AUSTRALIAN OPEN: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE?

I try as hard as possible not to take life too seriously. I try – as much as possible – to live and let live and by extension work hard at tolerating a range of beliefs and attitudes that stand in direct contravention to mine.  Without getting into an Aaron Sorkin style soliloquy, this is but one challenge that comes with the notion of free speech in a democracy.

I found the following tweet in my timeline this morning. It had been re-tweeted by someone I follow. The text was:

To the Aussies in the crowd screaming “You’re shit Hewitt”, get the fuck out of my country!” The author of the tweet – whom I’ll call JP – had the support of the retweeter: my man posting a reply in endorsement of JP’s thoughts, which was posted during Hewitt’s singles match against Andy Roddick last night.

JP is welcome to say or tweet whatever he likes, that’s what twitter and free speech is about. The tweet, however, highlights – what seems to me, anyway – to be an ever-increasing part of the zeitgeist during the two weeks of the Australian Open. Or, to be more succinct, the prevalent zeitgeist until the last Australian singles player is eliminated from the tournament.

Am I alone in thinking for some reason, rampant Nationalism and jingoism has seemed to unleash itself with increased fervour at each tournament over the last decade or so?

Returning to the tweet,  “JP” believes that voicing your opposition of Australia’s favourite tennis son since Pat Rafter from the stands constitutes grounds for deportation; that if you aren’t 100 per-cent in support of Lleyton Hewitt, you are therefore, that most intangible, cowardly and totalitarian of slurs: un-Australian.

I’ve shown the post to a few people today to make sure I haven’t misinterpreted the intention of the tweet. Was JP saying using obscenities at the Tennis was poor form?  Was JP ashamed that such behaviour would wrongly paint Australian tennis crowds as boorish and obnoxious? As I suspected, there was agreement that if JP were disappointed at the crowd behaviour, surely “get the fuck out of Rod Laver Arena” would have been used.

All this would be fine up to a point, except for the fact that players on the ATP and WTA tour are playing for themselves, not their country. When they win, their prize money goes into their own bank account. Not yours and not mine. Players take to the court in their own right, as individuals, not as flag-bearers for their country. They do this in Davis Cup. Not at Grand Slams

Cliches like “Carrying the hopes of their country” shifts a few extra newspapers and perhaps generates a few extra ratings points, but I’d be surprised that when Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal suit up at Wimbledon for the Men’s Singles Final, or for that matter Serena or Venus in past U.S Open finals, that they give a moment’s thought – if any – to the “hopes of their country” as they take to the court.

I suspect that I’m in the minority on this and that’s fine. Support your favourite players, by all means, but to infer that by not being wholeheartedly behind Lleyton Hewitt (or, judging by the front and back pages of the Herald-Sun in Melbourne in the last few days, Bernard Tomic) that you are no longer welcome in this country is laughable at best, frightening at worst.

And for those about to suggest I should stick my latte up my arse, feel free to replace Australia with Cypress, Serbia or perhaps even Scotland where I talk about rampant nationalism at the Tennis.

Australia’s not alone in this, but we’re certainly staking a claim for race favourite.

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