Attention scriptwriters everywhere: sharpen your pencils, there's an Emmy-award-winning comedy in the Novak Djokovic saga.
It must be a candidate for a TV series. We've gone from outrage, to sympathy, to high comedy now. You couldn't make this stuff up – the world's best tennis player, an anti-vaxxer, uses a medical exemption to enter Australia, one of the world's biggest Covid-19 Petri dishes. He's thrown out, but clings on by his injunction fingernails, sparking a global debate whether he's an example of freedom of choice or the freedom of an entitled sporting aristocrat.
I'm thinking the series (working title: Close Encounters Of The Serb Kind) has international appeal, following an unvaccinated Djokovic having his visa revoked at the airport. He is (metaphorically speaking) frog-marched by border officials into detention. He shares a hotel with asylum seekers and refugees trying to prise open the steel gates of Australia's immigration policies – which seem powered by the caring, sharing motto of "Go Away" (or, occasionally, "Send Them To New Zealand").
His family, especially voluble dad Srjdan, go full motormouth. He compares Novak to Jesus who was "crucified and endured many things but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified... the best sportsman and man in the world. He will endure." Novak's mum Dijana says her little tennis player is being subjected to "torture".
Srjdan also invokes the spirit of Spartacus: "My son is the new world's Spartacus, who will not tolerate injustice, colonialism and hypocrisy. He is imprisoned but has never been freer. He has become the symbol and the leader of the free world, the leader of the world of the nations and of poor and needy people."
If the Bible and the Spartacus movie haven't led me astray, both ended up actually crucified by the Romans - so Sjrdan's lyricism over his son's sainthood doesn't foretell a great future for Novak. However neither Jesus nor Spartacus was worth over $300 million during their, um, brush with the authorities and couldn't afford a lawyer. Poor, tortured Novak can.
Then Judge Anthony Kelly makes his now famous statement in court when he reinstates Djokovic's visa: "What more could this man have done?"
Quite a bit, it turns out – staying away from potentially infecting kids in Serbia when he was waiting for a Covid test result; re-scheduling an interview and photo shoot with French sports journal L'Equipe when he knew he was positive. He could have filled in his Australian entry forms accurately.
This farce is one of the weirdest things in sport since the masterminds of the Tokyo Olympics distributed 160,000 condoms to athletes – but told them not to use them as it would contravene social distancing. It's a highly effective contraception method ("Here, put on this condom and stand over there") but... crazy.
Casting the series will be fun. How about Jon Hamm as Djokovic - though Djokovic's body is a vegan temple, apparently, and he may not want to be played by someone whose name suggests dried pig. Gobby father Srdjan could be played by Danny de Vito, although Srjdan may not be too happy with people of Italian extraction after what happened to Spartacus. Plan B: Brian Tamaki, if he's not too busy at a family picnic. Mum Dijana could be played by Rebel Wilson (slim version), Judge Kelly by Johnny Depp (but not accompanied by his dogs Pistol and Boo).
Intervening Prime Minister Scott Morrison would be portrayed by Jason Alexander (George Costanza from Seinfeld). If he's not available, any balding bloke with glasses will do, provided they can evoke the sort of tone deafness ScoMo showed during the bushfires: "I don't hold a hose, mate" (asked why he was on holiday in Hawaii while Australia burned).
There's probably room to write in a fictional character like 91-year-old Clint Eastwood. He could add some dramatic chops by playing an angry visitor from the outback who turns up in Melbourne in a dusty ute full of firearms and proceeds to shoot anyone querying the human right to go unvaccinated.
Okay, we're just being silly now. But sport, when people stuff up like this, often descends into the ridiculous, like the condom distributors at the Olympics and the football team I have followed for decades, Tottenham Hotspur.
Last year, they proudly posted on Twitter a picture of their new away strip. It looked like a cross between a Jackson Pollock painting and projectile vomit. "Describe this kit in one word", Spurs tweeted happily to followers. Thousands did, many using as their word one that rhymes with Brad Pitt.
Describe this kit in one word ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/HJC4e0O0T8— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) July 22, 2021
Then there's MMA's "we're-bigger-than-the-All Blacks" Israel Adesanya, whose almighty strop about a lack of government support re MIQ difficulties ended with: "You'll never seem me fight in New Zealand ever again". Oh dear, okay, right, fine, yawn.
Adesanya ain't coming to Aotearoa. Will Djokovic ever again play in Australia? If he won't get a jab next time, maybe the answer is to give him an updated Tokyo Treatment – put him in a hotel room for 14 days with paintings of Jesus and Spartacus hung on the walls, with a packet of condoms and a little note asking him not to use them, and a compulsory YouTube tutorial on how to fill out Australian immigration forms correctly.