The late iconoclast sportswriter Len Schechter – a rare breed in a field of idolators – punctured any sense athletes were heroes in his book The Jocks, writing of one star baseball player in a locker room “looking at a newspaper like it was a road map.”
These people who can run, jump, shoot, skate, hit a baseball, tennis ball, swim, pass and catch and kick a football with physical prowess spend much of their lives in a bubble, not seeing nor concerned about the lives of the fans they detest for their inability to do the same.
Part of my career at UPI and The Boston Globe provided the opportunity to cover professional sports and – trust me on this because I've been in the locker rooms – athletes are the last people you'd ask for an opinion on anything because most are shallow and selfish and don't have any original thoughts.
Case in point: Greek tennis star Stefanos ‘Immune’ Tsitsipas, an anti-vaxxer who said he won't be vaccinated against COVID-19 – unless, of course, the professional tennis circuit requires it. In which case he'll bend his principles to make money.
In 2020, he appeared as one of the celebrities in Greece's Stay Home campaign during a first lockdown that was a real lockdown, but that was just to fluff up his persona and titillate fans because he wasn't staying at home.
Now, as the coronavirus is resurging over the Delta Variant from India and Greece's vaunted Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign has stalled – only health workers are required to be inoculated – Tsitsipas has shown that his ignorance is even greater than his serve.
He told reporters, including Greek media, at a tourney in the United States that since no one told him to be vaccinated – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been beseeching people in Greece, but Tsitsipas lives in Monte Carlo – that he won't.
“For me, the vaccine has not been tested enough, it is new. It has some side effects, I personally know some people who have had them. I'm not against clarifying this, I just see no reason for someone in my age group to need to be vaccinated,” said Tsitsipas.
He needs to visit a COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit in a Greek public hospital and maybe donate some of his more than $4 million net worth to help out too, because the side effects of the coronavirus include death, not a sore arm, which may be one reason he won't get the shot.
The 23-year-old twitwit should stick to tennis and leave science to scientists because he's an inch deep and a mile wide in the shallow department, much like most of his peers in sports who think irony means being made of iron, as Arthur Spooner once noted.
Not content with not being vaccinated and undercutting Greece's vaccination campaign, he actually said – can't make this up – that the young should hope to be infected so they can build immunity. He apparently doesn't know it's not the flu and can put even the young in an ICU, or a grave.
When it comes to understanding anything outside of a tennis court, especially the pandemic, he's beaten 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in every match that has to deal with thinking.
He's in the ranks of the anti-vaxxers, many of whom believe the vaccines are part of an international conspiracy to alter their DNA and control their minds, although he didn't say if he would go that far in denying the science behind it, and as the vaccines have slowed the pandemic and saved countless lives.
"I think the concept was to be given to older people, if I'm not mistaken. It is not something we know too much about and so far it has not been given to us as a must on the tour. So there is no reason,” he said in disjointed sentences.
"I want to see a better version of the vaccine, which will give us more pluses than minuses," added the French Open runner-up, said various media reports.
In an interview with Greek public television ERT, Tsitsipas' father and coach Apostolos defended his son and said there's no need for athletes to be vaccinated because they either can't be infected or it won't be serious, although many professional and Olympic athletes contracted the virus.
"Athletes have a strong enough immune system to deal with any challenge that may arise. They take the necessary measures, are in a controlled environment and do PCR and Antigen tests almost every day," he said.
Looks like he reads only the sports pages too because many professional athletes, including Olympians, have been infected with COVID-19 and Tsitsipas should have thought about his endorsements. The Wilson sports equipment company and Adidas, whom he represents, should put a bug in his ear before the virus does.
Tsitsipas' ignorance has spurred on anti-vaxxers and will put some people in the ground, maybe even some of his adoring fans who had to stay at home during the lockdown as he advised while he was flitting about in Dubai and Monte Carlo, an apt place for him since he's taking such a gamble.
He's never won a Grand Slam event, reaching a final once but his biggest competitor is COVID-19 and in that game he loses. Game. Set. Match. Life Over, Man.