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ON HAVING A GOOD TIME

"Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty." - Doris Day

So, I kind of knew it before, but it really landed for me now. Why Novak Djokovic is so unpopular, despite his best efforts to win over the crowd.

Fresh off winning his sixth Wimbledon title and still very much on track to (statistically) being crowned the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) Djokovic has one core problem: For most of his career, he was framed as the bad guy against the eternally beloved Nadal and Federer. Why is that?


Looking at his opponent Nick Kyrgios on Sunday past, you understood why. Kyrgios, the petulant, complaining, irritable Aussie made Djokovic look good. Not just in terms of play, but in general behaviour. And the unsmiling Serb must surely be thankful, and he got some massive brownie points in his victory speech by leaning into the farcical nature of it all.

Kyrgios is a talented guy. But he has gotten WAYYYYY more airplay over the last five years because of his general brattish behaviour than his actual results. It is a massive comment on the Twitter age, and his whole existence is a metaphor for the comment crusaders on Facebook, who act out just for attention.

I really wanted him to do well. And for a while, he let his tennis do the talking. But when things started to go wrong, it was so painful to watch. Not because he was losing, but because he started to fight. With the crowd. With the ref. With his own coaching box! Eventually, it looked like he was constantly just talking to himself, and not in a good way.

Now the Seven Habits framework is big on self-talk. How your words determine your actions and your actions become your habits and your habits come to define your character. And Kyrgios is like the antithesis of that framework, the least effective guy I’ve seen in terms of telling himself the right story.

And remember, they are ENTERTAINERS. They exist to play on the big stage so we can settle in on a Sunday and live vicariously through the dropped shots, the booming serves, and the heroic cross-court winners. So, when the entertainer looks like he is hating it, Houston we have a problem. But we live in an age where having a bad time and fighting with everybody (a recent American president comes to mind) is par for the course from the actors on the world stage.

I want to propose a few examples that I would like my kids to aspire to:

Spanish Golf Maestro Seve Ballesteros – on s39 he had an amazing interaction with the crowd. Funny, endearing, legend.

Staying with golf, check out Rory McIlroy just after he got SMOKED by Patrick Reed in the 2016 Ryder Cup. These guys are playing for the highest stakes under the biggest pressure known in golf, and they are HAVING A BLAST.

Let’s look back at the ORIGINAL brat of Tennis – John McEnroe. This is his “You cannot be SERIOUS!” famous moment. But he’s having a blast even arguing, really leaning into it. And he was a winner too. He was fun to watch, and his matchups with Borg are the stuff of tennis folklore.

It’s not just sportspeople. Brene Brown has made a meal out of changing the conversation when it comes to vulnerability. She is relatable, funny, and pure class. Check it out, I love her videos, audiobooks, and podcasts.

Here’s one last example by way of reference. Laudable no, entertaining yes. Not necessarily a chap I want my boys to aspire to be like, but knows how to reframe an argument and have a good time while doing it. In the world of negative attention, he makes Kyrgios look like a babe in the woods. Results are what count though…

Entertain us, people. I know there are a lot of people in the world these days that consider entertainment to be the messy, ugly, petulant mudslinging social media-inspired trash that we see more and more of. But can we see some moments of kindness, of humility, of relating? Of understanding that Joe everyman is actually fronting your pay check. Have some fun up there, or at least pretend to! And that if you choose to be that anti-hero guy, then longevity is probably found in the redemption tale, and the sooner you get to that part of the story, the better for all of us.

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