Sports people are the show ponies of life, modern gladiators whose opinions should only be relevant to their field of endeavour. The end of the amateur, and the rise of the professional put pay to the rounded dabbler and dilettante, ably educated yet still committed to a sporting pursuit. The professional sports individual is tasked with endurance and performance as a sole domain, and opinions, notably of a political or sexual kind, would tend to be private matters. Often, they would best remain that way.
Not so Margaret Court, one of the most successful tennis players of all time, who forgot herself when she decided that her opinions seemed to be the stuff of gold, valued because she had done something with ball and racket.
Her mouth was loosened by the stance taken by the Australian airliner Qantas that it would support same sex marriage.
“I am disappointed,” she fumed, “that Qantas has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage.”
Marriage, she believed could only ever be a “union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.”
Those familiar with Court’s post-tennis life would be unsurprised by the fervour of her views. Her period of retirement did not begin well: she endured “feelings of uselessness, inferiority, unworthiness.” Jesus became her saviour. She became a Pentecostal pastor, going so far as to found her own church in Perth. She then proceeded to make her personal crisis a public, moral one.
Her mashed views form the typical potpourri of hysteria, outpourings of fear on the fringes. Dressed up as opinion, she has taken to public forums to explain that homosexuality is the stuff of illness, and that compassion needed to be shown for sufferers. On 20Twenty Vision Christian Radio, the collective “we” was used to describe what was less an attitude than a priestly instruction fanned by fire.
“We’re there to help them (gay people) overcome. We’re not against the people.”
Court’s statistics and readings have been reactionary in their inventiveness, showing that mastering a tennis court might be a touch easier than mastering literature or any specialist field. Religiosity is bound to burn the evidence before the sermon.
“They’re human beings and 92 percent, they say in America, have either been abused in some form sexually or emotionally at an early age for them to even be this way.”
The “they”, of course, remains unspecified, a glutinous, unspecified wonder of darkness that risks enveloping the world. And for good reason, she suggests: tennis, after all, is teaming with corrupting lesbians.
It is a claim she had made in 1990, suggesting that the structure of women’s tennis was a conspiratorial affair of Lesbos. Players such as the formidable Martina Navratilova were singled out as poor role models. Playing at the back of Court’s mind may well have been the ending of her grand slam singles career by the Czech in the quarters of the US Open.
Far more recently, Court has attacked the union of Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua and former touch football champion Amanda Judd for depriving their children of a father.
“I simply want to champion the rights of the family over the rights of the individual to engineer social norms and produce children into their relationships.”
Court certainly has firm views of those she sees as indoctrinators: homosexual activists, keen to spread the same-sex gospel like storm troopers.
“That’s all the devil… but that’s what Hitler did and that’s what communism did – got the mind of the children. And there’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world to get the minds of children.”
Distressing conspiracies abound in that Pentecostal mind.
That neither Hitler nor many a Communist politbureaucrat had little time for policies protecting sexual choice was obviously sidestepped by the Court process of conversion. As did the cruel omission that hetero manic totalitarianism did its best to rid humanity of homosexuals. Court has no desire to let the young minds she speaks of with such conviction learn that part of the curriculum.
These outbursts also tend to have a haunting effect: what is good for the indignant goose is certainly appropriate for the agitated gander. Tennis players have decided to wade in, showing that they have their own opinions we must all be subjected to. The currently ranked world number one Andy Murray, for one, decided that sexual orientation was no one’s business.
“Everyone should have, in my opinion, the same rights. And, yeah, that’s my view on it.”
There are even suggestions by such players as Samantha Stosur that the Margaret Court Arena be boycotted during the Australian Open. Murray, no doubt concerned that his wallet might be damaged, prefers to avoid the sledgehammer approach of a boycott.
“If something is to be done, I think it would be more beneficial to do it before the tournament starts.”
Now that is far more representative: a true tennis player keen on keeping to schedule and listening to the sound of money coming in.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected].