We secretly love it when sports stars behave badly
Nick Kyrgios was the best thing at Wimbledon this year
For me, it’s only officially summer once your mum makes you apply factor 50 when you’re only nipping to the shop for a Solero, or when your dad insists on an ill-advised barbecue and makes the sausages taste like charcoal (again). For the racquet-loving Pimms drinkers of SW19 though, it’s not summer until BBC One starts its 24/7 locked-in coverage of Wimbledon, the dullest sporting event of the year. This year though, something odd has happened: some of the current crop of tennis stars have been acting like proper dicks, and as a result the parade of white-clad middle-class grunters has actually been worth watching.
Tennis traditionalists have all been grumbling under their breath at the antics of Aussie Nick Kyrgios because he threw his toys out of the pram, swore a bit and became the only unpredictable element in the entire tournament. As a result, he’s been given a slap on the wrist and a sizeable fine.
Now, you could quite rightly argue that throwing your racket to the ground, climbing a fence to break into a tennis court, arguing with the umpire and hugging the ball boy are all against the rules of tennis, but what the outraged blazer-wearers behind Kyrgios’s fine have failed to realise is that the rest of us love it when sports stars go off-script and start acting like entitled dickheads.
What do you think is likely to get more people talking about Wimbledon: Federer winning in straight sets against a guy you’ve never heard of, or an Aussie with a Greek’s surname being accused of deliberately losing a game? It’s no contest.
Fortunately, Kyrgios isn’t alone in his attempt to make tennis cool. World number one Novak Djokovic decided to scream the word “TOWEL!” into a petrified ball girl’s face the other day. When I heard that, I didn’t care about the tennis. I didn’t give a shit about the scores. In that moment, all I wanted to do was hunt down the clip of this girl being screamed at, even if it meant I’d have to watch a bit of actual tennis to witness it.
Sport’s bad boys have always been the only reason to ever turn to the back pages of the paper. From Beckham’s petty kick of Simeone in 1998 to Tiger Woods throwing his clubs around and dropping the F bomb on live TV, these are the moments that have got the whole world interested in sport. It’s just a shame we have to sit through hours of boring nil-nil draws and national humiliations to get to those moments. The dullest sports (here’s looking at you golf) should seriously consider banning anyone from taking part who isn’t a little bit of a nutter if they don’t want to be completely forgotten.
Despite their cult hero status, these “controversial” sportsmen are always penalised rather than praised for their ability to get people watching their chosen sport. Thankfully the press always have the right idea: if a sports team wins a game they’ll get a small write-up somewhere in the back of the paper, but if one of their players has nine girlfriends, is avoiding tax and was caught snorting coke off the pitch, he’ll make the front page, because that’s what we really care about.
When a sports star acts outrageously or does something controversial, he comes closer to earning a nation’s undying respect than he would if all he ever did was “put a shift in” and have one good performance in every 100. Think about it: would you rather get a football shirt with Ibrahimovic on it or Cleverley? If all sports stars were massive knobheads, I think even I’d find myself developing a devout interest in sport. I might even get the urge to run a track, swim a pool and finally close my Netflix tab.
In fact, maybe this is the way forward. Maybe Michelle Obama should spend less time forcing kids into her sports programme and focus instead on getting our dickhead sports stars to freak out. First Lady, stop trying to make relatable Vines about your favourite fall vegetables and just tell Kyrgios he’s not allowed to climb a fence. The number of kids taking up tennis will soar, I promise you. We might even cure childhood obesity. Your move, Mrs O.