It happened today at the end of the second set in the men’s final at Rolland Garros 2015. The world’s Number One and favorite for the prestigious French tennis championship (which he went on to lose in four spectacular sets), the Serb Novak Djokovic, won the first set 6-4 against the Swiss, first-time finalist, Stan Wawrinka. To his and everyone else’s surprise, Djoko lost the second set, 6-4, instead of, as expected, walking away with the trophy. He was understandably disappointed. But he was more than disappointed; he was furious ! He bent his raquet, the best a millionaire’s money can buy, out of shape, by smashing it against the hard clay court of the packed stadium, while millions around the world watched the tantrum on television. The commentator remarked on the challenge champions face in trying to “dominate their demons”.
Don’t we all ! But most of us manage to conceal or at least temper our temper, our anger, our frustration. Some others, of course, simply reach for their forty-five and shoot the other guy and/or themselves.
“The Devil made me do it” is a cliché that never was funny. We tell people to “go to the Devil” or his habitat, Hell. Djoko, this evening, is wondering “what the Devil happened ?” We talk about him (not Djoko, the Devil) but few people take the Devil and demons seriously any more. Thank God (?). We have in fact exorcized our demons by recognizing they never existed. They have been demoted to figures of speech, metaphors or expletives, or to ridiculous red-caped, horned characters in opera and theatrical farces. One might wonder how long it will take the credulous and the superstitious to accept the non-existence of all those other invisible non-entities, from angels and saints in Heaven to God Himself. But there are still those, like the brilliant author C.S.Lewis, who famously wrote that the Father of Lies’, the Devil’s, most effective deception is to have convinced people that he does not exist. Lewis never dominated his personal demon which was his own credulity.
P.S. Stan was already the winner of the 2014 Australian Open. Does he owe his success to his signature shorts, the bottom half of his pink and white pyjamas, or did he make a pact with the Devil ? Personally, I don’t think he sold his soul to a demon. Neither souls nor demons exist. The pyjama shorts do : they are now in the Rolland Garros museum.