It used to be a joke that the most likely thing to precipitate a divorce between my wife and I would be, from my side. not a sordid affair, but my watching too much sport. It was a joke, but was also probably true. Not that I have ever spent much time watching sport since my wife-to-be and I first set eyes upon each other 23 years ago. It's as much the fact that she experiences a strong aversion to anything sport-like. I, on the other hand, am the kind of person who can be sat in front of pretty much any sport, and within ten minutes I have already decided who I want to win and who is the biggest load of rubbish to ever walk the face of the Earth. It is a spectacular enactment of the archetypal battle twixt light and dark, conjured up with ease by the mere sight of a bat or a ball.
My own tolerance for sport has been low for many years, though, and continues to get lower. More than about ten minutes' exposure, and I am confronted by the King of Wands, who proceeds to undertake a thorough examination of my purpose during this short and precious lifetime.
I used to prefer 'team sports'. The spirit of co-operation, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
An event which has recently erupted into the tennis arena has been the return to competitive matches of Maria Sharapova, following her ban for 'doping', the consumption of meldonium. My impression is that Sharapova has been given a tough time since her return to the tennis circuit. By all accounts a bit of an Ice Queen, not to mention a mega-rich superstar, she was unpopular with many of the other tennis pros even before the meldonium affair. The extent to which anyone believes her insistence that it was an oversight that led to her taking meldonium after it went onto the list of not-to-be-used substances, and not an attempt to wilfully by-pass regulations, seems to depend entirely on personal prejudice rather than real information. Several other players have been vocal in protesting about the 'special treatment' handed out to her for entering tournaments; "She's a cheater (sic) and should be banned for life" whined one prominent racket-wielder. How many of these people have made the effort to personally find out the truth, I wonder. Invited Maria out for a heart-to-heart over dinner, maybe? Not many, I suspect. Grapes that don't taste too sweet come to mind; but maybe that's my problem.
The functionnaires from France displayed a remarkable kind of self-righteous high-mindedness, the type which is normally the preserve of protestant nations. It always comes with a nasty smell. But then France is in a funny position, wedged uncomfortably between the fully-fledged catholic Mediterraneans to the south and the puritan cultures further north.
Amidst this shabby treatment Sharapova has remained a model of decorum, diplomacy, and restraint, in public at least. I have been surprised to find a sliver of sympathy emanate from my own being towards Maria, my own heart melt ever-so slightly in the direction of the Ice Queen. I have never been a Sharapova enthusiast. In fact, during more recent times I've found her impossible to watch, due to the loud, grating, shrieking noises which accompany every time she whacks the ball. But, dear friends in the Vortex, these are the questions I put to you:
Would Maria Sharapova have been treated the same (especially at the hands of the French tennis authorities) A) if she wasn't Russian? B) if she wasn't white?
C'mon, you know the answer.......