Two recent incidents in the world of sports caught my eye. The first one was the spectacular meltdown by Serena Williams in the Women's Final at the US Open. Serena let loose at the umpire in a way that was most unlike her and was most unbecoming of a professional sportswoman. I won't go into all the details (Google it), but she was most aggrieved at the way the umpire had treated her. She called it sexist behaviour, she called the umpire a thief, and she destroyed her racket by smashing it on the court. Eish, Serena!
Those of you who have read this blog from the beginning know that I am a dedicated Williams fan. Anything Serena or Venus does is blessed! But even I think she should have handled the situation better. And that brings me to the crux of this post. Sportsmen and women (and celebrities generally) get away with too much because we idolise them. My first reaction when I heard about Serena's meltdown was to blame some idiot umpire! Who is this creature who dares to question Serena? Somebody get me a flight, I'm going to New York to sort him out! Doesn't he know Serena is a goddess??
But honestly, a woman at the peak of her powers (playing the final of the US Open barely a year after childbirth qualifies as power) should have been calmer. And you know what, she had the whole crowd on her side. She received a 'thunderous' ovation when she initially came on court. They cheered her right through her altercation with the umpire. The American crowd was so partisan that even though her opponent was a worthy winner, they booed at the presentation ceremony. 21-year-old Naomi Osaka, the first Japanese winner of a tennis Grand Slam tournament, wept.
What is it they say in Spiderman: with great power comes great responsibility? Serena comforted Naomi and asked the crowd not to boo her. But the damage had been done and this young girl will always remember her first Grand Slam (hopefully the first of many) for some of the wrong reasons. Serena lost it big time too (with all due respect) a non-entity of an umpire. He was doing his job, probably a little over-zealously, but what he was paid to do. Indeed some other umpires have come out in support of him, stating that he did nothing wrong in terms of umpiring. I can't help but think that Serena was almost bullying him with her meltdown. We were all on her side....but she should have reacted in a more mature fashion.
Serena has been through a whole lot in her tennis career, especially incidents of racism, and gender hostility. There's no way I can say that I have gone through a thousandth of what she has endured as a black woman. And yet she has risen to the top and stayed there. Which is why if she had handled it a bit better the whole world would be on her side now and the umpire would have had to undergo plastic surgery. As it is even racist cartoonists are having a field day with Serena's tantrum.
Now, I am an excellent armchair sportsman (thank you, thank you!), and I know for a fact that it is difficult to stay mature and calm in the face of a perceived injustice as you spectate. Any sports fan can relate to this. And if we can't, then how about the sportsmen and women? Not easy.
So to the second incident which caught my attention. On the same day Serena was melting down, Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid and Spain, probably the most despicable footballer of his generation, revealed that his family had received death threats because of his football thuggery. That is a terrible thing. Nobody should have to face a death threat because of sports. Period.
Let me give some background. This Ramos guy is not a clean footballer. He is a defender and he plays dirty. He will kick you to within an inch of your life and he will employ every negative tactic on a football pitch. And he's proud of this status. In June this year (2018), his club Real Madrid played Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League Final.
In the first half, Ramos fouled Mohammed Salah of Liverpool, an attacker in the scoring form of his life, and some would say the best player in the Liverpool team at the time. Ramos fouled him so badly that Salah dislocated his shoulder as he fell, and he had to be substituted. As he left the field most onlookers felt he took Liverpool's best chance of a victory with him. And so it proved; Liverpool lost the Final that night.
There were post-match recriminations. Ramos was roundly derided for what was perceived as a professional foul. That is to say, he had deliberately injured Salah because he was the danger man for Liverpool. I must say here and now that I believe it was an intentional foul. I'm an Arsenal fan and I do not support Liverpool or Real Madrid. But I know a cynical foul when I see one.
The match was lost but there have been various levels of shade thrown the way of Ramos, most notably by Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, over this foul. And Ramos has given as good as he has gotten, unsurprisingly. Then suddenly, speaking after Spain had beaten England at Wembley, he declares that his family has received death threats because of the incident with Mohammed Salah.
He was jeered at Wembley, and he was sad this happened. But, please note, he does NOT regret his actions in any way. He said he had already explained his part in the injury sustained by Salah. So why didn't anyone remember that his family received death threats after that Final he asked.
I have said that no one should receive death threats because of sports. Especially one's family. That's just mean, despicable, and should be a crime if it isn't. But for this toonoo to bring it up now just shows how much of a manipulator he is. Isn't there a psychological term for people like this? And I don't mean 'crazy'! Or 'stupid'! Those are my layman's terms. He said he would have "liked another reception (from the crowd at Wembley) because people only remember the action of the final (Champions League), and nobody remembers the death threats that my family and my children received."
Of course, they don't! When you willfully turn yourself into public enemy number one on a football pitch what do you expect??
The difference between Serena and Ramos, I am sorry to say, is that I adore one and I can't stand the other. Serena over-reacted but I was sympathetic to her cause and especially how she comforted her opponent. I find Ramos thoroughly disgusting, and reacted by throwing up when he declared that, "I have never tried to hurt a colleague", by which he meant footballer.
Nobody on this planet except maybe hardcore Real Madrid fans and some Spanish people believed him when he hugged Salah as he left the field injured. As far as we were concerned Ramos set out to hurt Salah and he was hugging him to ascertain that he was really leaving the field. To quote another deplorable person: Fake!...and...Sad!
Sportsmen and sportswomen get away with murder because people like me idolise them and judge them differently. That's wrong. And we also vilify sportsmen and sportswomen because they are high profile and people like me expect them to be cleaner than clean in their behaviour and attitudes. If only we could remember that we are all human....well, I don't know which planet Sergio Ramos is from.
There are innumerable sportsmen and women I could have used as examples. To be fair a good percentage of them are nice people. Roger Federer, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Farah, Anthony Joshua, and Asamoah Gyan, come to mind. But that percentage of....I don't even know what negative word to use....the other type. They can poison the sporting atmosphere so quickly. A certain special and great football manager who is a specialist in negativity comes to mind.
Serena was fined around $17,000 for her US Open indiscretions and hopefully she will continue her quest for records in Grand Slam tennis while she has more babies. (By the by, why didn't she let me know she wanted to get married and have a baby??!!)
The umpire who sanctioned her? Who cares?! The governing body of women's tennis came out with a statement that indicated that they were aware of gender inequalities in the game. But the umpire has received support from his colleagues some of whom have proposed an umpire's boycott of matches featuring Serena. And every Tom, Dick and Harry has had their say.
After the UEFA Champions League Final Ramos went on to play in the World Cup in Russia. Fortunately, Spain was kicked out early so we did not have to endure him for long. Salah missed most of the tournament for his country (Egypt) because of the same injury. I still adore Serena. You do not want to know what I wish Ramos (but not his family).
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