Fandom Politics in a time of mourning.
A few quick thoughts before I leave it to PJ to update the Wimbly fall-out.
Haven’t seen the match yet. I’ll give it some time before I do. By “some time”, I mean … a few years.
I found out the results by walking past a pub with a plasma screen. Couldn’t make it to the end of the block, my feet literally refused to move anymore. It’s amazing how quickly the man is capable of sapping my energy, the same way he put a sprint in my step a few days ago when I went to see him at Wimbledon. I would give anything to be less emotionally invested right now.
Of course, when I finally doubled back to the pub, ordered myself a drink and connected to the pub wifi on my iPod touch, tennis fandom was in the thick of a wave of fury over Federer’s press conference.
So here goes:
- The last question of the presser: either you have the IQ of a piece of fungus, or Federer was being sarcastic. But of course, IQ and sarcasm-radar has nothing to do with it: people who want to hate on him will always jump to the worst conclusion without a lead.
- Surliness: I probably won’t be with the majority here – I loved the press conference. The worst part of the US Open 2009 wasn’t that he lost, it was that he lost and didn’t seem bothered by it. (Sure, the babies, Roland Garros and Wimbledon probably eased the blow back then). But this is Wimbledon, the man just lost for the second time in 7 years on his home turf. If he turns up to the press conference his usual smooth self, if he appeared to be unbothered by it, I’d tell him to retire. As long as he’s surly, sarcastic, as long as he’s out there looking for explanations, he still cares, he still wants it. There is no greater assurance for a Federer fan than that.
- Besides, what’s the point? I’ve watched him be magnanimous in defeat over the years, only to be preyed on the vultures the tennis media, only to be knocked down again and again by haters. It would’ve taken a lesser man less time to tell the tennis media to shove it. As far as I’m concerned, if “surly” is as bad as Federer ever gets on his worst day, it’s a pretty good reflection on his character.
- Bringing up an injury was an excuse, it was his way of rationalising the loss. Again, as with the surliness, it’s oddly comforting. Kim Clijsters did essentially the same thing after her Australian Open loss to Nadia Petrova. (Funny how she’s still the epitome of class and nicety on the WTA tour isn’t it?) It all comes down to this really: Roger Federer just lost in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. There is nothing rational about it. It is not okay. I am not okay and he shouldn’t be either. So if he wants to turn up to a press conference grasping for a way to explain this so that it hurts less for him and his fans – be my guest, Fed. I have no insecurities when it comes to Roger Federer – I don’t need him to say the right thing 100% of the time to be convinced that he’s a classy guy. I know that for a fact.
- The injury: those of us in Federer-fandom have known about his leg strapping since last week (here), and anyone familiar with Roger Federer knows how often we see a part of him strapped or bandaged: about once every half a decade, the last time being during Masters Cup 2005. That should tell you its significance. Funnily enough, not a single member of the media cared to ask.
- Regardless of the injury, just like there is a presumption of innocence in law, there should also be a presumption of health in sport. You’re well enough to step on court, you’re well enough to play (and you’re well enough to lose fairly). So no, Federer doesn’t get much credibility for bring up an injury after a loss, with a minor caveat – the man has never retired from a single match in his career. He could barely stand during the 2008 Masters Cup match against Murray and he still kept playing. Do you see him pulling out of Wimbledon, ever?
- Double standards. Hypocrisy. It runs both ways. If you’re a Rafa fan, I’m sorry, you don’t get to judge. Equally, if you’re a Federer fan who’s had a go at Rafa over the years for bringing up injuries after a loss, then you don’t get to not-judge Federer on this either.
- US Open. Roger will win it. And if he won’t? He’ll still walk away from 2010 with a slam. It’s what I asked for at the beginning of the year, the hardest part was telling myself not to be greedy.
- I realise this is where I part ways with some of you: Rafa for the tournament please. I’ve always said that if someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me the bandwagon I’m on is about to tumble off cliff, I’ll probably still stay on it. Yesterday, my bandwagon crashed, and I have a feeling that Rafa fans know exactly what this feels like. This time last year was a low point for Rafa too. He hit rock bottom, stayed there for a while, and eventually found his way back up to the top.
The story gives me hope, that someday,as Federer fans, we may make it out of rock bottom too.