Friday, July 22, 2005

Chris Lewis: Tall Poppy

I'm enormously sad to learn that New Zealand Tennis have finally driven tennis ace Chris Lewis from New Zealand. Chris is a wonderful sportsman and a tremendous human being, and his departure for California leaves me angry at his treatment here at home.

Chris has been at odds with New Zealand Tennis's 'coach-by-numbers' mentality since his arrival back in NZ over ten years ago to begin coaching junior tennis players. The more success his proteges attained, the more the coach-by-numbers brigade were shown up as the conformist dullards they are, and the more antagonistic they became.

The last public blow-up over NZ's dismal Davis Cup loss to Pakistan had the dullards spluttering into their gins as Chris pointed out where blame for the failure lay: squarely in their laps. While the dullards closed ranks praising "a great team performance" -- referring presumably to the closing of ranks as NZ's tennis chickens flew home to roost -- NZ Tennis CEO Don Turner sprang into action. He tried to shut Chris down.

Chris Lewis -- a former number one junior in the world, a Wimbledon singles finalist in 1983, former coach of Ivan Lendl (World # 1) and Carl Uwe Steeb (World #14) -- was told that he would have to answer to a new 'high performance manager' whose own performance achievements were close to nil. He was told further that his players would effectively be nationalised by NZ Tennis, and that he should "work together with all the key parties in the name of nationhood."

As I said at the time, "Perhaps in the name of 'nationhood'; they'd rather he packed up his proven talent and took up a well-paid coaching job overseas while they make permanent bookings for the Kazakhstan Hilton. That would be good for the 'nation' wouldn't it."

Apparently that's what NZ Tennis did want and does want, and now they've got it. The dullards would rather be comfortable in their mediocrity than have their boat rocked by the truth, or try and deal with real talent. This is what Ayn Rand meant when she talked in an article about Marilyn Monroe of a particularly common variant of the hatred of the good for being the good:
"When you're famous, you kind of run into human nature in a raw kind of way," she said. "It stirs up envy, fame does. People you run into feel that, well, who is she--who does she think she is, Marilyn Monroe? They feel fame gives them some kind of privilege to walk up to you and say anything to you, you know, of any kind of nature--and it won't hurt your feelings--like it's happening to your clothing. . . . I don't understand why people aren't a little more generous with each other. I don't like to say this, but I'm afraid there is a lot of envy in this business."

"Envy" is the only name she could find for the monstrous thing she faced, but it was much worse than envy: it was the profound hatred of life, of success and of all human values, felt by a certain kind of mediocrity--the kind who feels pleasure on hearing about a stranger's misfortune. It was hatred of the good for being the good--hatred of ability, of beauty, of honesty, of earnestness, of achievement and, above all, of human joy.
Chris described NZ's tall-poppy syndrome himself some years ago as the "crab bucket mentality."

Anyone familiar with the behaviour of a bunch of crabs trapped at the bottom of a bucket will know what happens when one of them tries to climb to the top; instead of attempting the climb themselves, those left at the bottom of the bucket will do all in their collective power to drag the climber back down. And although crab behaviour should not in any way be analogous to human behaviour, I can think of many instances where it is...

As a tennis coach running a comprehensive junior & senior development programme for Auckland Tennis Inc., it is my job to produce future tennis champions. Among other things, this involves demanding the maximum amount of effort from every player with whom I work. If a player is to become the best he can be, he must dedicate himself from a relatively early age to the single-minded pursuit of his tennis career. Along the way many obstacles & barriers will be put in his path. One such obstacle, which brings me to the point of my article, is the tremendous amount of negative peer pressure that is brought to bear on anyone who attempts to climb life's peaks by those who have defaulted on the climb.

I trust Chris will find fairer pastures in California.

2 Comments:

Anonymous LB said...

" In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore... they had better aim at something high." - Henry David Thoreau

7/23/2005 01:16:00 pm  
Blogger Jack Yan said...

New Zealand loses another great. I’m on the verge of buggering off myself, at least for the career. I don’t want to, but I am given very little choice, by this administration, and by the mass media.
   God, I know how Mr Lewis felt. Only more so: I submit you can’t be of a minority race and respected in New Zealand, a country which I have lived in for 29 years.
   I knew it long ago, but after spending hundreds of thousands, it hurts just that much more. Tall poppy is one issue, and lack of pride is another, as New Zealanders indulge in French brands (Cloudy Bay, Just Juice, Griffin’s, Eta, Citrus Tree), English brands (Corbans, Montana), Irish brands (New Zealand Woman’s Weekly) and American brands (Wattie's, Keri), fooling ourselves we are supporting our own. We haven’t supported our own for years. I’m just glad there’s someone else out there with the guts to talk about it. Kudos to you, Mr Cresswell.

9/22/2005 02:22:00 pm  

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