These are not our heroes: On Novak Djokovic and never having favourite athletes
Novak Djokovic served us yet another great reminder this past week.
In getting deported from Australia on Jan. 17, the Serb reminded everyone of a simple and critical point of life. One that we tend to forget when we invest time, energy, and love (LOL how silly) into sports.
We’ll get to that lesson, but we’ll take the scenic route there. First, some of the facts. Djokovic has spent most of his professional career chasing the two greatest players in tennis history, only to then surpass them and become the alpha dog himself. He has all the Grand Slam titles, the head-to-head wins, the weeks as the top-ranked player, and just the general markings and numbers that show clearly he is the superior player. That much is over with, or at least it ought to be. He is our favourite tennis player ever, this too is important. Djokovic, by and large, has accomplished everything he could ever want to…so now to ring in 2022 he apparently decided that he wanted to battle himself?
In the time since COVID-19 halted things worldwide, the Serb organized a local tennis tournament that followed all local health guidelines, yet still ended in a coronavirus eclosion. He hawked horseshit health and healing theories to his Instagram followers, got disqualified on a bogus and unlucky break on his way to what would have been a likely US Open title in 2020, then went supernova in 2021 and came as close as anyone ever has of completing a calendar-year Grand Slam. Through it all, he had dodged and been noncommittal about questions on his vaccination status.
But then he made things crystal clear when he announced that he would be traveling to Australia after having received a medical exemption to the vaccine requirement. (He shared the news on Instagram, of course.) Outcry followed, Djokovic ran into a political shitshow in Australia, which was largely of his own doing mind you, and politicians bent over to show who could be harshest on the tennis star. In the end, Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke cancelled Djokovic’s visa for good after Djokovic had managed to uncancel it because, he said, the Serb was a threat to “public health”, “good order”, and “public interest” in Australia. Once that became the grounds of debate and not, say, whether Djokovic’s medical exemption was warranted or not, he was cooked. Rather, he is cooked and has been deported from Australia.
Case closed? Hardly.
This all adds up to what is quite the dire resume for Djokovic and Djokovic fans — that is, those of us who rely on rationality. If you anchor your days around that principle, you understand that it’s deeply upsetting for the greatest player in men’s tennis history to seemingly be anti-vaccines…or at least anti-COVID-19 vaccine. You understand that it’s not a good look to fall to Joe Rogan’s level of stupidity, especially if and when that level is somehow beneath Donald J. Trump, who it must be said is a literal nutless monkey wearing a toupee but who still believes in the booster shot. If you believe in rationality, you understand how fucking ludicrous it is to even suggest that Djokovic, irrespective of literally everything that happened or didn’t happen in Australia leading to his deportation, acted for a single second in a way that warrants a comparison to Muhammad Ali, or that his case approximated Ali’s or Colin Kaepernick from close or afar. If you believe in rationality, you understand that while it’s normal for any one person to decide what they do or don’t put in their body, it’s also perfectly normal for any one country to decide who they decide to let or not let inside their borders. If you understand and believe in rationality, you understand that sometimes you should do the right thing if for no other reason that it is the right thing to do. If you believe in rationality, you understand that Djokovic was indeed singled out in Australia, because he actually is a singular individual.
Knowing all this, the important reminder that we should take from this entire fiasco is that you should never have a favourite athlete. Djokovic is anti-vax or, at the very least, does not want to get vaccinated himself. Tom Brady wears a fucking MAGA hat. Peter Forsberg was fine but is a former NHL player who was last relevant 15 years ago, so whatever. David Ortiz did steroids. Monta Ellis told us he had it all when he was just in fact a delusional asshole. Kevin Garnett never asked for a trade, because of loyalty or something — a mantle that Damian Lillard has been entirely too happy to pick up and wear around his neck as some sort of badge of honour the last few years, only to periodically wonder why his back hurts so much. Michael Jordan was a sociopath who punched his teammate Steve Kerr at training camp. Tony Parker sexted over and over again with his teammate Brent Barry’s wife. Gilbert Arenas brought guns to his team’s locker room, then dared a teammate to use them. (Said teammate, FYI, also brought guns and would eventually be tried, charged with murder and pleaded guilty of manslaughter. He’s behind bars for 23 years.) Dwyane Wade was, well alright Dwyane Wade is actually quite alright but he’s the exception. There are too many examples, here. Never invest in athletes, because they will inevitably make you look foolish for doing so, disappoint or offend you — and sometimes all things at once.
Here’s the part where some of you might chip in and say, oh I don’t know, that you’ve figured it out. You don’t invest in players, because players are humans and thus flawed. No, you invest in teams and only have favourite teams. But dear reader, we’re here to tell you that this is still bullshit. Our favourite NBA team is the Golden State Warriors, a franchise that has been good for roughly 8.5 years of its entire 76-year existence and has a majority owner who says idiocies like the “Light Years Ahead” quote because he signed Kevin Durant, all the while he’s fleecing the diehard base that was there for the team when they sucked as he bolts to a new city and a new arena. The Boston Red Sox galaxy-brained their way into trading away the second best player in baseball, and their principal owner also owns Liverpool. Yuck. The local NHL hockey team in your city is the greatest in the history of the sport but has spent the past generation chasing its tail trying to live up to an excellence that existed when only six teams played hockey, and then spent a first-round pick on a defenseman who, essentially, shared revenge porn and had asked teams not to draft him.
Want more examples? One of our great friends moved from cheering for Dirk Nowitzki, who received a statue full of anal beads, to Luka Doncic, the next Great White Hope who will spend the next decade losing in the first round and finishing second in MVP voting behind Ja Morant. (Said friend also never, ever mentions the disgusting things that have allegedly happened inside the Dallas Mavericks workplace.) Yet another friend cheers the Winnipeg Jets, a franchise that spent 15-odd years not existing and which is the bastard child of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets in that they’re as awful as the latter while playing in Canada’s version of the former’s hometown. A third friend of ours is an Orlando Magic fan and, LOL we can’t even finish the sentence with a straight face. That franchise’s three greatest players are known for being 1) injury-prone, 2) capable of unlocking the full might of his game the minute they ditched the Magic for another franchise, and 3) Dwight Howard. Not to mention that the team’s owner is an actual scum human. It never works.
So there you go, never invest in athletes and professional sports. It’s dumb and only leads to heartbreak when it isn’t deeply shameful to boot. Your favourites are never gonna win it all and will only bring you shame. Why bother? Where’s the fun in that, you say? In always looking at things coolly and with a level head? Well the fun lies in not fucking looking like a dang idiot, that’s where. Is that easier said than done? Only if and when you love to hurt.
At least we’ll always have Randy Moss, the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Straight cash, homie.