While he may come across as a bit of a jerk, Bernard Tomic is undeniably a very good tennis player, not that you hear much about that. I am certainly no fan of his, but I can’t help feeling the guy gets a bit of a rough deal with the media, perhaps exacerbated by the public’s fascination with celebrity villains. But he hasn't done himself any favours with his latest behaviour.
I am always puzzled by the way sportsmanship and humility seem to matter a whole lot more in some sports than others. Tomic or Kyrgios seem to be criticised for their on-court behaviour or post-match comments almost weekly and I suspect this would not be the case if they played AFL, NRL or cricket. How different would our expectations of them be if they were boxers?
Some may argue that combative sledging and gamesmanship is one thing, but to have a professional athlete admit to not caring about the result of a game, as Tomic did recently, is quite another. Maybe that is a fair comment, but hopefully they never had to watch Carlton or Melbourne play when they were tanking.
Given the amount of public criticism he has faced over the last few years, I don’t really mind that Tomic chooses to fire back at his critics. His public image is already heavily tarnished so he has little to lose in that regard. I am also yet to hear a logically compelling reason as to why professional athletes should be held to higher standards of behaviour than the rest of us.
However, having defended Tomic’s right of reply, his choice of response left a fair bit to be desired. And while I sympathise with the intense scrutiny he bears, I paradoxically need to make a comment in response to his outburst.
In an aggressive public response to his critics Tomic highlighted the wealth he had amassed and what he had accomplished in his life to diminish those who would criticise his behaviour.
My comment is less about Tomic and more of a societal paradigm where a young man who has spent his life working for his own ends believes he has somehow accomplished something more important than people who have had a real impact on the lives of others in society. And it is not just Tomic. The sad reality is that many people might think he has a point.
But what has he actually achieved? Undoubtedly he has achieved an elite level of proficiency in a niche set of physical skills, but aside from earning him fame, which he doesn’t seem to enjoy and obviously plenty of money, which of his achievements have actually meant anything?
Since we are talking about achievement, has he saved someone’s life? I’m tipping not, so I would say his achievements pale beside many doctors, nurses and paramedics. Has he put his life on the line to protect others? If not, he can also step behind the thousands of police officers and soldiers in our country as well.
Yes, he likes to flaunt his money, but is this really a measure of success or achievement? There are many rich scumbags in the world. Beyond that, the major role professional athletes can claim they fulfil is entertainment. And we can find many things entertaining without being particularly impressed by them.
Tomic's arrogant lack of perspective is not that surprising given the conga line of people he would have experienced telling him how important his talents are. Maybe instead of turning on the young man for his words and actions, we should consider how our society's actions inculcate them.