My own childhood sports memorabilia consists entirely of an autograph from O.J. Simpson. Pre-murders. The Juice hugged me as a little child and I lit up like a Roman candle. Now I just feel like an accomplice.
I’ve been to 10,000 baseball games and never once got a foul ball. So forgive me if I’m a bit jaded about sports memorabilia. But it’s hard not to get excited for the kid on the main court at the French Open who winner Novak Djokovic handed his game racket after the match. That kid went nuts. Like somebody got Walter White’s blue meth kind of nuts. I wouldn’t suggest a kid sitting court side at a Grand Slam tennis finals is hurting on the decent life part, but it’s still touching. It is, just admit it.
Djokovic noted the hand-off in the post-match press conference, stating that even when he was down two sets in the finals match, the kid stayed in his corner, shouting positive comments, even some tennis game strategy. It’s the kind of thing that when you turn things around and win, you feel it was heaven sent. But if you end up losing, you kind of want to find that same kid and maybe give him a punch in the shoulder, if nobody’s looking. Of course, violence is never the answer, though it is often still a thrill.
Immediately after the racket gifting, numerous media outlets reported that the kid should be crazy excited because that game racket could fetch around $30,000 in a sports auction. Which is mostly how adults show they’ve forgotten what it is to be a child who doesn’t think in crass monetary terms, but merely that his sports idol handed him his racket. Nevertheless, when it comes time to pay for college, that 30-G’s won’t be a nothing burger.
Tennis has something of a reputation for having spoiled, jerky players. But only because so many tennis players are spoiled and jerky. There aren’t a lot of Blindside type movies made about tennis players. And guys like McEnroe, et. al., have given the sport a bad reputation for obnoxious, entitled, cry babies. Not that they don’t exist in other sports, but when they exist in a non-contact sport it comes off worse. Maybe because you know these guys will never get on-field justice. I mean, for all LeBron cries on the court, he does get punched and kicked fairly regularly so we viewers get a catharsis. Nobody ever punched John McEnroe, except maybe his first wife.
So, today, let us revel in a great act of sportsmanship from a champion tennis player. Praise it when it happens or you can’t knock it when it doesn’t. Or some stupid rule like that.