Saturday, 5 November 2011

The unanswered question of Loyalty behind Dmitry Tursunov’s smackdown of Pete Bodo

So this was written.


It only makes sense that Bogomolov wants to play Davis Cup. He's got a lot to be thankful for, right?


The only problem is that he wants to play Davis Cup for Russia.

Yep. The Russia from which his father, well-known coach Alex Bogomolov Sr. (who worked with, among others, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andrei Medvedev), fled over two decades ago in order to find greater opportunity and a more prosperous way of life. The Russia to which the older Bogomolov returned (leaving his family behind) in 2003, because he didn't find happiness amid the palm trees and abundant tennis courts of south Florida. Alex and son have had a strained relationship; it's better now, partly because Bogomolov's present ranking (a career-high No. 33) gained him direct entry into two ATP events in Russia in recent weeks—nice work from a guy who couldn't survive qualifying to make the main draw of the Australian Open at the beginning of this year.


Bogomolov Jr., who has dual citizenship, did well in his homeland—he was a quarterfinalist in Moscow (lost to Viktor Troicki) and a semifinalist in St. Petersburg (lost to Janko Tisparevic). He also re-connected with his dad, although Bogomolov admits that he still won't speak with his dad after a loss—only if he wins. You might think Bogomolov Jr. would see the way all the help and support he received here has been instrumental in his success, especially after his father left. And you'd think he'd be aware of the role that help played in this apparent semi-reconciliation with his dad. In fact, there may not be a more appropriate way for Bogomolov to quietly close this somewhat strange and painful narrative than by representing his adopted homeland on some tennis court.


Which is why Bogomolov's intentions just don't make sense to me. All I can think is that Junior wants to play Davis Cup for Russia because, in some bizarre way, he still wants craves the approval of his dad (what better way to earn it than by playing Davis Cup for Russia?), or perhaps he just wants to one-up his dad, rub his nose in the success he's enjoyed without support from his semi-famous father—what better way to demonstrate that Senior made a big mistake abandoning his family and giving up on Junior? But the Bogomolovs' family issues are of lesser interest to me than the fact that he's brazenly gaming the system. All other things aside, the word "ingrate" comes to mind.


-- Pete Bodo,


Following which this happened.


Further words were exchanged with tennis illuminati.

Twitter silliness ensued.

You get the idea.

[WARNING: This is not a blog smackdown of Pete Bodo. I even get uncomfortably close to agreeing with him at one point. Caution is advised as this has been known to to induce seizure in some]

-- The Devils advocate in me wants to point out that Bogo shouldn't be surprised his choices ruffled a few American feathers.

-- I’m not even sure I disagree with Bodo on the issue of loyalty (though players switching nationalities, indeed, countries poaching players, is hardly something that began yesterday)

-- I only wish he hadn’t brought Bogo’s dad into it – Bodo would still be treated with the customary contempt we’re all used to (“trendy”, kneejerk contempt I don’t always agree with), but it might then at least be considered (or ridiculed) on merit alone.

-- As it stands, Bodo has shot himself in the foot and given his detractors a reason to shoot him in the other one. He should know by now they don’t usually need one.

-- Family is generally off limits at the best of times. Family strife – unless that strife forces its way into the public eye the way Damir Dokic did (in which case it BECOMES the story) – most definitely is.

-- With that in mind, it’s really quite shabby dragging in someone’s difficult family circumstances – a situation Dima rightly points out Bodo knows nothing about – into the making of a point which could be argued either way.

-- Dare I say it, the article has the air of the type of Cold War antagonism you sometimes continue to hear from people “of a certain age”. The type of people that are noticeably less scornful when it’s their own country doing the poaching, as some argue the US did with Andrea Collarini.

--  I’m not sure that’s so very deserving of the respect Cronin insists upon, much as I agree with the idea that the experience and wisdom that supposedly comes with age doesn’t always get the respect that it is due.

-- But returning to playing devils advocate again, I still don’t think Bogo should be surprised his actions caused annoyance. And I don’t think anyone else should either.

-- I get that articles about “milk maids” invite ridicule, but don’t let’s use Bodo’s blunder as a smokescreen to evade tackling a thorny issue – even (and especially) when it’s more fun to ridicule.


-- Believe it or not, there’s a perfectly valid argument to be made in favour of loyalty, whatever you might think of Bodo and whatever his prejudices may or may not be. Players are, of course, free to jump ship and countries will continue to poach, but they shouldn’t expect to emerge from it smelling of roses.

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