Out Of Control

The story in the Washington Post reads (in part) as follows:

MASON, Ohio — Nick Kyrgios was fined $113,000 by the ATP for expletive-filled outbursts in which he smashed rackets, insulted a chair umpire and refused to get ready to return serve during a second-round match at the Western & Southern Open.

The tour announced the penalties Thursday, a day after Kyrgios berated chair umpire Fergus Murphy and left the court to break two rackets during a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss to Karen Khachanov.

The ATP listed a breakdown of eight fines ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 each for violations such as unsportsmanlike conduct, verbal abuse and audible obscenity.

The tour also said it is “looking further into what happened during and immediately after the match” to determine whether additional fines or a suspension is warranted.

Kyrgios is a 24-year-old Australian who is ranked 27th this week. He is a volatile sort who repeatedly has gotten in trouble for on-court actions. He was kicked out of the Italian Open in May after throwing a chair and being suspended by the ATP in 2016 for not trying to win and insulted fans during the Shanghai Masters.

You may not have heard about this if you are not a sports fan, or if you have been preoccupied with current world events, but this is an event worth noting because it is a symptom of a deep malaise; I suspect it is not restricted to Nick Kyrgios. It is a sign of the complete freedom that many liberal-minded folks prize as the virtue worth having above all others. It is freedom without restraint. As I have noted on numerous occasions, freedom without restraint is not freedom; it is chaos. And Kyrgios’ behavior — in this instance and in numerous others — may be a sign of the times.

Without sounding like a preacher looking for work, I would remind readers that in a world that does not prize restraint but which instead applauds behavior such as that of Nick Kyrgios there is a real danger of watching the threads that hold us together tearing apart. Ours is a culture, including Australia apparently, in which parents for years now have been told by the “experts” not to restrain the young because it inhibits their potential. Never say “No!” The result is a world in which the behavior of out-or control athletes and celebrities, not to mention ordinary folks like you and me, is not only tolerated but frequently met with applause. This athlete, in particular, is immensely popular and when he plays on television it is “must see TV.” The crowds wait breathlessly for an outburst which they label “honesty” and regard as worthy of emulation. And we must, really we must, ask what’s wrong with this picture?

Nick Kyrgios is slowly becoming the rule, not the exception. He has a huge following and openly admits that he doesn’t really like tennis where he makes a small fortune showing signs of his undeniable brilliance and occasionally winning — while always being on the brink of a meltdown. He is much more interested, it would seem, in drawing attention to himself than in winning tennis matches. He is a showman in an age of entertainment when those who behave erratically are the main attraction. After all, ordinary people going about their business, no matter how successful they might be, are not much fun to watch. It’s the out-of-control athletes and public figures generally who make a stir that interest those who present television pictures to large audiences. The more erratic the behavior the more likely the audience will be large and appreciative — and buy the sponsor’s products, needless to say.

Thus we do eschew restraint as boring and prize the Nick Kyrgioses of the world (who will pay this fine with the small change out of his tennis shorts) because they make life interesting. We flavor our infatuation with the sensational by calling such behavior honest. But if we are honest we will admit it  is extreme and not worthy of respect and certainly not admiration.  It is freedom gone amuck and self-indulgence of a sort, when adopted by more and more people, that ultimately strains the thin threads that hold civilization together. Entertainment is not the most important thing. Not in the end. And honesty does not equate with outrageous behavior.

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8 thoughts on “Out Of Control

    • The irony is that McEnroe (who coaches him on the Laver Cup team) has been working with this man to help him get a grip. Talk about the blind leading the blind!

  1. This is a fascinating post, thank you very much for sharing. I think in sports entertainment is important, it attracts crowds and raises funds as you have mentioned. Is taking him out of the sport the best way forward? I’m not entirely sure, maybe he can act as an example to younger players of what not to be. Anyway, I have recently written an article on my blog about why we love to hate Nick Kyrgios. I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on my article if you are able, thank you 🙂

  2. P.S. One of the regular announcers on ESPN this morning said (of another rant by a baseball player) “I don’t know about you, but personally I love to see a meltdown.” Of course she does: it brings in the viewers and builds followers. THAT’S the problem!

  3. When faced with the overwhelming impulse to Strike Back…Walk Away, and live to fight another day, if fight you must. But that’s just MY motto, when it comes to Public Life.

  4. Off line even more than norm, I certainly had not heard about this. I agree with you and have mixed emotions – none of them admirable – about his behavior, and about how some find this type of outburst entertaining.

    Your story about being a counselor at camp brought back my own memories of being a 12-year-old camper at my aunt’s Camp Chattooga in Georgia. My first formal tennis lessons were there, as were the first canoeing experiences — oh my and synchronized swimming – I thought I might drown during the formal presentation for visiting parents!

    I load the gmail site and read off line at night — and always appreciate that you don’t break yours into two parts.

    Another week and perhaps I’ll have that elusive internet in the apartment.

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