What Am I Talking About?
He’s twenty-two, and doesn’t know what he wants his life to look like. While at work he struggles to concentrate, and can’t help but think about the other things he could be doing. As outsiders, we wish he could just focus and try to make the best of his situation, because that's what we all have to do. He is normal. Nick Kyrgios is an amazing talent, but he’s still just a guy from Australia. He’s a world-class tennis player; that doesn’t mean he knows how to live a fulfilling life. We all waste our time and talents in one way or another at one time or another, but his times are international news. The guy is normal, and that’s ok. Are you really so bored with your life that you’re hurt when he turns in a below average performance?
As a guy who would love nothing more than to play the US Open, it’s hard for me to watch Kyrgios tank when he does; that doesn’t mean I dislike him. It actually makes me appreciate him more; he’s like me. He’s living this seemingly great life, playing tennis and traveling the world, and he wonders if he should be doing something else! What brazen courage and confidence it takes to live an amazing life and still wonder if you couldn’t be doing something better. I’ve played Futures around the world, from Azerbaijan to Tunisia, and a lot of players tank. 15 minutes after a match, a lot of guys would give a press conference similar to the one Kyrgios gave yesterday after his first round loss to Millman. Guys like me want to be at home with our girlfriends and go to the bar with our buddies, what’s wrong with saying that? Kyrgios is allowed to figure his life out just like the rest of us. Don’t forget there are plenty of twenty two year olds fresh out of college, with internships that might turn into jobs, who wonder if this is really what they want.
I wonder what McEnroe, Mary Carillo, and Greg Rusedski really want to happen to Kyrgios when they sit up in the booth and criticize the man. Rusedski said, “He’s been given a gift…and if he doesn’t get it together, his career will be a waste.” Why say that? I mean Rusedski is a grown man who makes a living now criticizing other humans? Get outta here. Of course, Kyrgios could be more professional in almost all areas of his tennis life, but no one’s career will ever be a “waste.” What about Marcelo Rios? Or Marat Safin? Two guys with incredible talent who arguably never achieved the kind of long term success we all could have envisioned for them given their abilities. Their careers are not “a waste.” I remember growing up wearing necklaces and oversized Adidas shirts because Safin did; he was a real person. I don’t care that he didn’t win 15 Majors, that’s on him and his conscience. What I cared about was that I felt I knew him, and what he was about. Being genuine is never a waste.
We teach our youth that the outcome of a game shouldn’t change the way they feel about themselves as people. If you win, you’re not God’s gift to Earth, and if you lose, you’re not unworthy of love. So why do people get offended when Kyrgios says exactly that? Yesterday he said, “Obviously I’m disappointed that I lost today. But it’s not the end of the world. I’ll get over it in probably a half an hour. I’ll get food and just chill…it is what it is.” That is the proper response to losing a tennis match. Maybe you just don’t like him saying that coupled with his demeanor while he says it; but what he actually says is fine. Even normal.
The problem with sports media coverage around Kyrgios is that by repetitively talking about his lack of “dedication” to the game, and asking him about it, they send the message that self-doubt and self-discovery aren’t ok and normal. We could instead view Kyrgios as a person with flaws that need working through just like the rest of us. His mood swings and motivation level fluctuations make him human. Why don’t we celebrate that? Why do we insist on acting like his behavior isn’t normal? He’s a guy who is struggling right now, at this stage in his life, he’s not a bad person, and he won’t struggle forever. To write and talk about him as anything other than a very normal 22 year old is wrong, and lazy reporting.