Open Court publishes on Tuesdays and Fridays, bringing you sports, life, and the stuff we need to talk about with author/journalist Joanne C. Gerstner. Subscribe here and get Open Court straight to your email! If you're part of our subscriber fam, feel free to share this email and get your friends involved. We welcome your comments too, please share at the end of this piece or @joannecgerstner.
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Happy 2022, everybody! Wishing everybody all the good things.
I’ve been sitting back and watching all the outrage, one-liners and just draaaama since Sunday over two elite athletes who are expert at making selfish choices. These two men are talented, know how to win and make big plays, but are granted an entitled state to do what they want with little lasting consequence.
One is NFL receiver Antonio Brown, who lost it on Sunday, throwing an on-field fit where he stripped off the top half of his Bucs uniform and pads, screamed at his coach and players, then stormed off the field. He felt he was too injured to play, refused twice to go back into the game and went off on Coach Bruce Arians. MetLife Stadium security thought he was a whacked out half-streaker running his mouth in the end zone, but realized that he was a player. He tried to get the New Jersey troopers to drive him to the airport. They declined, for many reasons.
Please excuse me while I scream into the wind here. There is no Disney ending here. Brown is not a bad boy made good now made worse. Brown is somebody who has brushes with the law for theft, assault, sexual battery, threatening women, violence issues stemming from anger. On the field, suspensions, lies about injuries, blow-ups with coaches, plus throw in a fake vaccine card to play in the NFL this season. He has left a trail of drama, criminal and otherwise, since college. But now you care that he needs help?
Brown’s high talent level allowed the rules, laws and world to be warped for him to play. Football is a business, at both the college and pro levels, and Brown is good for making cash money off his mess. He helps teams win - when he is on the rails. When he is off the rails, get rid of him and move on. There was apparently few sins too great to be bypassed or forgiven by teams, Arians, owners, or stars who act like leaders such as Brady. Brown played the part of the oppressed, misunderstood dude to the hilt. He was never guilty of anything, even when caught. His own words tell the story: he never did it; if he did, it’s not his fault; and then screw you for being negative. It’s the media’s fault for bringing it up, they’re just haters, and those women, well, they’re all just dumb bitches out to get him.
(Insert irony font here - the NFL does a whole pink month for breast cancer in October, but continually allows players who abuse women to remain in the league with little consequence. So yeah, thanks for the pink power there, NFL.)
Brown cannot exist without the agency of a system, and those profiting from it, looking the other way to facilitate his ability to play without consequence. If the outside world, and the NFL, really cared about rules, Brown would be held accountable for his list of bad things long ago. There was always somebody willing to play the “redemption” card with Brown, that he was indeed a bad boy before, but now, NOW, he was all reformed and good to go. The media, especially TV, ate the storyline up, wanting to do the story of how Brady and Arians’ love made Brown grow up. Brown never played that script game to the full, because he had no intention of changing. There was no reason to. He was still successful and well-paid without making a damned improvement. Brown slithered within the system and SHOCKER, went outside the lines again. Selfish is as selfish does.
Who got played this time? The Bucs. Arians. Brady. Their fans. Anybody who believed Brown was a good person on the level of his football talent. By the way, the Bucs have not yet officially cut him, as of Tuesday morning. When he is finally cut, he will go on waivers, and other teams can claim him. Joy. Can’t wait.
Of lesser criminal reproach is the ongoing saga of world No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic and his loose approach with the COVID pandemic. Djokovic, who has a history of saying and doing some medically-sketchy things in the name of his new age/I do my own research crap, was put on the entry list by Tennis Australia (TA) on Tuesday for the 2022 Australian Open. (Dr. Djoker says that the power of gratitude can remove chemicals from food and water. Hmm. Interesting.)
He is going for Aussie title No. 10, and setting a new record for Grand Slam men’s singles crowns at 21. Nearly-done Roger Federer is still rehabbing his knee, maybe-dangerous Rafa Nadal (who is very loud about being vaccinated) is there. The newcomer stars haven’t yet become must-sees or are hurt, so Djoker is the big deal the Aussies want.
Why is Djoker’s TA hall pass notable? He has been smart enough not to say the exact words, aka “I am not vaccinated”, but his actions tell his beliefs.
He hosted his own Adria tournament series, in his native Serbia, plus Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, during June/July 2020 - remember, when we were all locked down and told not to hang out at all? Djoker threw tourneys with crowds and zero social distancing, some bangers of parties, and WHOOPS, people like him and his wife, other top players, and spectators got COVID.
The tennis world watched in horror, and it got so bad that Djokovic had to call it all off. He gave the performative sorry/not sorry and moved on. Meanwhile, the Grand Slams and the 2020 (in 2021) Tokyo Olympics let him play under his own rules. (We also know that there were some meltdowns in there too, see Tokyo and then the 2021 U.S. Open).
Tennis Australia has a lot of COVID protocols; all players must be vaccinated, and with certain vaccine formulas. Players have been denied due to having the wrong vaccination (Russians with the un-vetted Sputnik dose), or told they need to comply with the quarantining if exposed. (Check last year’s Aussie, it was a mess with the quarantining/testing positive drama.)
Djoker was granted an appeal to enter, which was reviewed by two independent medical panels according to TA. Again, he has not said he is not vaccinated, but the appeal system is based on the needed path forward for players who cannot/will not get vaccinated.
Australia still needs to officially grant him permission to enter the country, but given Djoker’s Insta post on Tuesday of getting ready to fly out from his European training base…he is not going to get on a plane and fly 21 hours if he doesn’t already know he is good.
So once again, the rules are the rules…for you and me. But for others, like Djoker, given his talent level and ability to sell tickets/ glue eyeballs to TVs, rules are adjustable.
Djokovic has complained that the fans love Federer and Nadal more, despite the present equality in their GS hardware. I don’t see the fun-loving Aussies, who have been through some serious lockdowns in Melbourne over the past two years, throwing in with Dr. Djoker and his magic exemption.
It’s always easy for the Twitterati and sports talk crowd to throw all the blame at the bad actors, like Brown or Djokovic. Time for us to get more sophisticated and throw our side-eyes at the system that lets these athletes play the board in the name of profit for the big machine. Because if the big bosses say no, the slithering stops.
See you Friday.