Saturday, June 14, 2014
I told my friends during this year's Aussie Open final, "Bet on the ugly guy."
Of course, Wawarinka wasn't, isn't, ugly. He just looks like a roofer or car mechanic; a really fit plumber with whom you can discuss the virtues of PEX versus copper. Most everyone in the ATP top ten could be a movie star. Wawarinka, on the other hand, would be the buddy of the brother of the guy who kills the zombies.
Which is why I thought he'd be a solid. It wasn't handlers who had paved his way to the grand slam title, it was his heart.
So much about sports these days is all about the close-up -- the steely gaze and flared nostrils across the net or down the field. May the best cheekbones win. It's what sells market share, it's what sells shoes. If you're both talented and lovely, the corporate sponsors kick start your career, place some long-term bets.
The inequity starts early. Supermodel competitors have the benefit of childhood interventions, grow up to the sport with the best coaches, camps, doctors, dentists, dermatologists, podiatrists, psychiatrists the deep pockets can deliver. Ordinary looking athletes have to make it on own their own steam. One can understand the corporate responsibility involved here -- the public wears what the models wear; plumbers just don't move the merch.
Had corporate scouts and sponsorships overtaken sports only two or three decades ago, I wonder if Seles, Navratilova, McEnroe, or Lendl would have made it to the top. I'm just talking tennis here, but it's in evidence on all the playing fields. The money supplies and follows the expectation that certain athletes will be equally good at both serving and selling, equally compelling on and off the field.
My World Cup soccer prediction -- in the end, whoever is deemed the hero will look absolutely sensational wearing a tux and Nike's, holding a glass of Absolut while placing one perfect cheek -- fore or aft, either will do -- on the hood of a Beemer.