Offseason Ranting: Dootsie Beatdown 3 … 2 … 1 …
I really wanted to “let this one go”, so to speak. I really wanted to be a bigger person. I did!
But you know what? I’m not a journalist. I am just another fan with another blog and I don’t have to be big about this. I’ve been trained to never step away from an argument, especially one so full of potential for fun and so baiting.
So I’m taking the bait bitch. You bet I am.
The “Esteemed” – terribly prolific – Mister Bruce Jenkins had some “Year End Thoughts” following the London Whu-Thu-Fuh last week, which he (or Sports Illustrated) titled “Roger Federer bested Rafael Nadal in London, but 2011 will bring Rafa Slam“.
Either the Esteemed One gazed into a crystal ball and was immediately possessed by the ghosts of Khalil Gibran telling him that Spain has conquered Australia, OR he is simply incapable of logic. Because evidently, watching Roger Federer blaze through the Top 8 field at the Year End Championships like he was skipping through a field of tulips led Bruce Jenkins to only one possible, logical conclusion:
Rafael Nadal *will* win the Australian Open.
Reasoning skillz. You haz it.
But I mustn’t hold grudges so quickly. Give the guy a chance, ya know? Better journalists than he have resorted to a sensationalist headline here and there. Let’s read on …
It all started innocently enough, Jenkins proclaims in the opening line that “even with the 6-1 finish, this was spectacular entertainment”…
“it must have been heavenly to be there. From the standpoint of sophistication, international glamour and celebrity influence, the crowds at London’s 02 Arena were penthouse quality.”
For those not so well-accustomed to reading court judgements: whenever a judge is about to begin a legalistic trash talk to end all trash talks, he starts by praising the subject of the trash talk, raising them above and beyond the ordinary. Jenkins is employing a similar technique here, for you can almost smell a gigantic “but” in that line somewhere …
And here comes the “but”:
“The rest of the world? Bored, confused, or perhaps not even aware the event was taking place. It got terrible media coverage, as always, because the general public shuts down interest at the close of the U.S. Open — exactly when the tennis tours should end.
Own up. Break it to me guys: who exactly died and made Bruce Jenkins representative of “the rest of the world”?
Suddenly, I found myself relegated to “unworldly” status, since I was quite the polar opposite of “bored”, “confused” and “unaware” of the tournament’s existence.
Or perhaps he meant that the average sports fan, reading through the Melbourne daily papers, might miss the giant photograph of Federer’s roar plastered on the inside pages. Oh but wait, Melbourne’s not “the rest of the world either”. Tennis coverage down-under isn’t real coverage. Just like the Australian Open isn’t really a slam.
No. In Jenkins’ ideal world, “tennis stops when the US Open stops”. He of course forgets to mention that in his “ideal world”, tennis should probably start when the US Open starts too.
(Except for that brief period that the Year End Championships was held on that dinky shithole of a court in Houston. Those were the good days, I tell ya...)
That said, it would appear that Jenkins’ problem with the Whu-Thu-Fuh extends beyond mere timing, as he insisted: “B-B-BUT …
“Besides, this “year-end championship” didn’t decide a damn thing.”
Oh I’m sorry. Did you want the Year End Championships to “decide on something“? …. Other than – oh I dunno – the winner of the tournament?
Or perhaps if Nadal had won the tournament, it would’ve “decided” something. As many tennis writers trumpeted pre-match, had Nadal won, THIS WOULD’VE BEEN THE BEST SEASON OF ALL TYME. ALL. TIME.
Here is what the YEC did decide: in a field of 8 of the world’s top players, the person who fared the best against his closest rivals is the winner of the tournament. It’s tough. It’s competitive. It’s a tournament where you have no place to hide. As simple as that. Doesn’t take a genius to work that out, but it does take a full-blown hater with a jealous heart to see it as anything else. Continue on, I say!
For the first time all year — perhaps his entire career — Nadal looked flat and disheartened at the finish. He’s the stampeding warrior who fights for every point, yet as Federer’s climactic forehand sailed long (most of the fans seemed to feel that way), Nadal just surrendered. He’s far too classy to make excuses in defeat, but tennis.com’s Pete Bodo said Nadal’s voice “creaked with fatigue” in the post-match interview.
In my best Don Draper impersonation: Whut? WHUT? And WHUT? Nadal looked flat and disheartened? For the first time in his career?! (Wait … so he was actually perky and motivated when he lost 0-6 1-6 to Youzhny in Chennai a few years ago? Good for Youzhny then.)
This isn’t a slight against Nadal. Far from it. What I’m saying is that I’ve seen Rafa look flat before. I’ve seen him disheartened and resigned at times. The Rafa I saw during the match yesterday was simply a guy who tried everything. In fact, he’s been trying everything from the start of the tournament – against Roddick, against Murray … If he was “flat”, it was because the field and especially Federer had deflated him. If he looked disheartened … well, I would be too, if I had my heart whipped into pieces by vicious backhand winners.
As for Jenkins’ potty comment that Nadal “just surrendered”. How insulting. To Rafael Nadal that is.
And this is where Jenkins confuses me. He seems to think that the best way for him to make sure that no one discredits Nadal is by doing all the discrediting himself.
“Just because Federer won the World Tour Final doesn’t mean he won it” is the slightly confusing point Jenkins was making here.
Just like “just because you have a notepad doesn’t mean you can write.”
And just because something is titled “year end thoughts” doesn’t mean it’s the product of ACTUAL THINKING.
But don’t doubt his devotion to the Spaniard, as Jenkins gleefully muses:
“Can’t wait for their next match on clay, where the high bounces so perfectly suit Nadal’s strategy.”
Read: “can’t wait for the next time my Rafa boy kicks that stoopid fail of a 16 slam champ’s ass.”
I’d have no issues with reading that on somewhere like the Vamos Brigade. In fact, plenty of Federer fans have said similar things about different surfaces. But when I read it on Sports Illustrated, from a supposedly professional journalist, you bet I’m clicking into Smackdown Mode. Because those “silly”, emotionally invested, kool-aid drinking, smack talking fans I just mentioned live, love, laugh and cry over these wins and losses. And if there a journalist out there using his professional space to ruin the moment, then he deserves all the smack downs he gets.
And the smackdown shall continue, as Jenkins descends into Prophet mode.
“Nadal owns nine major titles as the tennis year ends. When the tour starts preparing for Wimbledon next summer, he’ll have 11. He’ll be intensely motivated to turn the Australian Open into a “Rafa Slam” — the distinction of holding all four major titles at once — and nobody’s beating him in Paris.”
I’m not going to argue about “favourites”, odds, or punters’ picks here. Because all those things are beside the point: Ivan Ljubicic won Indian Wells. Francesca Schiavone took home the French Open. If you think there is such a thing as certainty in tennis, then I’m sure you won’t mind me bookmarking this page for some future date when you’re proven batshit insane and I get to fist pump so hard that I accidentally punch you IN YOUR FACE.
This highly personalised trash talk from me does have another purpose. I hereby pose a challenge to the wider tennis community: Tennis Journalists of the World, I challenge you to tell me ONE thing. ONE. About Federer and Nadal that hasn’t been said before.
This was one of the points I raised back in the comments section a few posts ago. During the final on Sunday, Wertheim (SI) was asked who he was rooting for, to which he replied “for the better story”.
The two stories here are two sides of the same coin. Nadal, the hunter, the bull, the braveheart. On an inevitable path to glory, to surpass Federer. Who is declining, failing, perennially hunted, and finally at the claws of capture.
Every match, every win or loss, is fed into this mass media meta-narrative like an algebra equation. The scores and tournament may differ, but the essence does not change. We have been fed the same story in tennis for the last 4 years.
Can the narrative ever change?
Here is my narrative.
Nadal’s journey does not have to be defined by reference to Federer. Every media account of the rivalry need not portray him as a ‘lack’ to Federer, a gaping hole that needed to be filled, to the brim and overflowing. He does not simply have two modes: injured or winning. He goes through peaks and troughs just like any other tennis player quite independently of his physical conditions.
My narrative for Federer, despite all my anger directed at him, is not a narrative of decline, but one of the Great Unknown. We have a guy here who has gone where no man has *ever* gone in this sport. He is the only man who knows right now what it feels like to be sailing into unchartered waters. Instead of getting onboard and marvelling at the expanded boundaries of human achievement, the media wants to speculate over the ship sinking.
So I guess my point in this verbal diarrhea is that every media story out there has become the same as every other. But even despite this, we can have a different story, a different way of thinking. A different celebration of all things Fedal. And we get to board a ship and sail to somewhere unknown to mankind. So get, your fucking ass, onboard.
(Oh yeah, my other point that Bruce Jenkins should have his ass kicked to Uranus and back.)
And now, I will shut up at last.