For the second year running, tennis has apparently been named Australia's favourite sport. Considering the amount of television time given to tennis in Australia (not much, unless it's the Australian Open), which is a country which pretty much reveres sport as a religious experience, then I find this a bit doubtful. Typically, Australian interest in a sport gets greater when we have some big heroes in it, and we're not doing so well at the moment. Considering one of the favourite questions asked by commentators is, 'will Lleyton Hewitt ever win another Slam? We reckon he can!' ...yeah, I'll leave you to ponder on the realism of that.
But then I started thinking about the whole Tiger Woods scandal - on which I have no opinion, by the way - and then I staretd thinking about scandal in sport in general, and something struck me. We have precious, precious little scandal in tennis. I mean, sure, in recent times we've had the whole Agassi palaver, but scandals in tennis are few and far between. It's practically a scandal that Andy Murray broke up with his girlfriend, and that was amicable on all sides.
You only have to look at domestic sport in Australia to know that all sports are not the same. Football players are the worst here - every second week it seems like another rugby league player (or occasionally an AFL player) does something scandalous. The amount of women that have been beaten by football players here because the players felt like they had a right to do so - well, it's a whole other rant, but it's a lot, and it's not good. Being a sporting hero creates a sense of entitlement, I think - a sense that they deserve more than the regular people - and from there, we get scandals like these.
But tennis? Not so much. Even the Agassi scandal didn't play out that way - he certainly acted on privilege when he got the ATP to hush the crystal meth thing up, but the taking of the drugs was more sheer stupidity than anything else. I haven't done a huge survey of scandal in sport or anything, but just looking at the Australian case, it does seem to me to be about entitlement.
So why - as far as we know - does tennis not foster this sense of entitlement?
I'd like to write it off to good leadership from the top - the Federer and Nadal effect - but I don't think that's it. I think they're certainly a good example and a good influence, but this relative lack of scandal in tennis has been going on for a while. There are examples of tennis players who did clearly feel entitled to something more - I feel like I should throw the McEnroe name into the ring here - but in comparison to other sports, it's very minor.
So here's a question. What is tennis doing right? (And I hope it's just not hushing up the scandals better!)
3 months ago