Everyone just assumes that when David Ferrer hit the ball up at the crying baby in Miami, the baby was innocent in the whole thing. Hah! The ATP Tour’s investigation into the incident has uncovered video footage of the baby laughing at Ferrer before the tournament, watching tape and plotting out a way to bug him.
Here’s the video, watch to the end so you can see who the sneaky baby was looking at. So excited about his plan, the kid couldn’t stop from laughing.
OK, maybe not. That would have been perfect on April Fool’s Day.
But exactly what did happen to the ATP on this, anyway? Where is it? No fine, no suspension for a player hitting a ball at a baby?
Two things hit me over the Ferrer incident:
1) It was a prime example of how the lust for web hits has lead to a new type of sensationalism in the modern media.
2) Even so, Ferrer should have gotten a fine, and possibly a suspension.
Let’s start with the media. Ferrer served after the baby started crying. When the point was over, and he had lost, he took a ball and lobbed it into the stands in the general direction of the baby.
Are you still there? Because that description of the event is exactly what doesn’t go viral these days. This is what does:
It is almost impossible not to click on that. So the hits come flooding in. How many headlines were just like that? And what did you expect the first time you clicked on it? I thought someone with an angry and red face would pull a ball out of his pocket, pull back, and crush it at a baby.
I knew it couldn’t have been too big of a star in the U.S., because then the headline would have read: ROGER FEDERER IN CRAZED OUTBURST, CRUSHES BALL AT BABY! (CHECK VIDEO).
See, if it’s not a huge, huge star, then you just use the word “star’’ in hopes that readers might think it’s a huge, huge star. Remember this formula: Cheap tricks gets hits. Better if, technically, the headline is based in truth. I mean, he was angry. He is a star. That was a crying baby. . .
But Ferrer lobbed it up there.
OK, but now let’s look at what Ferrer really did do, and why he needs to have some consequences.
No, he didn’t violently hit the ball at a baby. But he was angry at the baby, and he did take some sort of action against the kid, or, more likely, the kid’s dad. You cannot take any negative physical action toward a customer.
There is an invisible line between fans and athletes that cannot be broken. When a fan jumped on the court at the U.S. Open a couple years ago and kissed Rafael Nadal, that was not violent, but could not be tolerated. We’ve seen all sorts of examples like that, going both directions. It’s important that fans stay in their place and players in theirs.
I know that players lob balls into the stands after matches. That is accepted by both sides, player and fan.
To me, what Ferrer did was like flipping off the baby, or father.
At the U.S. Clay Court Championship last week, I watched Paul Capdeville try to serve while a baby cried. Capdeville stopped, waited, got ready to serve again, and then the baby screamed again.
So Capdeville slumped his shoulders, rolled his eyes and seemed to be signaling the chair umpire to do something. Finally, the father picked up the baby and left.
That was normal behavior. A lot of tennis fans think babies don’t belong at matches at all. A friend of mine says babies and smoking should carry the same rules:
Not in public, please. As a father, I’m fully aware that kids can drive you crazy.
But come on, there is no reason a player can’t serve just because a baby is crying. It’s already unnatural enough that tennis asks a stadium full of adults to sit quietly. We’re talking about paying customers here who want to take their kids out for a day in the sun.
You don’t hit a ball up at them in anger.
All I know is that someone needed a timeout that day, and it wasn’t the baby.
So I do blame the modern media for blowing this thing up, but that’s no excuse for Ferrer. In fact, it just means today’s players have to be on their behavior even more.
You can’t have angry tennis stars hitting a ball at a crying baby. But you can’t have Ferrer lobbing one up there, either.
ATP officials need to wake up from their nap and take some action against Ferrer. Unless they think it’s the fault of a devious baby.