Why can cricketers sledge while tennis players must be whiter than white?

It cannot be denied that it was a shade unclassy that Kyrgios chose to deliver his sledge  within range of a courtside microphone

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The Independent Online

At some point in the next six to eight months, as certain as a leap year or an underwhelming England performance in a World Cup, that hardy quadrennial classic story will emerge, detailing how many condoms there will be at the Olympic athletes’ village. And you can be sure the Mail Online has already chosen the appropriate beach volleyball pictures to illustrate it, and good for them. The only people who do badly out of it are Durex, who, not being an official sponsor, have to remove their name from the packets.

The number has a tendency towards almost exponential increase, which is at least almost in keeping with the Faster, Higher, Stronger thing. London went with 150,000, Beijing 100,000. Sydney, to its eternal shame, ran out.

It is gently titillating but for the most part a relief. If a giant sleepover featuring more than 10,000 of the planet’s youngest, fittest creatures did not lead to an upsurge in copulation there would be cause to fear for the future of the species.

And it would also go some way to explain Nick Kyrgios’ news, that the young, attractive, successful Thanasi Kokkinakis and the young, attractive, successful Donna Vekic have, at some point in their joyful lives of chasing the sun around the earth in order to play tennis under it, mutually succumbed to the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.

It cannot be denied that it was a shade unclassy that Kyrgios chose to deliver it within range of a courtside microphone during his match against Stanislas Wawrinka, who we are led to believe is Vekic’s boyfriend, but class is not what the tennis world has come to expect from Kyrgios. And given that he also appears to be a quite thick young man (if he is not, then his dedication to the character is of Daniel Day Lewis proportions), it is a little unreasonable of us to expect him to understand a quite complicated set of sporting social rules.

The Australian wicketkeeper Rod Marsh’s question to incoming batsman Ian Botham, “How’s your wife and my kids?” is widely considered one of the great moments in the history of Test cricket, as is Botham’s reply:

“Wife’s fine, kids are retarded.”

Certainly, it outstrips Kyrgios in terms of wit, and it helps that it has been generally assumed over the years that Botham is, in fact, the father of his own children and no doubt one or two more besides, but where one incident adds a zero to the fee on the after-dinner circuit, the other has been greeted with a fine of £6,400.

That’s a clear injustice. If all sportspeople were to be fined every time they say something they think is hilarious but is, in fact, weepingly unfunny, the licence fee would have to double just to cover A Question of Sport. It would also explain why Robbie Savage clearly needs about nine different jobs just to keep his head above the water.

There are other issues at stake too. What holds back the introduction of video technology in sport more than anything else are legitimate concerns over consistency. That the game should be officiated at its grassroots in the same way as at the very highest level. These periodic on-the-field transgressions in moral conduct tend to become a big deal not merely because they have happened but because they have been caught on camera, and that’s not fair.

We will never know, for example, just how many footballers have definitely not been called “a fucking black cunt” by John Terry. It is conceivably thousands. Who knows how many nervous tailend batsmen have been told to “Get ready for a broken fuckin’ arm” by the apparently irreproachable gentleman that is Michael Clarke? And no doubt worse.

It remains one of sport’s great mysteries that cricket, supposedly the most gentlemanly game of all, is the one in which long hours of sustained, highly personal abuse have always been an integral part.

What we can know with absolute certainty is that the few incidents that have punctuated the public consciousness are the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

Even I happen to know of an amateur hockey player in the Southern leagues despised at his rival club for his unerring ability to get his opposing player sent off. It is a victory consistently achieved around the 60-minute mark – the point at which the victim, who can no longer take being asked repeatedly whether he interferes with his own children, snaps and lashes out. They don’t despise him any more, by the way, because he moved to the area a few years ago, and not only now plays for them but is married to one of his new team-mates’ daughters.

Kyrgios, of course, has apologised, though we know he is sorry solely for having been caught. Sportsmanlike conduct has, for years, been about little more than winning. There will always be those willing to do it the dirty way. It is far too late for the odd fine and the public outrage that goes with it to do anything about that.

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