Monday, January 16, 2012

Speaking Out

Speaking OutThe Aussie Millions is underway, which means tennis’ Australian Open -- also in Melbourne -- has begun as well.

I was intrigued this morning to read about a bit of a rift having occurred between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer regarding the latter’s unwillingness to pipe up about certain undesirable tour conditions -- including an overloaded schedule.

It sounds like various issues have arisen over recent months regarding the ATP, including discontent surrounding the scheduling of Davis Cup matches in February right on the heels of the Australian Open. Apparently the pro tennis schedule is especially packed this year thanks in part to the 2012 Olympics.

Nadal has spoken out about the problems in recent months, as has the Scottish player Andy Murray. Meanwhile, Roger Federer has kept mostly mum, something Nadal alluded to when asked at a pre-Australian Open news conference about the scheduling issues.

Nadal was asked specifically about Federer’s not speaking out and whether he took that to indicate that Federer believed it wasn’t good for tennis’ image to have players complaining. “For him it’s good to say nothing,” said the Spanish player somewhat facetiously (via a translator). “‘It’s all well and good for me, I look like a gentleman,’ [says Federer] and the rest can burn themselves.”

Roger Federer and Rafael NadalThe press may be blowing up this story more than is really warranted. Both Nadal and Federer have a long tradition of being great examples of sportsmanship and highly respectful of each other’s games. Even so, it does appear that there are a few problems being faced by professional tennis at the moment, including the problem of being willing to acknowledge such problems in a public forum.

The story reminded me a little of some of the considerable problems in poker -- live and online -- and the way some players and media are more than willing to address them while others are not.

I’m thinking of writers like Jesse May speaking out last summer and fall about the sorry circumstance created by the Full Tilt fiasco and other related matters. Or Daniel Negreanu’s “Being Real” blog post from last October in which he addressed a host of different concerns, some more personal than others.

I also thought about Matt Glantz’ post on the Epic Poker blog from a couple of weeks ago titled “Responsibility in Poker” in which he addressed poker’s image in mainstream culture and suggested ways in which current pros could help improve it.

Finally, I was reminded of a lengthy blog post penned just yesterday by Phil Galfond titled “Let’s Make Some Changes” in which he addresses all sorts of problems currently plaguing online poker, including various examples of “angle shooting” and other sorta-tolerated-but-ethically-sketchy practices he believes are hurting the game.

There’s always some element of risk associated with putting oneself out there and taking positions regarding issues over which there exist legitimate debate -- i.e., over which reasonable people disagree. Particularly when doing so could in some way negatively affect one’s own bottom line in some fashion, either directly or indirectly.

Not going to suggest some trite comparison between reforms in tennis and/or poker and other, more serious reforms which a holiday like MLK day invites us to contemplate. Nor do I mean to suggest I necessarily agree with all of the reforms proposed by those mentioned above. But it does seem an appropriate day to note the need to talk about problems when they arise. And, even more importantly, to be willing to listen, too.

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