How Nick Kyrgios became the leading force of common sense
You know the world has officially spun off its axis when Nick Kyrgios becomes the voice of reason.
As if 2020 couldn't deliver any more madcap surprises, to his great credit the normally irritating Aussie tennis brat has become the tormentor-in-chief of world number one Novak Djokovic, who has successfully infected himself, his wife, and a bunch of his disco-dancing Eurotrash mates with the coronavirus after partying together in Belgrade to celebrate a "friendly" tennis tournament.
The tournament was friendly in so far as it gave friends and strangers the chance to get together in breach of social distancing guidelines and hug, kiss, dance and rub sweat all over each other, turning this happy gang into its own full-blown COVID-19 cluster.
Now, in a richly deserved irony, if there's one thing the anti-vaxxer Djokovic could do with, it's a vaccine for coronavirus. But he is already on the record as saying he wouldn't take one anyway, such is his abiding hostility to modern science.
The trash-talk Kyrgios unleashed on Djokovic is bigger than the Canberran's serve.
"Prayers up to all the players that have contracted COVID-19," Kyrgios said, retweeting a video of the players dancing shirtless in Belgrade.
"Don't @ me for anything I've done that has been 'irresponsible' or classified as 'stupidity' - this takes the cake."
As my old colleague Byron Kaye wrote on Twitter, Djokovic is now the highest-ranked anti-vaxxer in the world to contract the coronavirus.
The Kyrgios-Djokovic barney teaches us two lessons. The first is that we can be collectively wrong in our assessment of individuals. The second is that weapons-grade stupidity has never had an easier time achieving ascendancy in this age we inhabit.
To Nick Kyrgios first. For most Australians the tennis player's abilities on the court have been overshadowed so frequently by dreadful behaviour that it has been tempting to set our patriotism to one side when he's playing and barrack for the other guy.
Over the past six months though we have seen a different side of Kyrgios, starting with the summer bushfires when he pledged to donate $200 for every ace he served to helping fire-ravaged communities. The initiative became a juggernaut and by the end of the Australian Open Kyrgios alone had raised almost $100,000 and invited thousands of Australians to donate millions more.
Cynics might have regarded this as a redemption strategy by a bloke who knew he was on the nose. I would now beg to differ. It seems that there is good bloke lurking after all under that psychologically ravaged persona.
Indeed when you think back on Kyrgios' outrages - probably with the exception of teasing his opponent about his ex-girlfriend sleeping with someone else - in most cases it has been Kyrgios himself who has been the sole victim of his own brain-fades.
As for Djokovic, rightly labelled the Pete Evans of tennis, what we are seeing there is the human embodiment of the anti-science, anti-enlightenment vibe that permeates the world at a time when we could be expected to have reached near-peak intelligence.
With the passage of every generation, existence has become safer, life expectancies longer, childbirth less dangerous, the number of diseases we have suppressed or wiped out is a lengthy and impressive testament to the power of the human mind and shared human effort.
Yet with people such as the Joker and Chef Pete, and all those whackos at Trump rallies and born-again churches in the United States saying they're protected by a combination of the second amendment and being bathed in the bloody of Baby Jesus … all this combines to show that stupidity is still having something of a field day during these troubled times.
The great cliche of the age - we are all in this together - has been exposed as a lie too through the actions of those who turn their back on science and choose to come up with their own set of opinions on the basis of no actual knowledge.
Djokovic, Evans, the MAGA meatheads and the Holy Rollers answer either to a higher power or their own weird power, perhaps one of those lamps Evans was selling before the Department of Consumer Affairs shut him down.
All of this has the net effect of making the community less safe. Dangerous, too, is the fact that the people who believe and peddle this kind of tosh are utterly unswayable in their stupidity. They regard the most factually-compelling critiques of their intellectually decrepit positions as a vindication, figuring that people must be really out to get them.
It explains why someone who is good only at hitting a ball back and forth across a net, or someone who can whip up some terrific sweetcorn fritters for a tasty paleo breakfast can have the audacity to stand up to every epidemiologist and virologist who has ever lived and say: that's just your opinion.
I'm not normally a fan of the Twitter pile-on but I have enjoyed seeing the likes of Djokovic and Evans copping it with both barrels from the overwhelmingly sane majority.
It will make zero difference to them, of course. They'll still have that same doe-eyed look on their faces, as they smugly dismiss attacks from those who've been "got to" by the Gates Family, the Illuminati, the sinister Dr Fauci, whatever the latest crackpot theory du jour is.
They should still be called out though, as their theories have appeal to the intellectually feeble, and anyone who's prepared to believe anything that pops up in their Facebook feed. And in a year of surprises, who would have thought that it's Nick Kyrgios leading the charge for the forces of science and enlightenment.
I've never said this before, but go, Nick.
Originally published as How Nick Kyrgios became the leading force of common sense