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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
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Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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