Incentives and Consequences

Jon Wertheim makes a good point.

I’ve talked about this with Roddick before and he’s laughed and shrugged. To hear him tell it, the ball was clearly out. The match was on clay and mark was unambiguous. By conceding the point, his only noble act was sparing the umpire a trip down off his throne, as the reversal of the call was inevitable. Still, Roddick was hailed for his magnanimity. So much so that seven years later — long after anyone recalls any other particulars of the match — he is still getting credit for it in general sports articles in airline magazines.

If you were a player, wouldn’t you look at examples like this — and wouldn’t you see how much mileage Roger Federer gets out of his presidential demeanor, wouldn’t you consider that Andre Agassi is adored and revered less because of his tennis accomplishments than because of what he did with his platform — and think: “Gee, the public really seems to value acts of sportsmanship and dignity and social responsibility? Small investments in acts and remarks can pay off for years. They can have a tremendous bearing on how I am perceived. There is great incentive — social, but probably financial, too — to comport myself with grace. And you know what? Maybe the converse is true, too. When I don’t act in a sporting manner, that can really undermine my on-court achievements.”

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