and feel than it will ever be about statistics, even in the statistical giants Tennis and Cricket.

Tell me about the flow, about the feeling, about how a guy looked to be bowing, not just how many batsmen he got out, but also how he troubled them, how many he worried, how many he hurt. Tell me if Roger Federer looked vulnerable in what seemed like an easy three setter. And for peat’s sake can we stop thinking the world tilts on its axis every time a player has a good or bad game.

Finally, almost worthy of a blog in and of itself, can people stop calling Pat Cummins “Cummings.” It’s unbecoming (get it?) and so, so wrong.

Why Caroline Wozniacki wasn’t racist

Let me get one thing straight. Tennis players are not, never have been, and never will be funny.

Beloved of many, many tennis fans around the world, I woke up to find Wozniacki in the news for stuffing towels down her jocks and her, erm, bra I spose, and pretending to be Serena Williams. Sort of funny, maybe, right? At a stretch? Or at least we can appreciate how it could be seen as funny if we were really stoned or something?

WRONG! It is, I read, an indictment on her fundamentally racist and elitist Scandinavian character (well, we Scandinavians are pretty wonderful) that she should dare imitate a full figured woman (who also happens to be black). She transcended the boundaries of good taste, said various news sources and, well, let’s call them ‘special interests’ websites. This article is not to bring censure upon myself, and there is no censure I fear more than those with special interests. I have no special interests, and thus no clout with such vicious creatures.

So the above people apparently have a media pass for hammering the young Dane with insults. And who’s to stop them and tell them they’re wrong? Usually I cower in the corner and say “yes sir/ma’am, no sir/ma’am” until they get bored with such a pathetic creature and slink off. But this time, I really don’t think Caroline was racist.

Racist? Or just not funny?

Racist? Or just not funny?

What these folks won’t tell you is that she also mimicked her screams (every female tennis player has there own ‘brand’ of scream) and her gestures.

“Not relevant,” they might tell you. “The only relevant part is the part where she made fun of the other lady’s body shape, which is terrible stereotyping of an African-American woman and is therefore racist.”

Well allow me to delve into the dirty world of stereotypes myself.

Tennis players are not funny. They might seem to be living the high life, God knows Bernard Tomic is, but I think that if you look a little closer, there’s a lot of introverted, self motivated and highly unusual individuals in the profession. I don’t think it’s their modus operandi to pride themselves on their witty banter or on how many schooners they can put away on a Friday after massages.

No, I think they’re more at home, um, at home, watching a movie, listening to their favourite podcast, curled up in a ball counting how many balls they struck in anger that day. That’s not to say they’re all reclusive weirdos, but my point is that they are not the type who make jokes to all those mates they have all the time. They probably spend more time speaking to hotel clerks than their mates.

You’ll have realised by now that this is mostly hyperbole, but it serves to illustrate my final point which I will make in earnest: Tennis is not funny.

Wozniacki was playing an exhibition show-match with Maria Sharapova. Beyond hitting the ball really hard (which they do all the other times) what else can a tennis player do at one of these things. These events, which pro tennis players must just “errggghh” at every time their manager tells them they have to front up for one, are designed solely so the crowd can have a wee giggle and point at the things they players are doing on court, then go home and tell their friends all about how they saw Andre Agassi take his shirt off.

Sort of like going to the monkey enclosure at the zoo (note to those who are censuriously [new word, RT and share] inclined, this remark is not associating tennis players with monkeys, just with crowds who go to watch both do similar things, namely laugh, point at the performing creatures and go home and tell their friends about it).

Tennis players must dig into their bag of tricks. They do the between the legs, the no legs, the one legs (amazing aren’t they? They can make plurals of the singular), the kick-the-tennis-ball manoeuvre, the backwards stuff, and all that. That buys them about 10 minutes.

Then they start to do the impersonations. They begin to grunt, al a Gustavo Kuerten: “Eeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrr.”

Gustavo Kuerten: the former world number one just keeps on giving.

Then the Agassi. They’ve probably got a cap that makes their head resemble a certain billiard ball, and they’ll do the short steps thing that Agassi made famous. I remember hating those short steps (being a Sampras man myself) because it meant Agassi was on a role, big time.

Then they go for their fellow women players. The screeches come out: Monica Selles, Maria Sharapova, Li Na (or is it Na Li?), they’re all there. Then we hit Serena.

Serena, perhaps the biggest anomaly, in terms of physique, in women’s tennis. It’s clearly served her very well; the other ladies couldn’t keep up with her for however many years. It was that physique that forced others to accord and get bigger, fitter, stronger and better.

So surely, when Caroline stuffs her skirt and top with towels imitating Serena, we should look at it as praise of said physique, with perhaps a little jealousy thrown in. In a results based industry, I’m certain that most female professional tennis players would love to have Serena’s physical attributes.

I struggle to look at this incident and view it as racist. I see it as unfunny tennis players imitating other tennis players. For anyone who knows anything about tennis, they would know that Serena stands out as a colossus in her game, and that any attempt to replicate her on court game or physique should show exactly how much impact she has had on her sport.

I’m not going to say that “there was no black face therefore she’s not racist rah rah rah.” If we take the context into account, I think you can see for yourself that this is in no way racist, just a very unfunny impression. It’s not like Wozniacki was attempting to demean Williams’ physique, just replicate it. Hell, she won the point as well, so it was sort of befitting of Serena.

Was Wozniacki naive in imitating her? Perhaps. But it takes several naive steps of logic for people to think that her imitation of Serena Williams, possibly the best female tennis player of all time, is racist

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair