The Wimbledon tennis tournament is in full swing. Tennis is a unique sport in many ways with its bizarre scoring system; the number of biomechanical, equipment, surface and weather variables it brings into play; and, the complex interaction between mentality and physicality that it demands of its players. But perhaps the biggest oddity in tennis is a fundamental difference in the nature of the spectator sport versus the participation sport: although the vast majority of club players almost always play doubles, almost all of them prefer to watch singles. These are two massively different games in terms of patterns of play, technique and strategy, and it strikes me as quite strange that people choose not to watch the sport they play and vice versa. I can’t think of any other sport in which this dichotomy exists.
But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by this. In many other aspects of life, this kind of disconnect abounds. People are rather prone to behaving in one way while observing, or thinking, in another. Take, for example, topics such as the climate crisis, economic inequality, or health and wellbeing. The ‘right’ thing to do in all cases is clear to virtually all people. But doing it is quite another matter.
Tennis, again, gives us the clue we need to understand why this is so. While singles may be considered by most to be the more righteous version of the sport, doubles is a more effortless game to play (at least at modest ability levels, arguably less so at higher grades). And it is that same concept of effort that holds people back from acting out their best intentions in the more profound subjects in life, too. People have an unavoidable tendency to take the course of action that takes the least amount of effort, even if that course is wrong.