Raybon Kan: Heat is on tennis but the ones sweating are the fans

Fans cool off at the Australian Open - which has a sports betting site as a sponsor in the same year a fixing scandal has hit tennis. Photo / AP
Fans cool off at the Australian Open - which has a sports betting site as a sponsor in the same year a fixing scandal has hit tennis. Photo / AP

I'm in Melbourne. There's a heatwave. During the Australian Open, they should rename this place Mel-bjorn. Tennis takes over. So it's understandably a big headline when Buzzfeed reveals that a squad of pro tennis players are suspected to have thrown matches. Wait - Buzzfeed? Doing investigative journalism? This bait made me click. Finally, a slideshow that'd be a real page-turner. I rested a pillow on my computer, in case my jaw should drop. Would I believe my eyes?

Indeed, I did not believe my eyes. Names were not shamed. If ever there was justification for a listicle, this was it. Supposedly some 16 current players are suspected to have thrown tennis matches, even at Wimbledon. That's like the entire fourth round of a Grand Slam doing their utmost not to make the quarter-final. Betting agencies are wise to it, apparently - but we, the scandal-hungry public (who click through lists we don't even care about, because clicking is addictive, like a slot machine which jackpots little prizes of gossip) - we, the people, got nothing other than old news about Davydenko.

In 2007, Russian player Nikolay Davydenko, a huge favourite, was already up a set and a break when huge amounts of money were bet "against" him winning. He retired the match, claiming his foot hurt. Betting sites refused to pay out. After an investigation, the ATP cleared both players.

That was 2008. Obviously, world tennis is taking this issue as urgently as the world legal system has taken the GFC. It's on our list! We'll get to it before the end of the world! Why clean up the sport, when you can just look the other way and declare it clean? Not looking is such a time-saver!

Coincidentally, this year, the sports-betting site William Hill is an official sponsor of the Australian Open. Is that like the Australian Open having an official cigarette? At least it's not a hypocritical sponsorship, like junk food. If the reports are true, sports-betting sites are something tennis players actually use on court.

Meanwhile, it seems 62 people are worth more money than half the planet. Five years ago, it took 388 people to out-bling the bottom half. Ha! Five years ago looks like a workers' paradise. Fret not: the 326 billionaires who have been relegated from the first division are probably still doing OK. (Come to think of it, when did billionaires even begin to exist? Remember when Marilyn Monroe aspired to marrying a millionaire? That wouldn't even get you into the Grammar zone now. Before the word was common, I used to think a billionaire was just a millionaire with a blocked nose.)

Whether you think this inequality should change or not, there's no changing it. The whole world won't suddenly become more Scandinavian. New Zealand won't become the way Old Zealand used to be.

When 62 people have half the planet's money, that means they have way more than half the planet's power. The trend is upward, the field is tilted. Gravity and momentum will not be denied. Eventually, that 62 will become one: one person will have more money than half the planet. The planet will be named after this one person. The currency will bear their likeness. Just as there's an anthem asking God to save the Queen, entire countries (whose gross national self-esteem won't match this one person's) will form fervent choirs, wishing even greater favour upon this person. Humans (from the bottom half) will be sacrificed, and the choicest of organs will be harvested to make this person immortal. And we, in the middle, who have all grown up on stories of princes, princesses and peasants, will look upon the poorer with contempt, and be fine with it. Amen.

Post-Bowie, I've been wondering how his last 18 months would have been if he'd made his diagnosis public. There'd have been awards, medals, tribute concerts. He'd have heard what people wanted to say to him, but at the cost of his time, his output. Obviously, cancer sucks.

David Bowie kept his illness quiet. Photo / AP
David Bowie kept his illness quiet. Photo / AP

So can we just please give Helen Kelly the ganja? There's no harm to society. Yes, alcohol and tobacco will face competition. But she'll be more comfortable. Her principles are selfless. I once took part in a TV segment with Helen Kelly. The news story was women's periods and the workplace. I'd heard the topic as a euphemism, "women's monthly challenges," or similar. Monthly bleeding? I thought we were discussing GST. She took it easy on me. Let's cut her a break.

- NZ Herald

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