By Ken Reed
While most of this week in sports has been dominated by the “Deflategate” scandal surrounding the New England Patriots, we were also blessed with a great example of sportsmanship from the world of tennis.
Tennis great Rafael Nadal was on the ropes at the Australian Open during a second round match. In fact, he was on the verge of being knocked out of the tournament by an unknown qualifier from the United States, Tim Smyczek.
Nadal, who was struggling with fatigue, dizziness and nausea for much of the match, was serving in the fifth set, leading 6-5. But during a first serve toss, a fan hollered loudly from the stands, disrupting his service motion. Nadal’s serve flew long.
Smyczek quickly held up two fingers to the chair umpire, meaning Nadal should be allowed another chance to serve his first serve. The umpire granted Smyczek’s request. Nadal gave a gesture of thanks to Smyczek and then pumped a first serve that Smyczek was unable to return. The game ended up going to deuce before Nadal pulled it out, winning the set 7-5 and the match 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-5.
The story of the day at the Australian Open wasn’t who won or lost. It was Smyczek’s grand gesture during the final moments of a long match against Nadal. Undoubtedly, a win over Nadal would’ve been the biggest of Smyczek’s career. But Smyczek put “doing the right thing” ahead of a possible career-defining victory.
“I couldn’t make out what the guy yelled, but it was really loud, and it was right when he was tossing,” said Smyczek. “I know my parents would’ve killed me if I didn’t (give Nadal a re-serve). It was the right thing to do.”
Yes, it was the right thing to do. But he didn’t have to do it. There’s nothing in the rules requiring a replay. It’s likely that very few players would have the character to do what he did, when he did it.
Nadal was very grateful for Smyczek’s act of sportsmanship.
“I want to congratulate Tim — he’s a real gentleman for what he did in that last game,” said Nadal in an on-court interview after the match. “Not a lot of people will do this at 6-5 in the fifth … He’s a great example, what he did today.”
Nadal’s public relations manager, Benito Perez-Barbadillo, was even more effusive in his praise.
“I think he deserves the sportsmanship award for the next 10 years, and I’m going to be pushing for that,” said Perez-Barbadillo. “I’ve never seen that, and I’ve been in tennis for 19 years. Unbelievable.”
What a nice break from the inanity of the NFL’s “Deflategate.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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