Why I Liked Lynn Barber’s Article
The other night while watching the French Open final, I initiated a short conversation with my brother. Already anticipating his answer, I asked him, “Who do you think is the most boring active sportsman?”
“Rafael Nadal” came the quick reply.
It appears Lynn Barber agrees. The controversial journalist has managed to pen an article that has been met with fervor from the tennis community, and not in a good way. Her unflattering portrait of Nadal has received much criticism from those who feel her less-than-kind remarks were unfair. Especially as Barber is not a tennis journalist, and does not claim to know or even like tennis. In fact, Barber is known for her work with Penthouse magazine among others, and for penning a few books. However, this doesn’t mean Baber is unqualified to write about her latest topic of Rafael Nadal. For instead of analysing his forehand and GOAT status, Barber analyses his personality. She doesn’t like what she finds.
In short, Barber thinks Nadal is boring and not particularly nice. She is frustrated by his sly avoidance of her personal questions, and annoyed by constant looks to his PR manager. At first, Barber just sounds bored with Nadal. But then she digs deeper, and her article begins to read a little more like a conspiracy theory. Barber suggests Nadal might not be boring if it weren’t for his overly controlling uncle, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and an arranged girlfriend with a family friend. Perhaps she doesn’t quite spell it out for us like that, but reading between the lines isn’t difficult and clearly encouraged. It is no wonder the tennis community is a little peeved off. Nice guys finish first in tennis, and fans – hell, even journalists – have grown to like it that way. Barber loudly reminds us that golf was like that too, until the Tiger Woods image turned out to be nothing more than a mirage. Not that Barber’s claims to be an expert of either sport. Which bothers tennis fans.
However, Barber’s lack of association with the sport was paramount in the writing of her article. Barber doesn’t even seem to like tennis, and although that is a little annoying, it has allowed her to see tennis from a different angle. She’s looked at Nadal and tennis with an ice-cold journalist’s stare and cried “Bullshit”. Whether she’s right or not doesn’t matter. She’s written a unique, interesting article filled with criticism and opinion. She’s given tennis fans exactly what they claimed they were missing: interesting journalism.
Barber wasn’t afraid to go after the tough questions when she met Nadal, and she dug as far into his personal life as his PR manager would allow, (not very far). When she didn’t get satisfying responses, she took them anyway and created a story. Nadal gave her nothing, and yet she’s written a piece that has filled Twitter timelines. It might not be pretty, but it worked.
Of course, just because I liked it doesn’t mean I agree with it. I didn’t really buy the idea that under Nadal’s controlled exterior lurks a sex-mad egotist on the edge of boiling point. I remain unconvinced that tennis is tedious without John McEnroe, and I certainly don’t think Tiger’s sex scandal did golf any good. I was a little disturbed by her constant references to Nadal’s sex life, (but unsurprised; she once admitted she slept with around 50 men in two terms at Oxford and has penned a book on sex), and I don’t believe Xisca is a cover-up for… Lord only knows what.
It turns out that tennis isn’t the only sport Barber can sink her claws into. My conversation with my brother didn’t stop with Nadal. I replied that perhaps the rugby hero, Dan Carter, (coincidently also a good-looking underwear model) could out-bore Nadal. It got him thinking. “Yeah, he’s tiring. Daniel Vettori is as well. ” Seems like Barber has plenty more cannon-fodder, should she want it.