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Why I Liked Lynn Barber’s Article

June 9, 2011

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.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. tinica permalink
    June 9, 2011 3:58 pm

    Does anyone honestly think Roger Federer is any less “boring”?

    Maybe Rafa should insist upon Spanish-only interviews – he does seem rather careful in English.

    • amaranth permalink
      June 10, 2011 7:50 pm

      Yes, honestly. A lot.

  2. mike permalink
    June 9, 2011 6:06 pm

    so what should nadal do so that he is less-boring?? sing? dance?act?do some acrobats? if you noticed by now, he is one of the most well-rounded sportsman whose life is not only focused on tennis. and without his “overly protective” uncle, the press would have eaten him alive.. there’s just too many mean-spirited lynn barbers out there who are ready to take him down.

    other than the bigot’s classless discussion of his sexuality, it was likewise inappropriate for her who “didn’t get satisfying responses, [but] she took them anyway and [created] a story.”

    lastly, the reason why i like a nadal-federer rivalry is because nadal puts adrenalin into an otherwise lethargic federer game..

  3. June 9, 2011 10:24 pm

    heh. I never thought he was boring, but I never bothered to think he was all that exciting off the tennis court either. I always thought Rafa was just not one who liked to talk about himself ever. There are a few sportsmen/women who are like this. At first I thought it was the whole language barrier and him not wanting anything to be lost in translation, now I just think that’s the way he is. I have never considered Roger all that exciting either, (except some of his pressers make me lol).

    IMO Daniel Vettori and Daniel Carter really are just as boring as each other in interviews and what not. I mean I love them both when they are playing etc but their answers to q make me flick the tv over……..

  4. June 9, 2011 11:24 pm

    I agree that she has a right to cover Nadal even if she knows little about the sport. We already know that tennis reporters/bloggers are often too enamored of their subjects to take a keen look. I found her assessment of Rafa spot on, not so mmuch her belief that he may or may not be boring (which she doesn’t actually say), just her reminder that we do not know him. How can we when we only have access through his minders? I thought the parallel with Woods was justified. Regardless of Tiger’s or even Nadal’s personal lives, they perform well in their respective sport and that is all we should care about. Yet, we don’t because advertisers and theey collude to sell us an image of who they think we want them to be.

  5. June 9, 2011 11:31 pm

    This is a fabulous write-up amidst all the nonsensical responses of the past week. Thank you, seriously.

  6. anonimous permalink
    June 10, 2011 4:40 am

    Lynn Barber is an old british woman whose poisoned mind, seems to stir the devil in people, and I wonder how she chooses her victims. This time it is Nadal. First and foremost, she rightly states that she will never know Nadal probalbly the way she would like to. However, for a reputable writer, I believe she crossed the line, mainly becuase she is old and disgruntled and can’t appreciate the true beauty of a kid well raised into a young man, in a world so corrupt like her own mind. Why must something be wrong just because he may or may not have the same kind of relationship she may like to see with his girlfriend? Why must he be gay just because he may just focus so much on his tennis? Only evil minds harbor such evil thoughts and I dare say this old lonely woman, may be talking more so to herself…. obviously she can’t see beauty in simple things, just like she has no understanding for the fact that Nadal like anyone else is allowed to have a bad day. She goes on to compare herself to him, except she forgets to realize that she is not and will never be Rafael Nadal.
    I tend to believe that wisdome comes with age, but obviously not for old british writing women, the caliber of Barber.

    • June 10, 2011 7:03 am

      I have many issues with this comment. The first being your apparent problem with being British, old, and a woman. You come off as ageist, sexist, and xenophobic. Do you realise this? Secondly, you are so quick to judge Barber and talk as if you know her personally. This is a tad rich from someone criticising her judgements upon Nadal, don’t you think? The third is your use of commas, but we will leave that.

  7. Monica permalink
    June 10, 2011 10:10 am

    Typical of the British Press to do a hatchet job on a sportsman at the height of the season. What’s is the point of this rubbish by Lynn Barber? With the British Press it’s always a case of make it interesting and if necessary make it up. When Rafa responded to her stupid question about whether his girlfriend would wait for him to finish his career to get married and he answered ‘I haven’t asked her’ he meant it literally. Rafa speaks Tennglish, he is a spaniard, he can’t do cryptic clues in English just like Lynn I’m sure can’t do cryptic clues in Spanish, if she understands it at all.

    Any sensible person would read her article and wonder why she is in journalism she would be better spending her time writing fiction

  8. June 16, 2011 10:49 pm

    I read the article twice because I thought maybe I missed something. I thought it was a display of nastiness that was in no way called for. I couldn’t quite believe I’d read it. I walked away thinking “Now the ATP knows what it feels like to be in the WTA.”

  9. December 29, 2012 3:44 am

    I like the Lynn Barber article because she was going beneath the surface. Tennis fans want to believe the mythology about their favourite stars. Barber was pointing out Nadal’s image is created by PR people we really don’t know the real Rafael Nadal. Barber also insinuated that Nadal is gay and his girlfriend is just a family friend she’s his beard. I agree with Barber something about the girlfriend seems contrived and very false. Would tennis fans really accept Nadal if he is indeed gay? I think that’s the real question here.

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