What if it really is depression?

Forget Covid, China’s criminal role in spreading it, Russia’s aggressive stance, Belarusian air piracy, France being vindictive, Biden being gaga, and inflation soon to spin out of control.

The really explosive news is that Naomi Osaka, the world’s highest-paid female athlete, has bowed out of the French Open.

Players usually default out of Grand Slams due to physical injury, but Osaka’s injury is mental. She claims to have suffered bouts of depression over the past few years, which makes it impossible for her to attend mandatory press conferences after matches.

When she refused to do so after winning in the first round, she was fined $15,000 for violating a clause in the players’ contract. Considering that in the past 12 months Osaka made $55 million, the fine couldn’t have hurt very much.

She could even have absorbed similar fines for each of the seven rounds she would have played had she got to the final. However, the tournament officials took a hard stance and threatened to expel her from the tournament. Osaka spared them the trouble by withdrawing of her own accord.

She has since been attacked by some vociferous people, such as Piers Morgan, and defended by some truly objectionable ones, notably Martina Navratilova and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the nearest thing to a communist in US Congress.

Morgan called Osaka “a spoiled brat” and a “narcissist”. She exploits the media to publicise herself and her causes, such as BLM, but then hides behind the smokescreen of psychobabble to shun journalists who are only doing their job (for which they are paid a fraction of Osaka’s income). I’m not sure what reporters’ incomes have to do with anything, but there we have it.

Now it’s my turn to add my penny’s worth to Osaka’s $55 million, and that gigantic piggy bank won’t even notice my modest contribution. Moreover, acting out of character and against my innermost feelings, I’d like to come out in Osaka’s defence.

Proceeding in an ascending order of importance, what’s this brouhaha about press conferences?

I’ve been playing tennis for decades, and I always watch the more important matches, especially those featuring flair players. That makes me a typical tennis fan, for I can’t think offhand of any other televised game where such a high proportion of viewers also play it regularly.

We watch matches in the hope that we may learn something. Perceptive commentary from former players helps. Informed and insightful articles serve the same purpose, and I for one sometimes pick up useful pointers.

But I bet no one has ever learned much from post-match interviews. Most of them are dull, some are only entertaining for a minute or so, after which one yawns and pushes a button on the old remote.

Tournament organisers and sponsors believe that an exhibition of a defeated girl sobbing that she felt OK in the first set, but then lost confidence in the second sells the game to the public. Does it really?

Again speaking for myself, I seldom watch women’s tennis and, when I do, it’s usually for reasons other than te… well, it’s none of your business why I watch it. It’s my TV and I can watch whatever I want for whatever reason.

Lest you accuse me of solipsism, I accept that some people actually like the tennis women play. But does anyone seriously think that Osaka could draw anyone’s attention to tennis not by her strokes, but by her thanking her Haitian father, Japanese mother, Belgian coach or rapper boyfriend?

Or is anyone’s appreciation of a tennis column enhanced by an obligatory quote from a player? “I missed too many first serves”? “My forehand was really working today”? “I couldn’t concentrate properly?” Thanks, Naomi, tell us something we didn’t see for ourselves.

Players should sell the game by hitting good shots, not by mouthing sweet nothings at press conferences. This is especially true now, when Zeitgeist encourages women, and even some men, to go all soppy in front of the camera and try to delve deep into their own psyche.

This brings me to my second, more important, point. It’s possible, likely even, that Morgan and Osaka’s other detractors are absolutely right. She may indeed be a spoiled, narcissist brat who works tirelessly to promote her ‘brand’ in every medium, but then pretends to be too distressed to talk to reporters.

Osaka is a very good player (for a woman, that is), but not an attractive person in any other than the physical sense. Naomi supports woke causes, mostly, one suspects, for commercial reasons. And she does like to spout a bad parody of Freud, who himself was a bad parody of a scientist.

Hence she very well may be using the word ‘depression’ imprecisely, to denote a lousy mood or a bout of petulance. But what if she isn’t? What if facing a critical query may indeed push her over the edge?

Even paranoids have enemies, goes the old line. In the same vein, some people who bandy the word ‘depression’ about may indeed be ill.

Depression is a legitimate and serious psychiatric disorder, possibly caused, and definitely accompanied, by a biochemical imbalance. Except in extremely severe cases, this can usually be treated by drugs but, even so, depression shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

It’s true that the word is grossly overused, and it’s also true that shrinks, especially American ones, dispense antidepressants like Smarties. Yet some patients, perhaps a minority, may be genuinely ill.

I haven’t studied Osaka’s medical records, and neither, I suspect, have Morgan et al. In the absence of such information, I’d refrain from accusing her of being a self-serving cheat – much as I find her a silly girl firmly perched on the woke bandwagon.

Let’s not forget that sometimes freedom from the press is as vital as freedom of it. This may be one such case.

5 thoughts on “What if it really is depression?”

  1. You’d need a magnifying glass to find the violin I would play for Osooka. She and so many other (especially black) athletes have turned me off pro sports , taken the pleasure out of watching decidedly non- political aesthetics in action. The haven from the ugly rough and tumble of day to day life hijacked for a selfish agenda , the easiest card to play for multi-millionaires with their contempt for fans and sponsors and even worse , they become MORE heroic to the media and the progressives as we deplorables become more, well – deplorable for pointing out the hypocrisy .Her ignorance in supporting criminals who met their fate , and always claiming black status over the fifty percent Japanese in her is predictably grating. Next up , an Oprah exclusive interview on the toxic racism and misogyny in tennis.

    1. She becomes Japanese too, when it suits her. That’s why she gets that 50 million in endorsements — Japan doesn’t have many world-class players, and she hoovers up all the sponsors. Of course, she has a problem there: to the Japanese, she’s black and to the blacks, Japanese. She could really split the difference and call herself American, but that would be commercially suicidal.

  2. I haven’t played tennis since I was 13 But I like to watch Wimbledon. Shame it was cancelled last year.

    I quite agree that post match blather is rather tedious (football is the absolute worst for this) although I find it hard to believe that Osaka suffers from clinical depression, an overwhelming sense of futility would surely render her a rather poor player. I never cease to be amazed by what damage a troubled mind can do to an otherwise healthy body.

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