Looks like Naomi Osaka got the mental health ball rolling. One of the world’s top female players, she flipped out of both the French Open and Wimbledon, citing mental health problems.
Had the authorities paid attention to Miss Osaka’s declining mental health, they would have noticed the early onset of her condition. During last year’s US Open, she had the names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans killed by police embroidered on her face masks.
This was a clear demonstration of a split personality. You see, Miss Osaka is half-black American and half-Japanese. Predictably, she is torn between her two identities, with the two races battling each other within her brittle psyche.
Thanks largely to her endorsements of Japanese products, she is the world’s best-paid female athlete. Hence the Japanese in her lands a crushing blow on the black. But the black comes back with a flurry of social conscience, attacking the Japanese with unrestrained ferocity. Early symptoms of schizophrenia appear as a result – and Miss Osaka isn’t the only player showing such signs.
That’s why I am happy to see that at last tennis authorities are beginning to pay attention to the outbreak of emotional instability among tennis players. As ever, it’s the US Open that first put its finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.
The tournament has responded to this deeply worrying pandemic by providing rubber rooms, presumably equipped with straitjackets, for players who can no longer cope with the pressure of hitting fuzzy yellow balls over the net. Qualified psychiatrists will be on hand to offer emergency care, stabilising the players before their transfer to hospitals and other institutions.
“Our goal is to make mental health services as readily available to athletes as services for a sprained ankle – and with no stigma attached,” says Dr Brian Hainline, a USTA first vice president. “We will provide an environment that fosters wellness while providing the necessary resources to readily allow mental health care seeking.”
While different from the Covid pandemic in some respects, a collapse of mental health also has much in common with it. For an afflicted person doesn’t just suffer on his own – he also presents a danger to others.
Many are the cases of tennis players smashing their racquets or, worse still, using them to attack their opponents, umpires and spectators. In their nimble, muscular hands, that implement becomes a deadly weapon – this even if they refrain from punching, kicking, biting and scratching.
A combination of a rubber room and straitjacket will provide a welcome restraint, preventing the players from causing grievous harm to themselves and others… Hold on a second, Penelope is trying to say something…
Oops, mea culpa. Looks like I’ve misread a newspaper account yet again. It’s not rubber but quiet rooms that the US Open is providing. The objective isn’t to restrain players with failing mental health, but to help them meditate, presumably about their endorsements.
But at least I got the other part right: psychiatrists will indeed be on tap to offer qualified medical help. Players will be encouraged to talk frankly about their relationships, sexual or otherwise, with their parents and also about the pressures of seeking more lucrative endorsements. So who says the papers bring nothing but bad news?
P.S. In another welcome development, Princess Anne is to open her house to the paying public. That’s another step in the right direction: monetising the monarchy.
However, as a former adman I wish the family were more creative in merchandising royal memorabilia. Off the top, here’s one idea to consider: the Queen Cuckoo Clock.
The face would feature the Union Jack colours and those of the royal standard. Every hour on the hour, a window would open at the top of the dial. A tiny Queen figurine wearing a crown would pop out and hoot: “Cuckoo-ooo”. American and Japanese tourists would happily pay 50 quid or more for this premium item, thereby contributing to the upkeep of our head of state.
P.P.S. Our supermarket shelves are emptying out because of a severe shortage of fruit and veg pickers, meat, fish and poultry processors, and lorry drivers.
In a flash of lateral thinking, typical of former admen, I juxtaposed that datum with the number of British families below pensionable age who live off benefits: more than 4,000,000. This places a tremendous pressure on the Exchequer (even greater than that driving tennis players to insanity).
Both problems could be solved in one fell swoop, but I won’t tell you how. It’s time for you to activate your own creative resources, and I’ve given you enough clues to guide you to the threshold of the solution.