We need to talk about Bernard. The young tennis player might do well from taking a long hard look in Lleyton Hewitt’s mirror.
Confirmation bias is a term used to describe the tendency we all have to perceive ideas and events on the basis of previous experience. It is common everywhere – from views on climate change to social policy, to people in the news. And to athletes. Rightly or wrongly (but certainly understandably) our opinion of currents events and people will be formed through the prism of our own history. And so to Bernard Tomic.
When Bernard withdrew injured during his encounter with Rafael Nadal at The Australian Open the crowd booed. Not a pleasant sound at any sports event and rare when aimed at Australians – particularly in Australia.
The crowd was clearly of the view that Tomic the tanker was back in business; that any injury was surely not serious enough to prompt withdrawal. This incorrect and entirely unfair conclusion was obviously the result of his past behaviour and admissions.
This time, however, the boy really was seeing a wolf. The fact that so many wasted so little time thinking the worst should really give Bernard serious reason to reflect.Views have been formed and all his actions feed into them.
That he has abundant talent has never been in doubt, but that is nowhere near enough. It is not only that he has been reluctant to do what it takes to maximise his potential, but that he seems prepared to waste it so flagrantly. Bernard, of course, is still a work in progress and maturity comes at different rates.
This at the same time, however, as Lleyton Hewitt was straining every nerve and sinew out of an ageing and injured body. This made the comparison with Tomic even more stark. That Lleyton went down at The Open lost him no friends. Indeed, we thought as well of him in defeat as we had a week earlier when he beat Roger Federer in Brisbane. Why?
Because, as much as we have admired his victories, we have alway valued just as highly his character and commitment. He doesn’t lose easily. What might have annoyed us early in his career has, over time, endeared us to him. This is a man who so values the game, his opponent, himself and the fans that he gives until spent.
Those who know and love sport understand that teams and individuals will lose on many occasions, but the manner of the losing is always – always – important. As is the winning. The respect for the fans is integral.
The legendary Baseballer Babe Ruth, nearing the end of a long season, was once advised by a coach to sit out a match in the country because it was of little importance. Ruth replied that children had come from far away to watch him play and it might be their only chance “to see The Babe”. It is a memory they would cherish always. We all have them.
Some have suggested that Bernard Tomic take a long hard look in the mirror. Perhaps he would be better advised to look into Lleyton’s.