Under the Black Flag

Tears of a Clown

Watching the finals of the Austral­ian Open was a revelation.  The worthy loser, Andy Murray, praised the winner, Roger Federer, by saying that he, Murray, could cry like Roger, but as yet could not play as well.  He then broke down and wept in front of thousands.  The crowd loved it and cheered Andy to the rafters.  Every print and electronic journalist covering the final repeated Murray’s words as if they were the Sermon on the Mount.  The dour Scot was suddenly transformed into a tender, caring, sympathetic person, instead of a tough guy whose hitherto impregnable armor had carried him within a whisker of tennis immortality by winning a grand slam.

Murray’s tears were nothing new for the Australian public and the millions watching on the idiot box.  Just one year ago to the day, the very same Roger Federer had wept unashamedly during the ceremony while addressing the winner, Rafael Nadal.  I had watched that final, too, and was surprised to see the most successful tennis player ever cry like a baby in front of thousands of his fans.  What is going on here? I said to myself.  Have tennis players turned into Hollywood types?  Is this genuine emotion, or is it shameless spin?  Have their agents instructed them to cry in order to raise the price of their endorsements?

The answer to this is simple.  Tennis players are following the cult of sentimentality as...

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