John McEnroe, a man whose infamous tirades were brilliant. Never will the sentence, “You cannot be serious” be uttered the same way again. His transformation of the way Tennis was played was nearly as beautiful as the way he transformed the definition of the word ‘tantrum‘. As a 21 year old sportsman and a keen YouTube viewer of the ‘sporting tantrums’ section, I’m truly gutted I was not around in his era.
He was defaulted from the 1990 Australian Open because of verbal abuse and docked points on many more occasions due to racket abuse. His incredible love affair with sending water bottles careering towards ball-boys is something that will live in everyone’s memory! All the makings you would think for somebody we should despise. Yet we LOVE him! Even my Dad, who is far less impressed than I am to see a sportsman truly lose his nut, likes him.
But What was it about McEnroe that made him likeable to some but not others?
His Passion! His actions were a derivative of his passion towards the game. They were, at least outwardly unmatched by anyone else. The people who despised him, most likely never played sport at a high level, and if they did, just decided to sit on their high horse and forget about the times they could’ve done with some. I’ve found that we tend to enjoy getting up on our horses. we soon acquire a distaste for imperfect behaviour. Just because somebody’s having a hard time and showing his frustration doesn’t suggest to me we should lose respect for that person. This has become somewhat of a paradox we seem to inherit at birth. We show contempt towards a person for displaying passion, a virtue that is life’s charm.
I now have to answer the obvious responses of, ‘how can you defend these types of actions’, or ‘can you not see he was wrong’? Yes, it wasn’t ideal, and I don’t condone smashing rackets and breaking clubs. But the pressures of any job, let alone top level sport are really demanding.
The reason I chose John McEnroe as an example to my forthcoming point is because of who he has become. The Tennis ‘brat’ of the 1980′s, has become arguably the best sports commentator on TV, and a retired sportsman with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.
The question worth asking is, Should we try to change him? Probably a question John McEnroe’s Dad or coach asked themselves. Probably a question Roger Federer’s coach asked himself. And Tiger Woods’. The list would be endless. The truth is, at the highest level in sport passion is forever constant, therefore impenetrable and uncrackable. When something means so much to someone, passion reigns. It runs wild. Yes it breaks rackets and snaps clubs, but it produces moments of genius. Moments than stand alone is history. Moments that inspire generations. Moments like this…
I agree with what is a widely held notion (surprisingly): That one’s ability to first ignite, then direct his chamber of passion is where the secret lies. Something Roger Federer and Tiger Woods have done to devastating effect. There is most definitely the argument then to suggest McEnroe could’ve won more majors if he had of done so.
I believe passion will forever be constant. It will never tear away from someone who has it in abundance. The secret is to nurture it, over time. The sin is to try and demolish it, period.
My Dad had people telling him to stop me playing golf when I was young because I didn’t know ‘how to behave’. It’s true, sometimes I didn’t. Even now, I struggle. At nearly 22 I still want to throw myself into lakes in frustration! But if at 30 I don’t feel the same way. I’ll have failed myself. I’d have given in to the external pressures. And I may as well retire! To remain yourself through periods of constant learning, realising your imperfections, and always working tirelessly is one of life’s biggest challenges.
The best way to be, is not someone else, but version 2.0.
That Wise Old Owl.