In a brilliant display of tantrum throwing, poor sportsmanship and an inability to cope with the umpire’s decision, a one-time champion tennis player, Serena Williams, accused the umpire of being a ‘point thief’ while she herself stole one of the biggest moments in Naomi Osaka’s life. Osaka was a winner twice, taking the championship and then showing her opponent how real champions conduct themselves.
It was an odd moment for me because for the first time I saw someone who behaved worse than Bernard Tomic. At least if Bernard has a meltdown he doesn’t pretend to take the high moral ground. He knows he behaves badly and doesn’t care.
Now I am a white, heterosexual, Australian male and a Christian who doesn’t play much tennis,
so I am probably the most politically incorrect and unqualified person to make a comment on these events. But as a male who has played a lot of sport and who has been slammed by referees, I have never thought to argue that women get away with much worse stuff all the time. Strangely Williams didn’t seem to see that arguing that men get away with a lot worse was in fact an admission of guilt. Any parent, teacher, or even a policeman knows that when our children do something wrong they are not excused because others do worse things. Williams’ coach even admitted to breaking the rules which didn’t seem to matter to Williams as she took her opportunity to make this moment a defence of women’s rights. I would think that those who rightly defend the rights of women should write to Ms Williams and ask her to not help.
I am a parent and a grandparent and when I get things wrong, unlike Ms Williams, I don’t use my children to protest my innocence. In fact some of the best lessons taught to my children have been from a humble and contrite father who admits fault and apologises. I would like to say that
Serena Williams showed the maturity of a five year old, but the parents of five year olds might be angered by the insult. Perhaps the lesson for Serena will be learnt when her child sees her behaviour on court which is now preserved on film for all to see.
Perhaps more disturbing has been the attack on the umpire who exercised judgement over a rule breaker. It is one of the most unsavoury characteristics about our western world today that when people do the wrong thing and suffer the consequences that they cry foul, claim victim status, deflect responsibility and put the judge/umpire in the dock. The great tragedy of the Williams’ meltdown is that the star-struck crowd didn’t have the wisdom to see the one at fault. Serena
Williams is not on her own in this regard. People do this all the time and even with God. We break the rules expecting that the rules should bend to accommodate our bad behaviour. When they don’t, we play the victim, blame someone else and condemn the judge for calling us to account. The right response is to repent, that is, to turn from doing the wrong thing, acknowledging our fault, offering an apology and seeking forgiveness from those we have hurt.
I personally want to thank the umpire in the Williams and Osaka match for not letting the spoilt privileged get away with appalling behaviour. Let’s have more umpires, more administrators, more boards and more parents in sport, in business, in schools and in the home who will make it clear that cheating, tantrums and just bad behaviour will not go unpunished.
It is one thing to love tennis and winning but quite another to love your neighbour as yourself. On this occasion Ms Williams and her noisy supporters couldn’t see their neighbour because they were so blinded by their love of self.