Political correctness may be a boring reason to decide an argument, but being thoughtless while saying something potentially politically incorrect can turn one into a target of merrymaking rather quickly.
|Sharapova said that more people would turn up to watch her play than Simon
Gilles Simon found that out the hard way last week, becoming a subject of almost cruel mockery after saying to a bunch of reporters that he found his sport’s gender-equal pay highly unfair.
Simon, a new elect to the ATP Player Council, thought he was pushing his player body’s agenda when he told French reporters that he was opposed to women receiving equal prize money because men’s tennis at the moment was “really ahead of women’s tennis.”
Simon gave his reasons, saying his sex usually spent longer on court trying to win matches and that the men’s game was a lot more attractive than women’s.
The easiest thing to do was to knock Simon down for being a few centuries old in his mindset and at least a few years behind in official acceptance of parity.
Some of the top women’s players did exactly that, with Ana Ivanovic pointing out that she had spent a fairly long time on court during her win earlier that day, thank you, and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova simply laughing at Simon’s presumptuousness.
Sharapova retorted that a lot more people would come to watch her play than they would for Simon, and Serena agreed, saying the Russian was “way hotter” than the fairly low-profile Frenchman.
The popularity battle was pretty much settled the next day when the British tabloid Metro published a report on Simon’s comments and mistakenly carried a photograph alongside of his countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
But as Simon said, it wasn’t about him or Maria, and that he was only applying the rules of demand and supply, since, in his opinion, a lot more people would be willing to pay the higher ticket prices of men’s games. “Am I going to incur the wrath of feminist organizations? I don’t care,” he said, before comparing tennis to a music performance where people came to get entertained.
To keep to Simon’s argument while jumping out of the gender issue for a second, should match fees then be determined according to world rankings, or some popularity chart? Matches involving Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have an unquestionably higher demand and steeper ticket prices, and as good as subsidize the games featuring lower-ranked players.
Should a 20th-ranked player receive lesser money for losing in the fourth round than a second-ranked one because he is presumed to be less entertaining and is less in demand?
And to bring gender back into the equation, I wonder what Simon has to say about prize money from a time not all that long ago when people flocked to tennis for Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin and Venus Williams, and there were not many fans of the men’s game just before the current great crop arrived.
There are no doubts that the current women’s game lacks a potent rivalry or even consistently strong individuals who would attract the same adoration and angst as the men’s top three do, but a smaller prize purse would simply be counterproductive to the process of finding one.
While adding sets to women’s matches or reducing them from men’s competitions doesn’t seem plausible, or even compelling at the moment, the difference in standard game lengths does not imply that women can get by without working equally hard.
If a few women in the draw have a better chance at earning extra prize because they were able to play in both singles and doubles events, they will have to actually play and win to do so. They’re not exactly getting free money.
And, you know, sometimes a fighting, even grunt-drenched, three-setter makes for better music than an error-strewn, commonplace, five-set game.