Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nice guys play tennis

I’ll admit that over the past year, I’ve gotten sucked into watching more sports than I ever thought I’d be interested in. The World Cup turned me on to soccer in a big way, though there’s not much I can do about this, since there’s nobody in Iowa City who seems to care about Arsenal vs. Manchester United the way I do. (I’m rooting for Arsenal, in case you were wondering.) I watched curling during the Olympics, and even cast an eye over a lacrosse game (match?) once. 

The problem is that a lot of big-time athletes seem to be correspondingly big-time jackasses. From Terrell Owens and his serial teamwrecking, Latrell Sprewell trying to strangle a coach, all the way to Barry Bonds’ self-righteous media bashing, a lot of professional jocks are tiresomely childish.   

This is why I’m rapidly becoming a tennis fan.  

If, for whatever reason, you weren’t watching football on Sunday, you could have seen Roger Federer smack Andy Roddick all over Arthur Ashe Stadium in the U.S. Open finals. Federer is really something to watch, unbelievably fast and breathtakingly skillful. Andy Roddick is a great tennis player himself, but he was barely in the game before the second set. The Swiss phenom is already, at the age of 25, indisputably the best player in the world, and arguably the best ever.   

And, mystifyingly, Roger Federer appears to be a genuinely normal, amiable guy. He never rants about his greatness in public, though he’s got far more reason than most to do so. He’s still dating the girl he was with before he was a big star. He doesn’t exchange juvenile insults with opponents. He doesn’t travel with a massive entourage of bodyguards, media spinners, and manicurists.  

What a pleasant change of pace. 

Jon Gold
DI columnist

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