Over this past weekend, a rickety old Roger Federer won his 20th Grand Slam title in Australia, only dropping 2 sets in all.
Yes, winning 20 titles is an amazing accomplishment, which still solidifies him as the greatest tennis player ever. The fact he is still winning titles at 36 is pretty much unheard of; 36 is a ripe old age for a tennis pro. Also seeing that he is the only player of the ‘Big 4’ (Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal) that is actually healthy is another feat in itself.
But what sort of boggles my mind as much as all of those previously mentioned resume boosters is the fact that no matter where he goes, no matter who he plays, the crowd is always on his side. Even playing an American in the US Open or Murray in Wimbledon, he gets half the audience. Why is he so beloved internationally?
Compare this to the way America sees Tom Brady, probably the closest equivalent to Federer in terms of overall success, longevity, ebbs and flows of career, and years left in the sport. Tom Brady is pretty much hated by all NFL fans outside of Boston, people are completely tired of seeing his success first hand, and almost all fans just want him to go away. Sure, the media drools over Brady like a dog over a Porterhouse, but the hoi polloi really does not like him.
And my big question is why? Why is one so loved and rooted for despite having pretty much everything you could ever want in a sport, and another is so vilified when winning at the same rate?
Well, some of it probably is that fans in America have other teams to root for, some have rooted for teams for over 20+ years, and Brady/Pats sort of ruin their chances of winning titles. Federer is just knocking off other individuals and not teams based in cities.
Maybe some of it is that Brady is a smug asshole who left his longtime girlfriend while pregnant to date a super model while Federer has been with the same woman through all of his successes.
Maybe the way Federer handles winning with class and dignity helps while the way Brady parades out his fake humility and canned lines after every win.
Maybe when Brady yells and whines at his teammates on the sideline when losing is a bad look.
Maybe the fact Federer is a true international star who has the deepest charity footprint across the world for any athlete while Brady wants praise for deferring 3 million dollars to help out the present year salary cap.
Maybe the fact Federer speaks better English than Brady.
Maybe I have answered the question already.
Anyway, it is still an interesting thing to see how the fans of one sport embraces one successful man while collectively detesting another. I’m not sure any athlete in history has the world on his side as much as Federer does. Michael Phelps? No way. Christiano Ronaldo? Eh, not really? Tiger Woods? I don’t think so. Michael Jordan? Too many hates. Usain Bolt? OK, that one is close. Regardless, it is a testament to a man who can win so much over a long period of time and still leaving the people wanting more.
Obviously, not everyone has this trait.