Novak Djokovic and the limits of the imagination
It’s a perfect championship picture – an athlete poised to strike the ball with his racket, decked out in brilliant Wimbledon white against a sea of grass, muscles taut, form perfect.
Only it isn’t Novak Djokovic, the actual champion, but runner-up Roger Federer being congratulated by Rolex on the back page of the A section of The New York Times’ July 9 edition “for helping to craft an epic Wimbledon final with a sparkling demonstration of skill, tenacity and grace befitting the greatest.”
And while we’re at it, I’d like to thank Brazil for helping to craft a lopsided victory for a team whose name I won’t mention and, by the way, did you know Brazil has five World Cups? Please.
People, don’t you see what’s wrong with this? It’s as if it’s 2008 all over again and the last six years never happened. In 2008-land, there’s only one tennis player – OK, maybe two, Rafa – and Nole isn’t on the radar.
But we understand: Nole is, as last year’s New Yorker profile called him, “The Third Man” – lacking Feddy’s grace and Rafa’s animal magnetism but still with an edgy beauty all his own. Yet the imagination and the advertising world have their champion, folks, and that’s all she wrote. We can never stretch our minds – let alone our hearts – to let someone else in.
Look, Nole doesn’t need me to defend him. Right now he’s in gorgeous Montenegro marrying his beautiful, brainy longtime love, Jelena Ristic. (Congrats, Nole and Jelena). They’re going to have Baby Nole this fall. And he just took home the biggest prize in his sport.
But fair is fair, and the failure of the imagination, the advertising world and Nole’s own sponsors is to this writer distressing.
It’s not just the sponsors but the fans as well. Go on any Nole thread and what do you get? The Federinas sniping at the Nadalistas, as if they were Yanks-Bosox fans. Or maybe the Hatfields and the McCoys. This sniping can be entertaining, particularly when given an historical analogy: Feddy is Catherine of Aragon; Rafa, Anne Boleyn; and Nole, Jane Seymour. Just as Catherine’s supporters felt vindicated when Henry VIII beheaded her rival Anne and took the sympathetic Jane for a wife, so Federinas enjoyed Nole bedeviling Rafa the way Rafa had bedeviled Fed.
Fans, however, are fickle, there being no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests, Benjamin Disraeli once said.
But advertisers pay a lot of money for their products and their pitchmmen. Nole made sure Seiko’s Astron GPS Solar Chronograph was on his wrist for the trophy presentation. And the Uniqlo logo is always prominently displayed on his tennis outfits.
So where’s Nole’s full-page ad, Seiko? What about it, Uniqlo?