The Fanblog

Tennis update: Federer v Thiem Stuttgart SF might be interesting. Federer looks pretty rough, having seen his R16 match with the 19 year-old American. Good stuff from Fritz. BH is getting better and his serve and FH are legitimate. Federer was lucky, quite frankly, to escape. And Del Potro, who looked like he was struggling against Simon for a set plus, thumped the Frenchman, bageling in the third. Del Po v Federer final for some old school grasssss?

Our boy Cilic lost to Stepanek in Holland. Wow. Such champion pedigree in that Croatian, eh? The discussion is not over on the USO 2014. What. A. Freaking. Disaster.

Now to the point of this article.

Having watched tennis for more than 35 years, like watching most sports, I have focused most of my attention on the sport itself, sure the players and matches, but never really gave much thought to investing so much energy into one particular player.

Even as a younger fellow, with the Americans dominating the game for years, throwing #1s and top-5 players at the tour constantly, I certainly enjoyed the depth (as well as one of them staying atop the sport for years). I literally grew-up with McEnroe, Conners, Gerulaitis, Tanner, and Ashe through to the Big 4 of Agassi, Sampras, Courier and Chang. These gents along with others (like the overrated Roddick and underrated Brad Gilbert or Jimmy Arias 😀 encouraged many young American tennis fans to enjoy the sport.

At the same time, the sport included a steady stream of international talent. I really liked Borg, appreciated Vilas, and really enjoyed growing-up and watching Lendl, Wilander, Edberg, Becker, Cash, Noah, Stich, Kuerten, Rafter, Kafelnikov, Ivanišević and Hewitt, among others.

We were loaded!

The good old days, as they say.

I have to admit; I kinda wonder: should I have become more of a fan of a particular player? Maybe I would have really gone places in tennis or sports or life in general if I’d started running around in jean shorts, for instance, trying to pull-off a mullet, or whatever that was on Andre’s head.

We do this as kids, actually. We really look-up to certain public figures (hopefully secondary to our parents). We become fans of certain athletes, rock stars, movie stars, etc. We put posters on our walls, maybe dress like them, defend them with others who share the same devotions/allegiances. It’s like we’re a team, a little cult. It was fun, right?

Childhood. The good old days.

This kind of devotion can and does follow people into adulthood, especially with team-oriented fanaticism. Soccer (futbol) has this kind of fanaticism world-wide, obviously. Here in the U.S., we have 3-5 popular sports, so we see a lot of this local and regional love people have for their teams, and some of their athletes.

As I have been blogging about tennis for over a year, I have seen the face of tennis fanaticism play-out on websites, blogs and discussion boards. Until delving into this underworld of tennis lust, I wasn’t as much aware of this hero-orgy of sorts I’ll call the “fanblog.” Should I have a “besty” too? Should I find some deeper connection to a particular player and advance that fidelity to others like some kind of lunatic?

But before I even go there, I’m a fan of Phil Mickelson (fellow San Diegan) and like Rory Mcilroy. Should I start a Mcilroy blog? I could follow the PGA Tour and lean heavily on my deepening affection for him and his game. Or what about Kelly Slater, Josh Kerr, or Greg Long (surfers)? That might be a cool blog or rant. Granted, a lot of this fanboy/girl stuff is about single individuals in individual sports, so I was thinking to stay with that theme. Having said that, I’m a big fan of Arjen Robben: what do you think? A Robben blog? That might be cool. Sure it’s a team sport, but I just love Arjen Robben’s style of play (though he has come-up short in some big WC matches 🙁

In the end, this isn’t my gig — getting all cuddly with a particular player. I enjoy watching and even analyzing the whole experience. Perhaps I’m not as emotionally attached, but I think this is a healthier approach.

This fanboy-girl blogging seems more reminiscent of an unchecked discussion board, full of the prominent anonymous genius. Or really it’s more reminiscent of children and how they approach their favorite movie stars, or sports or music heroes. Hell, we know some kids just love their toys. Imagine a pre-teen or even teenage girl’s birthday party where she and all of her friends oooh and aaahh about their favorite gimmick, boy idol or favorite dress.

That’s how some of this tennis fanboy fanblog bullshit sounds.

I got called a Fedfan by some clown (fanboy) the other day. I’m embarrassed for a lot of these “fans” who see the sport through this lens. Most people who read this blog know that I cheer-on many players and come after many players for all sorts of genius and flaw, via honesty and my general approach to this sport.

Many of these “tennis fans” sound like mean girls or giggling graffiti trolls. They sound like kids enjoying their favorite ice cream or, more accurately, their favorite pop singer, with whom they’re BFF.

Yet they’re not even Best Friends Forever because what we all see is how these allegiances will change if they’re star is no longer “the best.”

Embarrassing. Kills your credibility.

Most of these cheerleaders have actually gone through the history of stars such as being a Borg fan, then liking Sampras, only to fall in love with Federer, but dismiss him for either Nadal or (more likely) Djokovic. There are others that correspond to one’s country of origin, etc. On some level it’s natural and a great way to get involved. But once this becomes a kind of fetish, get the hell out of here.

As they’re want to say to themselves in the twilight of their hero’s career: Who you got next?

This is an interesting question. Certain fanboys and girls these days that litter the interwebs and other tennis talk (even the popular media to a degree) suggest that maybe there is no next. Novak Djokovic, they say, is the best player ever, plays the game at the highest level possible.

We have called this prisoner-of-the moment hysteria.

I am going to blame Federer for a lot of this, which I will cover in my next post unless I decide to write something else. But it’s coming: How Roger Federer Ruined Tennis.

The insistence upon perpetuating this GOAT culture is (as I have admitted) great for discussion, but ultimately fails, so it’s pointless to get your little diaper into a bunch. Watch the match. Enjoy it while it lasts. STFUP.

What happens if Novak, for instance, loses form? What will you do, fanboy? Will you switch your allegiance/devotion to another promising investment? You will most likely, at least for a while, champion whatever flawed statistical analysis/anecdotal BS at detractors, fizzling into some kind of disappearing act until you find a new BFF.

I’ll be doing my best to clean-up whatever crap comes my way as far as fanboy flap is concerned.

That’s really been the mission for this blog all along: to take another point-of-view and create thoughtful discussion. Are we always successful? No. But I will keep coming, like Fritz in his R16 match v Federer in Stuttgart.

You have seen me, for instance, write glowingly about Novak; you have also seen me divert somewhat the proverbial ticker tape parade for the Serb. There is nothing I enjoy more than mixing-it-up, complicating and suggesting to someone that he/she might want to look at it another way.

This is not a fanblog.

3 comments

  1. I for one am glad this isn’t a fan blog, nothing else can distort your view on the sport and its history more than being overly emotionally invested in one particular player, and if it was only player it would somewhat manageable. But as you write, we have seen this flip-flop approach to fanboys/girls, pick the flavour of the month and go with it, until it no longer is popular, then it’s time to move on to something else. It might also be a deficit in mental fortitude which causes one to constantly seek the next big player to cheer for, it might have to do with covering up one’s own inadequacies, trying to bask in the success of others. But as adults most of us learn to take our lives into our own hands, find an identity and stay the course. Nothing wrong in respecting and encouraging traits we desire in other people, but to flat out go into a mouth foaming state of worshipping someone now that is bordering on insanity.

    I can admit that certain players have raised my passion for the sport, but I am not paid to cheerlead for someone. In fact I will root for the underdog almost all the time, heck when Nadal vs dismantling Federer at the FO I was rooting for Fed, because he was up against a clay monster (probably the biggest of all time, given its clay and the lack of change that has occurred on this particular surface over the years). Vice versa I was rooting for Nadal to finally grab one Wimbledon trophy, because it was insane how much he was fighting for that chance (almost comical, since his style of play was so awkward on grass and he brute forced all his entries to the finals in 06-08).

    Federer really ruined Men’s Tennis, the man who crossed different eras, was at the very top for most of them and gave us some of the most elegant, yet deadly attacking tennis in the history of the sport, may it be contemporary history, but still what an Ace this guy was in his prime. In comparison Djokovic’s recent achievements are quite frankly not on the same level, but don’t let that stop the fanboys from spouting humours remarks, I love a chuckle or two. Looking forward to your next entry Matt!

    1. Thanks, Caligula. Stoked you’re reading and joining-in. And I agree, certain players we do connect with and root for, but this fanaticism of Fedhead, Vamos, and NoleFam is insane. You gave me a good talking-to about Nadal a few weeks ago, meaning that I have to consider what’s he’s had to overcome. He’s a monster, indeed. Will try to get the Fed post out (you kinda hit it on the head at the end of your comment there 😉 tomorrow or Sunday latest. Jotting some notes. I really hope it encourages some good discussion/debate. Cheers!

  2. Nice summary of the proceedings and a fair explanation to new readers staying at your usual writing level Matt. Objectivity towards the current ATP state/results and passion for the sport set this blog apart from others, as I have noticed from my very first comment.

    Referring to Roland-Garros, as we expected, Djokovic got it. Murray served mediocre and didn’t force the issue despite being obviously more tired (by his own fault). After all, that causes his demise against Novak: although he is the stronger player with more variety, he prefers to engage in physical battles instead of taking command of points. A very strange choice, given the fact that Djokovic is in general more stable, and lighter (ref. body mass) hence he tires slower. His shot selection during the RG final was at times … questionable. Can the latest Ivan Lendl acquisition improve the strategic deficiencies and the murmuring attitude? He could, but I doubt he can do much before Wimby. In my view Murray after 2014 is a a bit heavier player, more accustomed to slower surfaces than Murray of the years before 2013, so more adjustments will be needed.

    Djokovic got finally a trophy he deserved (practically unchallenged), to hold all four Grand Slams at once or whatever you want to call it. Alas, he has no opponent to be afraid, no answers to find against any playing style (maybe because there isn’t much variety at the moment anyway). I have predicted he would get these 2 Slams this year and in my mind it still seems unlikely he will achieve a Golden Calendar Grand Slam (although capturing 4 Slams in a row is pretty equal to a Calendar GS for me, and an amazing feat).

    But who will stop him? The seniors tour advocate RF (35 before US Open), young but immature guns, recovering DelPo or the messed-up Andy? Waiting for a convincing answer, to challenge Djokovic and bolster our interest in the Tour.

    Waiting for the intriguing article you have been preparing…

    PS: The French Open result according to Federer’s fan blogs is overrated by the media and if you switch to Djokovic’s fan blogs is undermined by the media. Thank goodness you keep your distance from those hot-headed approaches.

What say you?