Open Post: this thing called sport…


 

AFL is not my sport. You know?

For those who don’t know: AFL stands for the Aussie Football League, the biggest sport in this country. As Melbournians celebrate AFL Grand Final day with more zest than they do on Australia Day, even if it’s not my sport, it’s hard for me not to make it my sport for at least that one day a year.

In tennis terms: the final was a battle of Fedal proportions. Two teams worlds above the rest, top of the ladder for the whole season, setting themselves up for this inevitable final clash to determine which team will win the holy grail of Australian sport. 

And they took it to each other toe-to-toe, until the very last last quarter in which a few flashes of intensity sealed the fate of history. There was desperation, there was shoddy umpiring. There was drama and broken noses. In the end, there was a winner and there was a loser. So close, but as the saying goes, no cigar.  

The pictures below are of the Nick Riewoldt (the Saints captain) after the match. In many ways, it reflected the reaction of the entire St Kilda team in defeat: utter devastation. It was the sort of emotional wreckage that turns grown men into inconsolable babies, weeping into their parents’ arms after they walked off the field as the vanquished.

 

 

 

Which brings me to my point: this thing called sport – IT FRIGGIN HURTS. 

I may not be a Saints supporter or an ardent AFL fan, but I can empathise. Sometimes you leave it all out on court: heart, guts and pride, and you walk away empty-handed. 

You fight from Day 1 of the season, through each round, until you reach the final. Until – against rational judgement – you allow yourself to hope, and to dream about holding the trophy in your arms. To taste victory before victory is taken.

And then? Nothing. 

Another year gone by. Another titanic struggle lost knowing that next year, you’ll have to start again. Next year, you may not make it this far. The “if only’s” creep in and start to kill you inside.  

So all you can really do is to cry like a wounded baby in the arms of your family and loved ones. Much like the way Roger Federer choked back his tears during the Australian Open trophy presentation earlier this year. 

Yeah, this thing called sport, it sucks and it hurts like hell sometimes

 

 

So tennis fans, I got a question for you: what are your best and worst sporting memories?

 

My own worst: Wimbledon 2008 final.

I was on vacation in New Zealand at the time and watched it from my hotel room. When match point happened in that hazy darkness, I threw a pillow at the TV.

“I  hate Roger Federer.” I crawled into bed, wanting to sleep the rest of the day away.

“Oh boy, I gotta tape this as evidence,” my friend joked.

So I wasn’t traveling with the most sensitive friend I have. But she did take me out to a nice dinner, before we downed 2 mojitos, a Finlandia mule and 6 beers, and walked back to our hotel singing “Teenage Dirtbag” at the top of our lungs at 2am in the morning.

Rather comically, we had booked to go paragliding the next day. Just as well our tandem master cancelled because of sickness – fancy diving off the cliff the day after the Wimbledon final.

 

 

Ben Radford/Corbis

 

My best sporting memory: French Open 2009.

Quite possibly, this was also one of the worst slams I’ve experienced. Half way through it, I wanted to puke my guts out. I watched as Roger struggled against Acasuso, lost a set to Mathieu, and then the culling really began. Seeds fell consecutively – Djokovic, Nadal, Murray.

NADAL.

The Tennis Gods parted the seas for Roger Federer, but can he finish a road laden with land mines? The thought of it made me feel sick. How I survived the French Open I do not know. Every second was agony, every match watched in fetal position.

This thing called sport … it turns perfectly sane people into lunatics.

But it was all so worth it. There was a great moment in the final when Soderling was serving at 3-5 in the final set. The camera zoomed up on Roger’s face as he walked to the baseline to receive. His expression was contorted, that crybaby was about to break out the tears.

You fucker! You still have another game to win! I screamed hysterically. 

And when he won it, I sat there in front of my computer sobbing like a teenybopper. Gone were all pretenses of cynicism and sarcasm. The weight of the last 18 months, the nightmares of the Australian Open and Miami, the last 4 years at Roland Garros came crashing down on me. Vindication came with all the sweetness and gratitude in the world and I have never felt so ecstatically happy for another stranger human being.

But Roger wasn’t exactly a stranger, like so many people out there that day, I felt like he took me, took us, on a wonderful journey.

 


 

So this thing called sport, it’s like a drug, an addiction.

You put your heart on the line and go back again and again, only to be hurt each time. You cry like a silly baby over painful losses, all in hope that one day, just for once, you might be the one standing there holding the trophy.

Or you might be the one sitting in front of a computer screen at 3am in the morning, grinning through misty eyes.


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50 responses to “Open Post: this thing called sport…”

  1. girl from michigan says :

    oh wow. What a great summation of All Things Important. thank you for this post. It’s a great manifesto on how people can become so emotionally involved in STRANGERS.

    I don’t know Roger. I never even followed tennis until Wimbly 08. And yet I take his losses and wins and babies so personally. It’s absolutely an addiction.

  2. evie says :

    Ugh, I couldn’t watch more than 7 seconds of that interview. Most. Crushed. Ever.

    I find it interesting that as openly emotional Federer is, Mirka is exactly the opposite. I’ve never once seen her shed a tear after a win (or loss). Not the first Slam at Wimby. Not at RG. Never. Pretty remarkable considering the number of fans around the world who sob for him.

    (I was reminded by the contrast as well after 2009 Wimby when poor Brooklyn was crying her heart out after Roddick’s loss.)

    • dootsiez says :

      Mirka, the iron lady, sat through this year’s Wimbledon final while carrying twins. That was CRAZY, considering I was hyperventilating in my own bedroom.

      I think she’s used to it though. She was so nervous on match point during the Wimbledon 2003 final that she had her head down in her arms and couldn’t watch!

  3. breadstix says :

    Thanks a lot for this post, I’ve lost count of the times I nodded in agreement whilst reading through it. Addiction indeed… and it’s an addiction that people don’t necessarily understand until they’ve experienced it themselves. Most of my friends (and even family) don’t understand why I’d rather watch tennis than go out, or transform into the most antisocial git there is during a Slam. I don’t even think I ever figured out myself why I was so depressed for the month after Rog’s AO loss.

    As for worst moment… I want to say Wimby08, but since I was being lugged around China at that point and had too many distractions, I would have to say AO09. Missed the final two sets (that’ll teach me never to let myself be dragged out to lunches and whatnot durin ga final again…) and through a combination of bad company and the way I found out the result, it felt pretty darn awful. Oh, and then I came home and found that Federpoop CRIED. And read reports of how he utterly tanked in the fifth. Horrible. I refused to type his name for 2 months.

    Best moment: le French or Madrid, the former for obvious reasons, and the latter because it felt like such a relief. 🙂

    • dootsiez says :

      In hindsight, I was disproportionately happy after Madrid considering everything that’s happened since then. But the bigger relief was 2008 US Open, I seriously thought Roger would go the year without a slam given his summer hard court season at that point.

      • breadstix says :

        I think we all were at that point. Didn’t even contemplate the idea of Roger winning RG, I for one thought he’d get his ass kicked by Nole in the semis, if he even got that far. Who’d have known, eh?
        Yups, thank goodness for that USO title last year. After getting demolished at the French, losing his beloved Wimby and being ousted during the Olympics… it would’ve been too huge a blow, for both Fed and his fans.

  4. Tashi says :

    Worst moment: Wimby08 and AO09. AO09 was worst because I fully expected Roger to win and he just imploded. Rafa took that Wimby08 and it was a horrible moment but he fully deserved it. AO was all Roger going crazy and giving it away. That hurt more.

    Best moment: RG09 and Wimby09. The world has been a better place ever since 14 and 15.

    Doots, I think you’re extraordinary. Much props.

    • dootsiez says :

      Totes agree.

      I thought Roger was going to win AO as well, URGH. I give Rafa cred for being so tough on court, but Roger gave that one away more than anything. AO was a dark place, but for me, the pain of Wimbledon just rubs deeper. I was on vacation for both of them. Fanbloodytastic holidays they were.

  5. Dippy says :

    Thanks for the journey back in time. 18 months ago, almost every Roger fan was in depths of despair RG and Wimbly08. 9 months ago our heart sank to new low when he lost in AO09. As if we could not go any lower, came racquet smashing incident. Almost nail into the coffin, Roger came back taking RG and Wimbly09. How we rejoice, the order has been restored. The King has return and hope with his daughter along side him, he is inspired to win more GS. 3 cheers for King Federer, may he continue the winning momentum into 2010.

  6. Isobel says :

    Oh, yes. I’m relatively new to this sport; I fell in love with Roger at the Olympics last summer. I have a very bad habit of falling for champions whenever they hit on hard times. I think I’m drawn to the emotion of it. I remember when Roger lost the second set to Haas at RG I was crying on my bed, and halfway through the third set I turned the SlamTracker and the radio off and swore I wasn’t going to follow tennis anymore because it got to me too much. I’ve stopped watching Roger live for more than a few minutes at a time, because it’s too nerve-wracking; I like following on Twitter and turning the TV on when Roger’s one game away.
    Though what do you do when you find yourself liking everyone? By the time I turned the TV on to the Wimbledon final when they went to deuce in the final game, I’d long stopped enjoying it, because I knew I was going to feel just awful for whoever lost!

    • dootsiez says :

      Hey Isobel, you sound just like me. I follow on Twitter sometimes too, as if turning off the TV or closing slamtracker somehow makes it okay.

      I would’ve felt awful if Rafa lost the Wimbledon final. He had match point earlier but double faulted on it, losing that match would’ve broken him even more than Federer. Maybe it was the lesser of two evils, but that didn’t make it better.

  7. JFK says :

    Wimbledon 08 and Australia 09 were some really dark days for Fed fans. Despite having heart attacks on the journey to the final ( Acasuso, Haas, Del Potro, ) the French Open was one of the greatest tournaments ever. I always wondered what it would be like when Roger won. And to see him finally win and fall to his knees and cry was well worth the wait.

    • dootsiez says :

      Hehehe I always wondered what my reaction would be. I thought I’d do some sort of giant leap from my couch and scream at the top of my lungs. My actual reaction was nothing of sort. Just pure bliss 🙂

  8. Kian says :

    great posting dootsiez and i was crying too when he finally won the french open 😀

  9. Paul says :

    French Open 09 was undoubtedly the best but Aus 09 has to be the worst. After that I doubted if he would even win another slam, he looked finished.

    Fire up the barbie!

    • dootsiez says :

      I thought he looked finished too, which was silly of course, since he made 4 consecutive slam finals at that point.

      Hehehehe I *will* fire up the barbie for the AO next year. Better, I’ll be fistpumping from the Rod Laver Arena stands in person.

  10. Rosie says :

    I think Wimbledon was the worst, it would have been six in a row,and that seems to be the one that matters most to Roger. As for the French Open ,I’m still not sure he won it,I think I may have died during the Tommy Haas match and am now living in an alternative universe.

  11. roadrunnerz says :

    Ok, firstly, that post-Wimby interview with McEnroe is pure class. Had Federpoop walked past him and said he wasn’t up for it I’d have totally understood. (Isn’t that what Roddick did this year? Although I could be wrong on that. Totally understandable). Next time I hear someone say Fed is a sore loser I’ll make them watch this.

    Secondly…I freakin’ love this post! You rock.

    I don’t know what it says about us, or Fed, that makes us literally and willingly go on this crazy rollercoaster with him.

    My most vivid, and nauseating French Open memory is waking up, turning on the TV and seeing Fed down two sets to Haas. I remember doing a double take thinking I must’ve read the score wrong, and then literally feeling sick as my heart sank into my stomach.

    I watched for a few minutes, then I got so angry, at the thought of Fed flunking out of the French a DAY AFTER NADAL. I mean, that was just a whole new level of cruelty. I didn’t think I could stand to actually, you know, WATCH it,

    I fumed and threw things for about ten minutes, then resigned myself to the inevitable and turned the TV back on, realizing that I signed on for this ride a long time ago and If this is Fed’s last match at the French this year, so be it. All the more reason why I cannot NOT watch.

    The rest, as they say, is history. Literally.

    Thanks for bringing back the memories with this post.

    I think, lol.

    ps: the last photo is fabulous. Love it.

    • dootsiez says :

      Woah, scary. Do Federer fans all have the same reaction or what? I started laughing when Federer lost the second set, thinking “tennis gods, can you really be THIS CRUEL?” But I couldn’t tear myself away either, like you, I signed on for the ride a long time ago, and for better or worse, I’m staying on. Glad I did. The comeback said more about Federer as a person than all his 2006 matches combined.

      And also, the Wimbledon 2008 interview was pure class. That said, I’m glad they didn’t pull the same thing on Roddick this year. It’s just horrible to try and get a player to talk about such a devastating match right after it. JMac handled it well, Roger – mad props to him – decided to live up to his media commitments even at that particular moment in his career.

  12. Liz says :

    I agree with everyone — this is a great post. What an incisive statement about why we love sport so much, despite the heartache!

    I think the AO 09 loss was definitely the worst tennis loss. As others have said, it seemed like the beginning of the end. Would he never be able to beat Rafa? And the best for me was not the French, also that was wonderful. It was Madrid. After Roger won the first set against Rafa, I just cried and cried. He had finally beaten his greatest rival, on his best surface, at home. The second set was almost anticlimactic — after the first, you knew Roger had done what he had to do.

    • dootsiez says :

      Madrid was awesome, but I’ll tell you, in that last game when Rafa had break point on Roger – I lost faith again.

      After Miami and Rome, I didn’t have enough confidence in Roger to pull out the match if he were to give back the break. I’ve seen him lose like that to Nadal a few too many times. But Roger hit a few solid shots and serves to get himself out of trouble, and that was the light at the end of the tunnel. Awesome!

  13. Mia says :

    Doots, you’ve captured it all — the depths of despair and then the glory of redemption. The agony and the ecstasy of a fan, indeed. Keep tapping away at those keys.

  14. LJ says :

    no one I know bar 1 friend understands my emotional attachment to fed. Personally I don’t understand either, but how do you quantify emotional attachments in the first place? Anyhoo…

    Worst – AO 09, I started the frazzle from the start and it didn’t dissipate till mid-5th set where it was replaced by heart-wrenching agony as the joy of the 4th set comeback was dashed by the implosion of the most epic proportions. The trophy ceremony broke my heart as well as the seal on the bottle of Smirnoff Black.

    Best – something non-rog related, last season’s run to the championship by my basketball team. Early season we were sitting mid-table in the comp but somehow managed to regroup and demolish all the teams in the 2nd half of the season and make it into the semis. 30 seconds left on the clock in the semi, scores were tied. I get the ball with 15 seconds left, I stutter step drive to the side of the key, pull up for a short range jumper…swish, nothing but net. 8 seconds left on the clock and we win the game.

    The final was a game just as dramatic as the semi and I laid my heart out on the court, I would have been utterly devasted had we lost but luckily we pulled through by 3 points and got to stand and hold the trophy rather than cry into our computer monitors.

    • dootsiez says :

      Words never quite live up to one’s emotional attachments to a team, a player or a sport in general, but with Roger, I guess it’s the whole “taking me on a journey” part. I felt like I’ve grown in the last two years with him, hence the emotional investment in his successes and losses.

      Gotta say, I LOVE your best memory, it has “one-tree-hill-the-movie” written all over it, talk about dream runs and self-fulfillment! Thanks for sharing the story!! 😀

      • Julie says :

        You’re a One Tree Hill fan? I think I’m going to have to rethink our imaginary friendship Doots. I abhor anyone who demonstrates the ability to put up with Chad Michael Murray’s “acting” for more than 20 minutes! It’s a pity, we were the best of BFF….lol

      • dootsiez says :

        ^ Ah, our imaginary friendship is safe Julie 😉 I *hate* Chad Michael Murray. But it was still a good analogy.

  15. Julie says :

    Great post Doots! This one is a keeper. For me, RG08 and Wimby08 were the worst because I was actually there! I was there in the stands when he got his ass kicked by Nadal in France ( I didn’t cry but got really drunk) and I was also there in the dark when he lost that epic match less than 4 weeks later (greatness match ever my posterior!). I don’t think I ever cried that much in my life, I was sobbing my heart out on my mom’s shoulder even as they were presenting Rafa the trophy and I seriously thought that life as I knew it (with Roger being the best) was over.

    And as much as RG09 was great, for me, the USO08 was the greatest because I think Roger (and me) needed that win to keep on going, to rekindle the fire and the faith extinguished during those consecutive losses.

    • dootsiez says :

      oh LORDY Julie, you watched those two matches LIVE? Firstly, I’m jealous, but secondly, I’m glad I wasn’t there. I would’ve been CRAWLING out of stadium.

      US Open 2008 was startling in the way the NYC crowd cheered for Roger, given that they’ve never warmed to him as much as crowds in other countries. I was convinced that Roger was finished during the summer season when he lost to Simon, Karlovic and Blake, so when he won the semifinal against Djokovic, I had already popped the champaign. Didn’t expect him to get that far, but he clicked into gear just in time. It’s great to live through these great moments again 🙂

  16. pban says :

    You are right us open 2008 was the most important slam for all of us emotionally and wimby 2008 was the worst roger moment ever,simply because it devastated him.You are right i am for the ride no matter what ,why a swiss with an oversized nose should evoke such mad passion in otherwise sane mortals i do not know.Ijust feel that for just that brief moment when we watch him play we forget our own ordinary existence and begin to believe in immortality.Thank you roger for reminding us that we are beautiful. Thanks doots, you have put all our collective feelings into words beautifully.

    • dootsiez says :

      Thanks pban. That was pretty well-put yourself. It’s been a privilege to watch Roger play this year, and I can’t wait til AO comes around next year to fret more, live through horrors and wait patiently for the next moment of joy! 😀

      And how can I not be emotionally invested in the Fed, when it is he, not anyone else, who gave me the best and worst sporting memories of my life.

      • pban says :

        Iam from India and cricket along with roger is like a religion,so you can imagine just how emotinally invested i am, because when we were knocking the aussies over at perth i was an emotional wreck watching roger struggling against Tipsy.

  17. lops06 says :

    i’m a saints fan, and i was devestated when they lost, especially seeing their reaction when the siren went – it was heart breaking, i was devestated and crying, same reaction when Roger loses an important final…

    i love your post, i agree with everything you said, exactly how i feel about sports…

    Worst: probably a tie between Aus 09 and Wimby 08 – because i got the feeling that it was the turn of the tides, thats his dominance was coming to an end…and these matches were hard fought and gruelling but at the end he came up short, always so close yet so far.

    Best: French 09 and Madrid 09 – Madrid because i think thats where it all changed, where everything got turned around and it was all working out for him again and the French because it was one hell of a roller coaster fortnight

    i hope what i said made sense…

    • dootsiez says :

      ah lops06, that sucks. I was hoping the Saints would win, and the worst part is that they probably could’ve won, had it not been for a few untidy misses here and there. They created chances for themselves, but just didn’t take them. That’s the toughest part of all. 😦

      And I totally agree – Madrid, despite not being a slam, was strangely significant in turning the tide. Not to mention it was nice to see Roger score a second victory on clay over Rafa. 😀

  18. flo says :

    I was actually laughing during Wimbledon 08 final because Nadal was making amazing shots coming back from one break down in the first to being two sets up. It was more devastating because Federer came back to even it up with some gutsy shots and some luck. And Nadal is so out of this world for not even being frazzled by being clipped in two tiebreaks and not closing out the match points. That fourth set tiebreak was the pinnacle of that match. I preferred the demolition at FO ’08 to being edged.

    Best moment as a fan – Liverpool coming back to beat Milan in the Champions League final after going down three goals. That was unbelievable in soccer terms and because Milan was really the better team. Wimbledon ’07 is runners-up because that was much closer than the final set score indicated.

    Worst – Really it’s WIm ’08; AO 09 was bad but once you see a tragedy play out for the second time it doesn’t have the same impact. Like Shakespearean tragedies on initial viewings may be about the events but every subsequent time you can’t help but notice the protagonists are being dumb and checking you watch: “Did Hamlet do his soliloquy yet? Yeah? Good, I’m outta here. The rest is just filler.”

    • dootsiez says :

      I prefer demolitions to losing by a hair too. I got over the French Open like a bad dream, but Wimbledon is just haunting on whole different level. Gotta agree with the Wim 08 over AO 09. Something about the rain delays, the vibe of the centre court, the backhand Roger hit on match point in the fourth set – can’t be replicated in another setting. That match was truly beautiful and once in a lifetime, even though a part of me still wishes it went another way.

  19. Blue says :

    Wimbly 08 was the worst for me, I figured he had a chance after the 4th set. I was so emotionally invested in that match and boggled by the quality of play, I’ll never forget that backhand in the 4th set TB to save the match. Seeing him trying to stay strong in the end just did me in. AO 09 comes a close second. I cried only when he broke down, I wasn’t disappointed ‘in’ him just for him. And because I knew he was so close yet again.

    RG 09 was the best, everything was aligned for Fed to take it. I even wrote my little version of ‘the tennis gods must be crazy’. I don’t recall him having struggled through his matches so hard before that, to be carrying the weight of history and expectations every match must have difficult. That point at 3-5 in the final set, I was yelling at him too, “Don’t start crying yet, idiot, there’s still one more game!” lol. I admit to sobbing like a little kid when he won it. Best moment in tennis. Another favourite moment was when Sachin Tendulkar passed Lara’s record for most runs in Test cricket. I’m not a huge fan of cricket, it’s blasphemous for me to even say it in my cricket crazed country lol, but tennis will always be my favourite sport. What a crazy year it’s been so far!

    And thank you for this epic post, you just put everything we think and feel so very well. You know i hate you right? :p

    • pban says :

      god blue sachin chokes .me up too even after all these years .sachin and roger are the only 2 sportsmen i have a conversation with when they are playing ,however onesided and full of admonishments the conversation might be.

  20. pban says :

    ah doots for the first time ever Iwill disagree with you on this post,but then the aussies might defeat us today and my cup of despair will runneth over.

  21. keysersoze says :

    i rem the first heartbreak was 2005 AO semis. i was clasping my hands dunno to pray or to cry during the last points of 5th set, fed saving match points n all.

    but 2006FO hurt more. 2006 was such an incredulous season for him. fed the invincible fell again to rafa was terribly hard to stomach. nt till their rivalry evolved to today’s stage, i always tot fed wld turn things rd soon. but sports.. and all those sparkling heartaches are kinda bittersweet on hindsight.

    • dootsiez says :

      Ah, gotta admit I wasn’t a Fed fan back in 2005, was happy to see him lose to Safin, who I thought definitely deserved another slam. I thought Fed was on track to turning things around in 2007 – from 06 TMC onwards, he won more against Rafa than he lost. Then 2008 came. *sigh*

  22. netz says :

    Worst moment: As many others have said AO Final 2009, mainly cos I was there. The whole stadium was crying with Fed, but probably responsible for making him break down in the first place, So much love …

    RG2009 definitely the best. The whole redemption narrative. Was up early morning also dootsiez and well worth it, particularly the 2nd last game where Fed looked like he was overcome with what he might achieve. Priceless!! and great to see him pull through! What a result!!

    • dootsiez says :

      Hi Netz!

      Urgh AO was horrible and touching at the same time. The more crowd cheered him on the harder it was for him to hold back the tears. *sniffles* Hopefully the crowd will give him the full support when he comes down under next year. Am in the mood for some vengeance myself.

      • netz says :

        hoping I’ll be there also for next years final also. Wouldn’t miss it although I no longer live in Melb.Can’t get hubby to go with me but easier to get great seats in finals day is an upside. Hoping to be there for #16!

      • netz says :

        By the way, as I’m a medium term lurker and average to more interested tennis fan I want to congratulate you on your year aniversary. I have loved your take on all matters tennis since I found you and hope you continue to post and enjoy your tennis experiences! Don’t hold back on your opinion ever – they are greatly appreciated!

      • dootsiez says :

        Thanks for the lovely words! Nice to know that there are other Aussie tennis fans reading this blog 😉

        I’m planning to go to the final too, but student budget not so glamorous. Hopefully I’ll be able to drag some friends along and cheer Roger to a victory.

        Umm that is if he makes the final. I swear, if I buy a ticket and he’s not there …

  23. Noah Mihal says :

    Ladders are one of the oldest tools still used by humans today. The humble ladder is right up there with cooking utensils and axes and their use dates back at least over 10,000 years. They have been depicted in Mesolithic rock paintings and show early man using them to reach honey and fruit. Without them, many of the world’s greatest monuments such as the Pyramids of Geza couldn’t have been constructed and even today, it would be incredibly difficult to build anything.

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