Throughout the 1980’s, tennis was a staple in my sporting life. At the hub of that was Patrick Hart Cash.
Born in 1965 in Melbourne, Cash became, at the time, Australia’s most successful male international tennis player since the days of John Newcombe and Ken Rosewall; eventually rising to number four in the world rankings in May 1988.
His crowning glory was the 1987 Wimbledon Championship where he fought off the dominant Ivan Lendl on a surface that was much more to his liking than that of the intimidating Czech. Two lost Australian Open finals must sting to this day yet Cash had a stellar career, albeit frequently interrupted by illness and injury.
Now fifty-three, Cash was and still is, an athlete of considerable ability. One of the most explosive and dynamic physical specimens on the tour, he made up for lesser flair and talent in ground stroke play with an aggressive net rushing game that relied heavily on risk and reward. He was brash, controversial at times and confident; rubbing officialdom in the wrong way as he made his name in the tennis world.
His father, Pat Cash Snr, was there with him throughout the journey and the two seemed to share a strong bond and mutual respect.
And this is where the story gets interesting. Cash snr had played fifty-eight games for Hawthorn and his son too, grew to love the Hawks. Pat Cash would have made a successful AFL player, such was his speed and agility. His acceleration off the mark would have made him an excellent midfielder; blessed with the ability to run on the outside and tackle ferociously.
His mental strength would have assured his success.
Last weekend, Cash chose to share his celebratory comments around Hawthorn player, Shaun Burgoyne’s 350th game in the AFL. A wonderful achievement and fitting milestone for one of the slickest, classiest and most consistent performers in the national competition over the last decade and a half.
The trouble with Cash’s ‘contribution’ to twitter, was that he felt the need to take a veiled swipe at the game of football; currently in celebration mode as the World Cup takes place in Russia. You can look up the tweet in its entirety but the long and the short of it is that Cash alluded to AFL as a “real man’s sport”. He compared it to football whose players were continuously, “rolling around on the ground trying to cheat a free-kick”.
The reaction was significant and embarrassing for Cash. Firstly, with all the debate and controversy in the AFL in recent times around diving, simulation and ducking for frees, and the insinuations of unmanly character directed at those who do it, I couldn’t help but think of the words hypocrisy and ‘glass houses’.
For Cash to have missed this, it appeared obvious that I must be watching far more AFL than he is.
What I found even more offensive about the use of the phrase “real man’s game”, is the implication that those participating in other endeavours are somehow lesser people and less valuable masculine role models. I have male friends who dance, dive, do gymnastics and play netball. Heck, I write for a living and can’t imagine how unmanly he would see that. I must be a real ‘girl’ in his eyes.
In reality, it is a neanderthalic, simplistic and cliched idea that Cash rehashed and an insult to every man not’ tough enough’ in his eyes to be called real. Just for your information Pat, tough is working hard for a living, providing for and supporting your family, just as your partner does and being a role model for all those with whom you come in contact.
Lastly, I wondered why? What insecure, passive aggressive motivation could possibly have driven the tennis legend to swing so violently at a game of which he appears to know nothing? Burgoyne himself would no doubt have been appreciative of the tweet yet probably wished it had not been tarnished by such a paltry insult towards another game.
Would a tweet wishing the Socceroos good luck in Russia have been a better option?
From someone who sat up in the wee hours and supported Cash throughout his career; willing him on at all costs, it was so disappointing. Now as a sports journalist, and after all these years, it was sad to see an ugly side in one of my heroes.