Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Uncle Toni
Home       About Peter Bodo       Contact        RSS       Follow on Twitter Categories       Archive
Uncle Toni 10/21/2008 - 2:30 PM

by Pete Bodo

You hang around this game long enough and you come across an impressive array of coaching types. You have the controversial Svengalis, among whom the outstanding model is Ion Tiriac. Early in his young career, Guillermo Vilas essentially said: "Here I am, make of me what you will." And Tiriac, with a great feeling for Vilas's character and appetite for work, transformed the young Argentine into a clay-court master who would be eclipsed, historically, only by Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal.

Hugs Then you have the tennis nuts, among whom Nick Bollettieri stands out. Operating on the powerful platform of his tennis academy, Bollettieri left his imprint on the contemporary game by articulating what I ultimately came to call the New World Game, based on aggressive baseline play with an emphasis on the forehand and taking the ball on the rise; Bollettieri down-sized the game, more or less eliminating the approach shot in favor of the sizzling placement hit from inside the baseline, usually with the forehand. His proteges are well known, starting with Jimmy Arias and on through Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and others. And, more than any other coach of a top player, Bollettieri has been a general tennis evangelist, spreading the gospel of tennis near and far with his eponymous academy serving as a kind of Vatican for his converts.

You have sports nuts: Brad Gilbert is a sports nut who happened to gravitate to tennis, both as a player and a coach. One of the greatest assets of this type of coach is the ability to put tennis into a general context, enabling players to ramp up their ability as competitors. Gilbert knows his X's and O's as well as anyone - yet one of his most telling coaching ploys was convincing Andy Roddick to dump that dorky visor he used to wear in favor of the more muscular, duck-bill cap. It helped Roddick earn the world no. 1 ranking.

You also have the purists: Think Paul Annacone. Although Annacone had a healthy passion for all sports, he was a true connisseur of tennis in all of its strategic, technical, and psychological dimensions. He was the perfect fit for Pete Sampras, a great believer in the less-is-more approach to most things, including his tennis. Annacone's thoughtful but never overly cerebral or byzantine analyses resonated with Sampras in what might be the most productive, successful, and, well, dignified coach-protege relationship of our time.

And then there are the mentors, the coaches who shape and mold players the way that a favorite college professor, minister, or immediate superior at your first full time job influenced you. These men and women aren't Svengalis, painting their own portraits on the canvas of a player's soul in a process that's often a tame and sunny version of that literary staple, the deal with the devil. The mentors are first and foremost tennis coaches, yet they're wise, discreet, principled and, ultimate, caring. They're just as interested in shaping young minds as exuberantly and sometimes wildly youthful games. They try to develop character, and not always for selfless reasons, because they are masters of understanding the relationship character can have to a player's results and motivations.

Bob Brett, who at various times coached Andres Gomez, Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic, Mario Ancic (he's currently working with Marin Cilic), is one of the great mentors - and still one of my favorite people in tennis. An old-school disciple of Harry Hopman, Brett left Australia because he was spurned and shut out of the official cabal comprised of former Grand Slam champions and lifelong bureaucrats, Brett believed in tennis, character is destiny. He felt that if he could shape and improve the character of his players, it would produce results on the tennis court.

Bob once told me a long story about a discussion he had with Goran Ivanisevic about. . . towels. The details are insignificant, but they had to do with the way Goran disposed of the official tournament towels he used, and Brett's intent was to get Ivanisevic to think about actions and consequences, profligacy and trusteeship. It  was about towels, sure, but it was also about holding serve and about realizing that you have only so many chances to throw away - or capitalize upon - in your career. For a young player who sees nothing but future, and therefore knows nothing about regret, who never has to pay a dime for anything, and to whom everything is replaceable (by someone else, of course) at the snap of a finger, understanding about towels is a kind of doorway to understanding about digging a little deeper when you're about to lose a first-rounder in Vienna, or to getting over your disgruntlement because the drinks in the court-side cooler aren't cold enough for your taste.

Toni Nadal is a mentor, perhaps to an even greater degree than Brett. When El Jon Wertheim and I sat down with him at the US Open to plumb his coaching philosophy and background, neither of us knew exactly what to expect. Even to us as journalists, Toni has been a somewhat enigmatic figure - was he support team, family member, minder, tactician, strategist, emotional anchor?  Although he's been a bona fide tennis coach for decades (he once coached the no. 2 junior in Spain), it's almost impossible to get Toni to focus on the X's and O's - so much so that neither El Jon nor I even thought to ask him about strategic or technical issues, except in terms of Nadal's development (Did anybody ever try to change his radical style, we asked?).

When we opened the conversation with a broad question about his strengths and assets as a coach, it opened the floodgates on philosophy of life, rather than philosophy of tennis. And the two most striking words in Toni's first answer were "normal" and "discipline."

You'll have to wait until the January-February issue of Tennis to read the interview and some of Toni's most revealing and interesting replies to our questions. But I feel safe saying that  you'll be nothing less than astonished at the degree to which Rafael's (Toni never calls his nephew and protege "Rafa") development was more like basic training in life than an advanced education in tennis, with an emphasis on all the bells and whistles currently attached to our views of fitness, technique, nutrition and even equipment. Hail, Toni actually chose to practice on lousy courts with bad balls, just to teach young Rafael that winning or losing isn't about good balls or courts or strings or lights. It's about attitude, discipline, and perhaps most importantly, perspective.

The latter is such a signficant component precisely because perspective may be the hardest of all things to maintain once you hit a certain level in tennis - and players of far lesser talent than Nadal routinely hit that level at the age of 16, 17 - a time in young lives when the concept of perspective is about as familiar as quantum physics. If Toni Nadal has an outstanding virtue, it may be his fidelity to what you might call a grounded, normal life. He has fiercely resisted what might be called the decadence (with a small "d") that lays low so many players - and their coaches, who become accustomed to the cushy life of the tour. In this regard, it really helps Toni that he doesn't collect a paycheck from his nephew - and he knows it.

When you hear Toni speak about tennis and how he developed Nadal, you can't help but wonder how anyone could have so adamantly resisted transformation and the lure of over-complication. That resistance is beautifully reflected in Rafael's rough-hewn game, but also in his more subtle, long-standing refusal to take his place in what, at the heyday of Federer's dominance, seemed a pre-ordained hierarchy with which everyone grew comfortable.

I'm convinced that Toni's general resistance to entering the tennis mainstream and embracing the values of its somewhat warped culture was transmitted to his nephew, and helps account for the doggedness with which he pursued The Mighty Fed - acknowledging his rival's superiority at every turn but also never forgetting that his own mission was to work hard and give his best, let the chips fall where they may. He pursued Federer with remarkable determination, yet it was never about catching Federer per se.

In a sneaky way, Rafael Nadal is an outsider, and Toni is partly responsible for his nephew's ability to resist becoming just another guy content to go to work to take his cut, or getting all tangled up in conflicting feelings of respect, envy and resentment toward his great nemesis. And Toni seemingly achieved that without ever once resorting to platitudes about winning being "everything", or the value of being the no. 1 player in the world.

Toni simply doesn't talk in those terms. He talks about discipline, self-sufficiency (Toni refuses to take his nephew's rackets for stringing, on the grounds that Rafael's the one who has to play with the danged things. Besides, Rafael has all the time in the world when he's at a tournament, so why shouldn't he be the one dealing with that kind of thing?), and hard work and respect for everyone, regardless of his or her station in life. That may sound hokey, or carefully orchestrated to project a certain image for Toni or Rafael. All I can say is that we spent well over hour talking with Toni, and I've yet to meet someone whose true colors aren't revealed, in or between the lines, over a period of that length.

Toni Physically, Toni isn't nearly as imposing as he sometimes appears on television. He's thickly built and swarthy, but at times the light in his eyes is almost child-like. He's a realist, but given to speaking in parables, and his basic tone is philosophical. Talking to him, you can see where Rafael  got his talent for disarming loaded questions about his rivalry with Federer by pointing out the obvious: by number of major titles and ranking points, Roger Federer is by definition the best player in the world. Anything else is mere speculation or wishful thinking.

Toni studied history at the university level, but he's no intellectual. He laughs easily,  Here are some of the questions that I had to leave out of the published interview, due to space limitiations. So consider this just a brief glimpse into Toni Nadal, how he thinks, and the values he brings to the table for Rafael:

Q: Does Rafa ever complain about the perils and pressures of his position?

A: No, because he never complain about being no. 2. He already happy being there. I try always to explain to him, things that happen in life, everything has a positive and a negative. When you shoot a gun, it give you a kick in the shoulder, right? Same thing. There’s more pressure when you’re at the top, so that’s the kick back from being no. 1. A lot of people have it worse than him, they have to work much harder than him, for less, and they do it.

Q: What role does religion play in your life?

Zero. I don’t believe. I studied history in university. Religion comes from ignorance in people. Tribal societies, when they see a flash of lightning or something unusual, they say it come from the Magician. But when society move forward, and technology discover more, religion goes in the back. For me, is very important to be moral – to be good person. But not religion.

Q: What would Rafa be doing if he couldn’t play tennis any more?

A: I would like him to be involved in Spanish Olympic movement and committee, and to do things for other people. Doing things to improve the society. Whatever he wants. 

Q: Are you concerned, as a  human being, that Rafael is just being driven and pushed like a racehorse, and suffering in other aspects of his life, or education?

A: I was in university, but to me it’s not very important. For me, the important thing in life is to have an interest in things. I come here to learn something about American people. I like to see the television, what people are watching. To me, the thing is to be interested, maybe read newspapers. At the moment, young people not too interested in things. Is a pity. But when you spend so much time to be a good tennis player, journalist, business manager, you cannot do much else.

You always give up some things to have other things. When I go with girlfriend, I cannot be here. When Rafael is here, he loses chance to be at the beach with his friends. But when he’s at beach, he loses chance to be here. You cannot have everything. In this life, you have this -  or that. So for Rafael, he has a good life at the moment, like me, no? I am very happy to be sitting at my house at home in front of the beach and my garden, but if I am there all the time I am bored. When I speak with one of my kids (Toni has three) I think it better to be there, with them. But then I cannot be here, at US Open. it is always a choice: this – or that.

Q: You don’t wear a wedding ring?

A: I have three kids but no ring. I am not married because of my philosophy. When I have a friend, I don’t have to tell other people, “This is my friend!” I have not just one friend, and my girlfriend is my friend.

Q: Are a man like you and a youngster like Rafael comfortable, culturally, at a place like Wimbledon?

A: Well, I have a different concept of life. I believe that all these formalities are just because of where it is, and I understand it. But I like a more normal life, and I think Rafael is a more normal person.

For example, (Carlos) Moya is a very kind person, a good person, but he was here and when he need a car I see that he told his coach, “Phone for the driver.”  When you get used to doing nothing for yourself, it’s too easy. With Rafael, I say in that situation, do it yourself. It’s better. This was my work with him.

For me, at the moment it seem that young people have not too much interest in things, because everything is too easy for them. When I have a mobile phone, is easy, all the things. You want meeting with friend, boom-boom, it's done. When I was young, studying in Barcelona, when I came home I didn't know where my friends were. I had to go look for them. Today, it's easier, but people have no great interest in learning and knowing things. This is normal, but maybe not so good.

In this life, the most important things can’t control, like your health. Maybe your girlfriend, if she don’t want to go with you no more, then you have a problem. You must be prepared for this. When things go good, I want this, I have, I want that, I have - but then you are not prepared for when things go bad. I always try to prepare Rafael for everything.

Q: Many guys out there have five cars, three houses, even a share in  a jet. What does Rafa own?

A: At the moment, Rafael have nothing. He has not house, because his parents have money and some good houses. He has some cars - one from a sponsor (KIA), one Mercedes he win in Stuttgart. But personally for me is no is no good that young man have a good car. I don’t like to see a young people have things like that.

What do you do together, hobby-wise?

A: Rafael like fishing very much. Together, we like soccer and golf. We play golf together with another brother of mine (Miguel Angel Nadal, the former pro soccer star).


464
Comments
Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.
<<      1 2 3 4 5      >>

Posted by Gairy Myers 10/22/2008 at 11:49 AM

I think that Toni Nadal was the best thing that ever happened to Rafael. I mean he changed him from right handed to left, krazy idea but it worked. I wish that Toni would give Patty Schnyder tips on how to play like Nadal and minor coaching because her game is similar to Nadal's with her very heavy top spins but it may never happen. Nadal is very lucky to have an uncle like Toni!

Posted by CL 10/22/2008 at 11:54 AM

Jumping back in where I should probably stay out...but it seems to me that when Toni says religion comes from "ignorance IN people," that is NOT the same as saying that people of religious faith are ignorant. I have near complete ignorance in many areas...say math much beyond what I learned in 6th grade...but I don't think that makes me an ignorant person. Except in math...and science...and several other areas...but not ignorant overall. Although i may be delusional on that last.

And I stand by my assertion that what he said was, on some level, courageous...at least the fact that he said it to/in an American publication...probably less so in Europe. IMO we are in a really tough place in the US right now, where religion is wielded as often as a weapon as a solace. It is so fully infused into our political life that both politics AND religion are suffering, IMO.

Posted by Syd 10/22/2008 at 11:57 AM

GV--

This is not fruitful, so no point in continuing. I did not say that races were "deliberately" wiped out.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 10/22/2008 at 11:57 AM

In light of the recent comments on religion/morality/philosophy I feel ridiculous commenting on racquet stringing, but here goes:

If it takes 20/25 min. to string a pro's racquet, and if they usually tote 8/10 of them regularly, wouldn't this task take up too much of rafa's time. I thought Uncle Henry meant that rafa turns his own racquets in to the stringer not that he strings them himeself.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 10/22/2008 at 11:58 AM

God grief! Uncle Henry?! Where did that come from?!

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 10/22/2008 at 12:00 PM

Yikes! I can't spell either. Obviously the discussion on God is affecting me after all.

Posted by Carrie 10/22/2008 at 12:01 PM

Mr. and Mrs. D- that is what I thought too- that he turns in his own racquets.

Who is Uncle Henry btw? ;)

Posted by tina (the O.t.) 10/22/2008 at 12:02 PM

This has all been fascinating. Truly. But when will we get a new Your Call?

Posted by dimi 10/22/2008 at 12:02 PM

very interesting article. i really liked those insights in the teachings of uncle toni. even if the tennis of rafael is not my favourite style, i do really admire his personality, which was contributed a lot, but not only, by unlce t. i think he is developeloping rafael not only as a tennis player, but also as a human being (mentor - i like that he always forces rafael to go to museums and stuff).
what i really like in rafael is his self-sufficiency: for him it is not the most important thing in the world to win the slams or be number one of the world. however, he is giving it a shot with everything he has. a lot of times it is more than anybody can handle, if not he is going to try it again next year - and win it eventually ( wimbledon 2008, no. 1). in my opinion it is a very nice work ethic - just trying your best. i think that's a big reason why he is no choke. apart from that i really like that he is very down to earth and always shows great respect for his opponents.

Posted by GV (the artist formerly known as Prince..oops,I mean Gabriela ValentinaGV 10/22/2008 at 12:03 PM

manuelsantanafan(first congratulations on your name! I am a fan of the great man too and edifying as the nadal story is,the santana story beats it hollow)

everything that lies that far back in antiquity is open to debate but scientists and historians are pretty much agreed that canibalism was an offshoot of a need for protein. Leaders probably got the priests to come up with some sort of religious pretext to justify this practice which was undoubtably not especially palatable. Hence the religious and mystical parafernalia surrounding the practice and even ,eventually,eclipsing the primary motive for it. You only have to think of the wise Jewish elders in Biblical times protecting their people from poor sanitation and unwise dietary choices by using religious reasons to dissuade them from eating disease ridden pork etc etc ...Although we now have the benefit of deep freezers and sanitation inspectors,a religious Jew will not eat pork. He has lost sight of the original reason for the religious taboo. Aztec high priests probably also lost sight of the original reason for having so much human sacrifice etc etc etc... We won't ever know for sure but you could call it educated speculation...

BTW,the rest of the Anglo political/ cultural world should be so lucky as you to have the benefit of your mother's instruction re the Black Legend!! Unfortunately they don't.

Posted by Carrie 10/22/2008 at 12:03 PM

tina - the Your Call has been up for several minutes. :)

Posted by Sherlock 10/22/2008 at 12:08 PM

Mr. and Mrs. D., LOL. I love the Uncle Henry. :)

Posted by tina (the O.t.) 10/22/2008 at 12:13 PM

yeah, it went up while I was writing my last comment.

Posted by jewell 10/22/2008 at 12:16 PM

Uncle Henry - just doesn't have quite the ring as Uncle Tony. Sounds like one of William Brown's uncles.

Posted by jewell 10/22/2008 at 12:17 PM

Quite the same ring, I meant.

*shakes head at own inability to think today*

Posted by GV (the artist formerly known as Prince..oops,I mean Gabriela ValentinaGV 10/22/2008 at 12:17 PM

jewell: I don't care two figs for people's religious beliefs except that they be entitled to hold them or not as they see fit. I would never have included that question in any interview of mine(but it wasn't my interview!). I refuse to discuss my own or disclose whether or not I have any or what they may or may not be.

I got swept into(by my own chosing,dammit) writing what I thought of as a post that dotted a few historical "i"s.

I hope that most posters who were swallowed into the black chasm of my rantings were able to distinguish the fact that they were not about religion. The RCC is an institution which does not exist in a vacuum but in "history" . I took exception to a few comments which I saw as distorting history and got carried away.

Arguing about religion is one of the most unprofittable activities known to man. But arguing about history on a tennis blog must be one of the silliest. I am the worst offender here. I promise to stop right now.

It's your fault JEWELL. You haven't been around to save me from myself!!


Posted by jewell 10/22/2008 at 12:36 PM

I tried to wake you up this morning, gabriela, but none of my tricks worked. :)

Anyway I can't try to save you from yourself, you're a big girl, and you have at least two fine Spaniards to help you. :)

I enjoyed your posts. I enjoyed everybody's posts.

The only thing I'd say is, I think history is usually open to many many different interpretations depending on the perspective that is brought to historical facts. There is never going to be one authoritative, "true" view, in my opinion anyway.

Posted by 10/22/2008 at 12:36 PM

Boy I cannot wait for the political thread now Pete.
Rosangel I believe I was actually sticking up for Rafa (way) earlier. Indeed if at 22 the man is not allowed to choose what he does with his own hard earned cash, i would say the family is hanging on a little too tight to the umbilical chord. Perhaps that is an underlying cause to the pre-match quarrel with his holiness tio toni at the us open that you pointed to the other day as perhaps one of the reasons Raffuh was out of sorts in his semi.
just sayin'

Posted by naughty T.. a moment of silent contemplatio 10/22/2008 at 12:37 PM

oops me headless there at 12.36

can we please close this topic?

Posted by Matt Zemek 10/22/2008 at 12:38 PM

I want to address this topic with the fullness it deserves, and since it's part of Toni Nadal's worldview, it's fair game for this thread.

First, two brief notes:

Crazyone, thanks for the helpful explanation. Sorry if I painted you into a box.

Sic, Jonathan Haidt is one profound person. His book, "The Happiness Hypothesis," (given to me by a friend) is a perspective-changing book of major significance.

Now, my intended remarks after reading through this thread:

Religion is a realm of human experience that is in need of a considerable updating, an updating that will bring religion back to its roots. In this sense, the man who most famously advocated for what I've just mentioned--Pope John XXIII--is the religious figure in recent memory whose vision ought to find a firm footing across the globe.

Religion, be it Christian or not, has unfortunately strayed from its intended purposes and lost its central motivating vitality... not completely, mind you, but to a considerable and worrisome extent.

In my Catholic tradition, the quality of leadership, locally and globally, has been so "God awful" (pun intended) that it's entirely unsurprising to see empty European cathedrals and hemorrhaging attendance figures (not to mention supplies of available priests) in America.

One particularly interesting statistic about American Catholic church attendance--and this is a ballpark figure, not an exact one--is that roughly 70 percent of single Catholic men under 35 do not attend Mass regularly. (For single women, it's about 62 percent.) Young people are not buying what Catholicism is selling. At the cathedral parish where I've been in Seattle for the past 14 years (I'm now temporarily in Phoenix), the young adult group totals about 10 people, only six or seven of them regulars. In a parish of roughly 2,900 HOUSEHOLDS, that's basically nothing.

The point of these opening stats is to show what I said in my post last night: namely, that religion is lacking centrality and vitality in people's lives, especially younger generations. Something precious about religion has been lost, and that points to religion's inability to answer the only real essential question: "How can it make my life better?" Religion--in the realms of theology, liturgy, catechesis, and parish/community life--is not getting through to people. It's falling flat, it's being seen as boring or irrelevant, and it's also suffering from pedophile priests, global instances of religious extremism, and other books and movies that are exposing the bad side of religion. I should add/clarify that these various exposes of religion are greatly needed, so that we can remake religion the way it was intended to be lived out. The problem with many of them, however--such as Bill Maher's "Religulous" (a decent film with salient points to make)--is that their focus on the bad deeds and devastating deficiencies of religion is not leavened or tempered by an acknowledgment of the great things (and heroic people) religion has inspired through the centuries.

Who represents an example of religion at its best, inspiring the very best in people?

Mother Teresa.

Martin Luther King.

Franz Jaegerstatter.

Sir Thomas More.

Desmond Tutu.

Henri Nouwen.

Therese of Lisieux.

Catherine of Siena.

Elizabeth Seton.

Mother Cabrini/Frances Xavier Cabrini.

Hildegaard of Bingen.

Richard Rohr.

John Dear.

Ron Rolheiser.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Imam Zaid Shakir.

Religion is, ultimately, like so much of life itself: When done poorly or used improperly, it can bring about catastrophic effects. Oh, but when done well, it is supremely and unsurpassingly beautiful, meaningful, and valuable.

My closing point is this: Religion is not about "believing" or "not believing," about being a believer or not, about being saved (or not) through doctrines or adherence to rules or narrow creedal statements.

Religion is about being comfortable enough at the deepest level of one's inner being so that one may live an uncomfortable life confronting injustice, caring for the poor, promoting peace amidst crushing violence and oppression. Religion is about forgiving oneself at the innermost point of one's own emotional center, so that one can then be liberated enough to forgive any wrong done to him/her from the outside, and spread that unconditionally loving forgiveness to a world that, if it embraced forgiveness, would have far fewer problems.

And with that, stick a fork in Matt, because he's (mercifully) done.

Posted by sic (Rafa Nadal, 2008 Year End #1) 10/22/2008 at 12:39 PM

Another part of the interview that I thought interesting was when Toni mentioned Moya telling his coach to call the driver. A more tactful man would have not mentioned Carlos' name (although he was very careful to preface what he said with glowing words about Moya), but the sentiment is something worth considering.

I remember seeing a documentary about Giorgio Armani, who is a genius of design and business, and one thing that Giorgio talked about was how difficult it was to have a normal relationship with people because he basically lived in a bubble. For example, he never carried identification, credit cards or money because he always had assistants that took care of all the mundane aspects of life so that he could concentrate on his genius. He never had to hail a taxi or book a flight, buy a present for (or even remember) a family member's birthday or buy milk at the corner grocery. This allows him to focus on what he does, which is great, but now that he's older he has come to the realization that he has isolated himself from the "mundane" world so completely that it is now completely alien to him. In other words, he no longer really belongs to our society, except in the most literal sense. Michael Jackson is probably the ultimate example of what becomes of this "splendid isolation" (to steal a line from Warren Zevon).

That's why it's important for Rafa to take his rackets to the stringer and call for his own car. Toni wants him to feel comfortable living with the rest of the human beings on this planet.

Posted by Sher 10/22/2008 at 12:44 PM

Katrina, you bring up an interesting point.

>If I think I'm better off because of religion, it does not mean that others are worse off for not having one.

There's more that can be explored here, I think. Questions like: Why do you think you are better of? Why do you think that others who do not have religion are as well of as you are? Do you think religion wouldn't make them better of? Do you think not having religion would make you worse of? Stuff like that that really gets at my belief that humans tend to think that what they believe is 'right'. If you don't think you are right, then you change your mind. So if you think believing in God is right (for whatever reason) you aren't likely to think that not believing in God is right.


From that basically follows my comment: we aren't going to agree on this. I think that's a good thing. I don't want everyone in the world to be vehemently atheist just like I don't want everyone to be devoutly religious (whatever that religion might be). The best part is that we get controversial statements like Uncle Tony's and then we can discuss what's right or wrong from our point of view, and hopefully we are all made better by the process. Because I am a believer in the process like apparently Uncle Tony is, not simply the final result.

I wish we lived in a world where arguing about beliefs, no matter how controversial, would be seen as a way to polish those beliefs, to improve them or our understanding of them, rather than a personal attack.

Posted by sic (Rafa Nadal, 2008 Year End #1) 10/22/2008 at 12:45 PM

Matt,

after seeing the TED presentation I linked to earlier, I'm considering buying Haidt's book. Really interesting stuff and, as you say, it really is a titanic shift in perspective. "Moral Humility"; I imagine that more than one of the people on our distinguished list had it.

Posted by grumpy 10/22/2008 at 12:48 PM

wow Pete, i can't wait to read the rest of the interview, great job as usual, i'd always wanted to know more about Toni...despite his flatout rejection of religion, he is obviously a good man, who has instilled Rafa with all the right values...for me, though, i like it when a player acknowledges or thanks God after a win, i've seen Serena and Safina do it, and i wish more would, if that's how they feel...

Posted by Maplesugar at work 10/22/2008 at 12:49 PM

Yo, roGER...

I didn't say that Rafa had to BEG his parents for a laptop---He simply thought to ask them...which I don't find as demeaning as you apparently do. Your objections to this seem to underscore just why I thought that was so charming and unusual act. It makes me feel good to know that there are still some young people in the world who respect their parents and who don't seem to think everything should come to them... just because.

Posted by ava 10/22/2008 at 01:06 PM

wow, a simple post on tio toni has turned into an all-out discussion on religion and morality. people are reading way too much into his remarks.
i think he is an exceptional man and what he said about "religion coming out of ignorance" is technically correct. Religion came into being as man in his early day's couldn't find answers to supernatural phenomena. I sort of learned that all the way back in 5th grade and I thought a few people here would understand it as well. And as people have pointed out, Tio Toni never said anything about religious people being ignorant. Period.
I personally admire his views, as I myself am an atheist(or agnostic, cannot decide) but I believe all people should have the right to practice their respective religions.
Anyway I think the entire Nadal clan are respectable people...which I really like...Reason #1233455 to like Rafa :)

Posted by Tom in Smalltown 10/22/2008 at 01:36 PM

To all who have commented on the religion issue, I'll have to say that my first notion was to be taken back by Toni's view. As a person of faith, too, that is a naturnal human inclination. However, upon rethinking it, I see religion as more of a human reproduction of faith, no matter what kind of faith it is. Therefore, a true observation of it must truthfully include the ingnorant things religion has perpetuated through the course of human history. Faith is much more difficult to pin down. Still, many not-so-ignorant things have grown from humanity's experience with that mysterious thing known as faith.

I would love to have a mentor like Toni for my elevn year old son, though I'd probably try to find a man of faith (not religioin).

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 10/22/2008 at 01:42 PM

I found a small hole in a hallway wall today. I have narrowed the guilty party down to two: 'I don't know' and 'not me'. I could use a good dose of Uncle Toni's morals and ethics around here.

btw, 'not me' has sat down to do his homework without being asked...hmmmm

Posted by Andrea 10/22/2008 at 01:45 PM

why was there even a question asked about religion in this interview?

it's the equivalent of asking a non minority to express his/her views on how affirmative action is helping them.

where is the relevance?

next thing you know, we'll see a question on who Toni will vote for in the American election...

sometimes the media tries a little too hard to be cute.

Posted by Vera 10/22/2008 at 02:07 PM

Mindblowing article! Peter, you never seize to amaze me. I can't wait for the full article! Thanks for shedding some light on the puzzle that is Tio Toni.

Posted by felizjulianidad 10/22/2008 at 02:09 PM

GV, te invito a imaginarte lo siguiente (en resumen, mis pensamientos mientras me ojeaba los cientos de escritos en este hilo):

-Joder, otro puritano anglosajón... ¡pasemos página!
-Este está chalao.
-El analfabetismo es un problema creciente en los EEUU...
-Madre mía.
-Menudo coñazo...
-Leñe, ¡¿esto qué es?! Esto me gusta.
-A ver a ver, una defensa férrea de las prácticas medievales de la iglesia católica en España, sin mostrar un solo atisbo de moralismo religioso...
-Esto está pero que muy bien.
-Anda, si afirma tener pasaporte español... quien dijo que "por tus palabras y actos se te conocerá" habló sin conocimiento de causa.
-Espera, retrocedamos, ¿esto quién lo ha escrito? Ahhh, sí, la Gabriela Valentina. ¿Quién si no? Si no recuerdo mal, es andaluza.
-¡¡¡SAMUEL HUNTINGTON Y SU PAVOR A LAS DOS AMÉRICAS--LA USURPACIÓN DE LOS CATÓLICOS MORENITOS Y SUS BURRITOS DE CAMARONES!!!
-Guay.

My apologies, of course, to everyone else prone to spasmodic reactions at the very sight of the Spanish language.

A note to all: I may perhaps have missed it, but to all of those here (of which there have been plenty) who openly surmised whether Rafael shares Tío Toni's disdain for the ontology of the superhuman, I would to remind them of a recent interview where once again, someone asked Nadal about god.

His answer was along these lines: "I'm not sure if there is something out there or not and I think that is kind of private, but I think what is most important is to try to be good to people in life, instead of walking around talking about god". I may not remember it fully, accurately, or maybe even at all (though I hope it isn't the latter, as I'm much too young to have to worry about senility). This must've been in the summer Grand Slam season; I am absolutely positive it was commented on during earlier TW threads, so I'm astonished that it hasn't been rescued for this occasion.

The Nadal family has been historically wealthy, although Rafael's ability to derive income relative to time is significantly greater than average. Nadal's family is a fairly standard upper middle class Mediterranean small-to-medium sized business owner, austere in its tastes, disciplinarian and hierarchical in internal regulatory affairs, and generally given to enjoying the good things one's land can offer them--and inculcate, in their offspring, an appreciation for the toil which sowed the seeds of such "good things in life". His town of Manacor is, at approximately 45.000 people, the second largest in Mallorca (whose population doubles in the summer due to peninsular and Northern European tourism--well, perhaps not for 2009, with the increasing viscosity of European liquidity). The town is not a metropolis nor a centre of cultural production; several industrial warehouses lie on a small surrounding belt to the town, which is slightly inland to its corresponding portuary own of Porto Cristo, where the Nadal family owns real estate immediately overlooking the beach on a steep road up the hill, and--if I remember correctly--a yacht moored at the bay.

Although not a socially elitist sport, tennis has a high barrier of entry as it is a costly sport to breed someone into. The Nadal family could afford to put Nadal through extensive tennis and soccer; he had the luxury of choosing.

The general feed from Mallorca is that Rafael Nadal has never let his wealth, fame or success get to his head. Back home, he behaves like just any other young man does.

Three parting thoughts:

Regarding Tío Toni: he is uncomfortable with Madrid's proclivity for frenzy and histrionic fan attention on his nephew.

"Religion comes from ignorance": it is fitting to understand just what sort of thoughts are behind everyday statements in Spain. A frightening percentage of the Spanish population believes that when the car doesn't rev, "es porque no quiere" (that the vehicle simply lacks the will to do so that day). I guarantee you that the word "quasar" produces an almost null word recognition, that the average Paquito el del barrio (Joe Schmoe) believes that falling housing prices are good for the economy and the consumer, and that there are few obstacles in place for any government to claim the petrochemical and hydrocarbon resources lying at the Ocean depths close to the North Pole. Religion has often served as a blanket excuse for such ignorance, and the wielders of religion have not always used their tools wisely. Actually, now that I think about it, my explanation explains nothing, as the Americans have set up their Cleveland USD 27 million Creationist Museum where cavemen played coexisted with the dinosaurs, and no seems to associate religion with ignorance. "We've got a place to go when we die / and its architect resides right here".

-Forgot the third thought, and it's definitely not "check your typos, they're definitely there". I have a day job that I must sleep for.

Posted by Maedel 10/22/2008 at 02:17 PM

felizjulianidad --

funny, i was just about to post that same quotation by rafa. Like you, I forget when he said it:

'I would like to believe there is a God,but I think it is better to say I am not sure there is a God and live your life with kindness and respect for people, than to say there is a God and then do bad things.'

Posted by Sher 10/22/2008 at 02:27 PM

From everything I've heard from him, including quotes posted here, it seems Rafa is at least agnostic if not atheist.

Posted by Tari 10/22/2008 at 02:32 PM

Utterly insulted, as an American and as a believer. But not with Toni's comment so much. I hardly think the judgment is coming from the believers on this thread. How revealing.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 02:39 PM

felizjulianidad:

-not too sure which part of all of that referred specifically to me.
-I don't recall making any mention of my passport.
-I made no defense of practices of RCC in medieval times ; I asked(implicitly) that they be placed in perspective and compared to what else was going on at the time. I thought that that was what I was doing. Defense of the indefensible? I would hope not.
- no soy andaluza; meramente resido aquí...
- gracias por lo que supongo una aprobación a medias pero no sé si te he entendido del todo(ni tú a mí)
- some of your reflections on our national ignorance are hysterically amusing because so true!!

Posted by Carrie 10/22/2008 at 03:05 PM

Tari- personally I have seen judgement on both sides. For example- in my opinion tso's posts were not exactly judgement free. I am sorry that you have felt insulted here- this is an arena where a heavey tread and/ore blanket can wound.

Posted by Carrie 10/22/2008 at 03:08 PM

oops- my statment meant to say "heavy tread and/or blanket statements."

Posted by adicecream 10/22/2008 at 03:09 PM

I'm fascinated as I read thru these comments on religion. I'm in the Uncle Toni camp, but I would guess only a very few of my closest friends (and now any of you who happen to look again at this post) know that I am not religious. I think people here in the US assume everyone is Christian unless they know that specific people belong to other religions. Some of the environments I have found myself in (work, for example) have been so religious that I just kept my mouth shut about my beliefs (or lack thereof) so I didn't insult my friends or cause friction. Coward? Yes, maybe, but it made life easier for all of us.

Posted by May 10/22/2008 at 03:09 PM

Matt: that was a beautiful post. My personal religious beliefs are about as far from the Roman-Catholic church as can be, but people who speak with such profundity and sincerity about religion are becoming terribly rare, and I simply adore reading your posts on such issues. It's just great that you care enough to pour forth those long, elaborate, posts :-)

Personally I couldn't care less about Uncle Toni's opinion on religion, but I do find it telling. My religion is the single most important factor in my life, and I have been active for years in both defending religion from extremists who will cheerfully doom to hell whoever dare to differ from them – but not less from those who will not pay religion (and religious people) the courtesy of having a reasoned argument. They will just dismiss it as 'ignorance'. Do you stoop to reason with Grimm's fairy tales? Just the same they will not give religion the legitimacy to exist as something sensible grownups can adhere too. This attitude is a terrible thing to face, even for the most tolerant, least-given-to-proselytizing people. I don't mind 'professional' atheists at all - at least they take the issue seriously. Attitude such as Terry Prattchet's 'I am angry with G-d for not existing' is something far more acceptable to me than this 'G-d? oh, we all outgrow this idea. You don't really need it , with all this amazing SCIENCE around!'

One last thing: JV, while agreeing which much of your post, your statement that the Spanish inquisition was 'humane for its time' really grated on me. The inquisition was performing Auto-De-Fes deep into the eighteenth century, when the age of enlightment had already long begun, and in most of Europe killing people for their faith would have been considered abominable. Other courts might have handed out cruel punishments, but the crimes would have been mostly recognized by us as misdemeanors, at the least. Not so in the case of the Spanish inquisition. And let's not forget - the criminals were suppsed to be the spiritual mentors, the holy pastors, representing love and mercy...Heck, the POPES sometimes objected to their methods!

Posted by Tennis Observer 10/22/2008 at 03:22 PM

Uncle Toni should do something about the butt picking. Or is it a part of being "grounded"?

Posted by Kiwi 10/22/2008 at 03:35 PM

Just wondering seen as they're obviously a tight knit family and there are a few of them, is Rafael the only tennis player amoungst the kids? Or are there more up and coming sports stars of the future like Novaks brothers??? I find the pressure and expectation that has been placed on Marco and the other one unfair and almost greedy. Great athletes can be made to a certain extent but I guess thats another discussion entirely!

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 10/22/2008 at 03:35 PM

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire

One of my favorites...just remembered it.

Posted by Whitney 10/22/2008 at 03:42 PM

I'm so late to the conversation but I had to say that I enjoyed this article and most of the comments. Toni seems like an interesting guy.

Posted by malimeda 10/22/2008 at 03:43 PM

Love the discussion, both the topic as well as off-topic one (this IS a forum after all). Very revealing. But take a look at these, they do speak a thousand words each, on both accounts.

An 18-year old with his mini replica of the Davis Cup salad bowl in his room:
http://tinyurl.com/56mjwp

A boy in the street of his hometown mere 2 years ago, still surprised with the attention:
http://tinyurl.com/58sl3c

Both sets of grandparents, the Nadals and the Pareras:
http://tinyurl.com/5w45bk

Rafa's women all in shades - Xisca, sis and mum:
http://tinyurl.com/6lc5q7

Uncle Toni is a part of all this.

Posted by Whitney 10/22/2008 at 03:45 PM

Oh and I always love to hear about people who studied history in college. (Cause you know.. I will have two degrees in it eventually..maybe more).

Posted by crazyone 10/22/2008 at 03:47 PM

Tari: I sent you an email.

Posted by S Insaf 10/22/2008 at 03:49 PM

Fascinating post and discussion. Tony is certainly a strong man. I am glad he is able to question the claim about the existence of God while most people simply believe because their parents do.

Being a philosopher, I can see his analysis is simplistic and more common sense than really learned unless there is more to his rationale then presented in this partial interview.

I don't agree with Uncle Toni's communistic family plan although I agree that children should be brought up to appreciate the worth of hard work (rights, not entitlements).

I do think Rafa is grown up now. He should be given his full rights including the right to his wealth and he should decide what he wants to do with it. If he wants to phone for a driver, it should be up to him, not Uncle Toni. I am individualistic enough to detest this communal system of living but if they like it that is what they should do.

I admire American philosophy of Individualism now being rapidly eclipsed by altruism and religion.

Posted by Vanessa 10/22/2008 at 03:49 PM

I find it so amusing when people keep going back to Rafa's pulling of his pants. It's a nervous tick. Many other players prefer to rearrange their packages on the front, others pull their shirts over their shoulders, pull their pant legs up their thighs... should I go on? I have seen Rafa trying to minimize this but imagine trying to rid yourself of a habit/tick which you've had since you were a child and which is part of a motion routine? specially when you're winning and being successful?

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 03:52 PM

May: the burning of anybody is an indefensible act and of course I do not defend it no matter who or what institution was responsible for it. If you feel like rereading what I wrote,I said as much more than once or twice. I never used the word "humane" in connection with the Spanish Inquisition.

An auto da fe was an execution for reasons of faith . These were almost never done by the time of the 17th century. In the 18th century the executions were of a political nature and the Inquisition was a Royal Court. At this time the Royal Courts in GB could and did hang draw and quarter counterfeiters . Poaching on the King's property was a capital offence. In the 17th century hanging was also meted out to anyone who so much as burned a bush on a nobleman's property. (Henry Kamen) In the Enlightened England of the 18th century a mother and daughter were burned for alleged counterfeiting. Nothing like this ever happened in the far more merciful unEnlightened country of Spain.

The Spanish Inquisition executed far less people than any other tribunal of its sort. The Reformation in England alone and the Calvinist elders in Scotland burned many more witches for witchcraft and for being Catholic than the Inquisition.In England the monasteries were sacked and burned and Catholics were executed for their faith. In Salem.Massachussetts religious courts had young girls tried and hanged for witchcraft in the 18th century.
( see Vittorio Messori's " Pensare la Storia " for statistics and figures " Black Legends of the Church" in English )

also see BBC production by Henry Kamen on the Inquisition which makes the substantiated claim that in ONE YEAR alone more heretics(Catholics) were burned or otherwise executed by Calvinist Church courts in Scotland (circa 1600's) than in the 300 odd years of the existence of the Spanish Inquisition.

Oliver Cromwel, Defender of the Realm and it follows, of the Faith , ordered the slaughter of 30,000 Catholics (including children) for the heinous crime of being Catholic(Drogheda). An order that was summarily carried out. That was in ONE DAY and without benefit of trial. (see any history book on the subject) There has never been an official and public apology.

Posted by Sher 10/22/2008 at 03:55 PM

Matt, I found your last paragraph on what you think religion should be about very inspiring, regardless of how I feel about religion personally.

Posted by John 10/22/2008 at 04:11 PM

I'm still wondering why the interviewer even brought up religion. Not sure how that's relevant to a tennis publication.

Posted by Tari 10/22/2008 at 04:16 PM

Thanks, Carrie. And thanks, crazyone. :)

Posted by Kaygee 10/22/2008 at 04:18 PM

This blog only proved that Tio Tony is absolutely right about religion. LOOK AT ALL THE MALCONTENT THE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT RELIGION IS CAUSING. Religion is the root of almost all wars in this world. I agree with Tio Tony that religion was born out of ignorance ... ignorance at the time religion (whatever branch it might be) was invoked. The bible if read literally has a lot of written beliefs that were born out of ignorance and lack of technology at the time the beliefs were written. A perfect example is the instance of not eating pork ... there was no refrigeration so pork rotted easily - so it was written not to eat pork because people were dying from rotted pork. Another example, men with many wives - at the time this was decreed the earth needed populating for working for food, etc. ... so the more wives a man had the more babies could be born at the same time. Now that does not work because the planet is overpopulated so that part of the bible can be discarded. There are many examples of this in the bible - no matter what version. That is all Tio Tony was saying - religion was born out of ignorance at the time.

On the topic of closely guiding and protecting Rafa - Jennifer Capriati anyone? A young person, especially after growing up in such a confined life with almost no worldly experience, needs to be closely guided and protected - Tio Tony/Rafa's parents are doing the right thing. They more than all of us know that Rafa does not have the maturity to make life decisions, even minor ones regarding his finances. I see how Rafa acts off the tennis court - he is not mature enough to take over decisions. He will instinctively know when he is ready because he will feel the change and maturity - he was taught well.

Posted by Moderator 10/22/2008 at 04:34 PM

felizjulianidad
It is a well established principle that this is an English-language board. While short well-known foreign-language phrases are permitted, Moderators are obliged to delete anything else, unless a translation is provided.

Your remarks in Spanish to GV need to be translated, otherwise I will remove them.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 04:36 PM

moderator: I can do the translations. is that ok or does he have to do it himself .I believe he isn't on at this time.

Posted by Matt Zemek 10/22/2008 at 04:38 PM

All readers of this thread:

Rather than speak to "Kaygee," I would address all of you and tell you that Kaygee's post represents a good example of the cherry-picking selectiveness that harms discussions about religion.

Any honest believer has to be willing to confront the bad things religion has done.

Any honest atheist/agnostic suspicious of religion must be willing to look at good and beautiful people (and results) religion has produced.

If we only tout our own talking points, in this or any meaningful yet sensitive and sometimes contentious discussion, there can be no human progress on a grander, more cosmic scale.

And THAT, for believers and non-believers alike, is something (I won't dare insist on it being the ONLY thing) human beings should strive for: progress.

Posted by C Note 10/22/2008 at 04:42 PM

A Rad won, 2 and 4.

Posted by C Note 10/22/2008 at 04:43 PM

Whoops! Totally wrong post.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 10/22/2008 at 04:50 PM

Speaking of religion and sport, the praying (almost always Christian-based) by professional American football players on football fields b4, during, and after games is ludicrous. Many people have pointed this out long b4 this post.

I played football--including high school football--for several years and took a great of pleasure (some would say unhealthy, and they would probably be correct) in knocking players on their arses. Such a mindset is not at all uncommon and is generally encouraged in football. The more I think about it, the more hypocritical I find the juxtaposition of Christianity with the game of football.

Incidentally, I still remember going to Roman Catholic Sunday School in the U.S. and watching NFL films, including one involving the hard hitting of the George Allen-coached Washington Redskins. At the time, I very much enjoyed the films.

Now, I'm struck by the disparity between the film action I was celebrating and the messages that Sunday School supposedly was designed to impart.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 04:51 PM

KAYGEE: Why do you assume that the posts reflect malcontent? I would assume that people are interested in religion,history and Rafa Nadal and the posts reflect that interest. I'm interesed in History but I myself do not want to discuss religious BELIEF because I believe it is something personal and intimate but others obviously do want to discuss it. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are angry or discontented.

poor Jennifer Capriatti,what a sad story hers is... the Nadal's seem to be doing something right...

Posted by Syd 10/22/2008 at 04:55 PM

Matt Z;

I appreciate your even-handedness, I really do :) And certainly both sides are fond of cherry-picking as is in strong evidence here today.

But the thing is Matt, most nonbelievers are not interested in a protracted discussion of religion. It is the BELIEVERS who are doing most of the talking on the subject.


Posted by Gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 05:00 PM

SYD: glad to catch you! You were right. You did NOT say "deliberate" and that was a grave error on my part. Sorry for putting words into your mouth.

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 05:02 PM

MODERATOR: I am sticking around waiting for your reply. Are you there?

Posted by naughty T.. a moment of silent contemplation 10/22/2008 at 05:04 PM

what a day what a day for an auto da fe.
show me your dogma and I'll show you mine.

Posted by Kaygee 10/22/2008 at 05:05 PM

"But the thing is Matt, most nonbelievers are not interested in a protracted discussion of religion. It is the BELIEVERS who are doing most of the talking on the subject."

Amen to that Syd.

GV: I refer to "malcontent" because some stated they were "offended" by Tio Tony's views. I am a Catholic myself - but I firmly believe that if one is a christian in the right sense - then you should be tolerant and not judgmental of other persons' beliefs, religions, etc. I was just agreeing with the Tio Tony's premise. The "believers" seem to be the most judgmental and intolerant of other people's views and beliefs - whether atheist or otherwise.


Posted by naughty T.. a moment of silent contemplation 10/22/2008 at 05:12 PM

big shout out to all the Satanists on the board.

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 05:20 PM

sings: (with apologies to Rogers & Hammerstein

Oh what a beautiful morning!
Oh what a beautiful day!
I've got a wonderful feeeling
There'll be an auto- da -fe!

There's a bright orange haze on the meadow
There's a bright orande haze on the meadow
Flames are as high as the Inquisidor's eye
And it looks like my soul's goin' up to the sky....

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 05:21 PM

sings: (with apologies to Rogers & Hammerstein

Oh what a beautiful morning!
Oh what a beautiful day!
I've got a wonderful feeeling
There'll be an auto- da -fe!

There's a bright orange haze on the meadow
There's a bright orange haze on the meadow
Flames are as high as the Inquisidor's eye
And it looks like my soul's goin' up to the sky....

Posted by Moderator 10/22/2008 at 05:22 PM

Gabriela Valentina

Yes, of course you can do the translations. Much appreciated.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/22/2008 at 05:28 PM

I'll simply say this about the "religion" discussion that Uncle Toni's words have inspired:

All believers in the Christian faith (I cannot speak for others with any deep knowledge) are sinners by nature.

If I am a non-believer, does that mean I cannot sin? Of course not. This is where morality comes in, divorced from religion.

Posted by pam 10/22/2008 at 05:30 PM

Great piece, Pete. I've always had a sense that Rafael was well-grounded. I can definitely relate to Uncle Toni's perspective. Can't wait to read the full interview. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/22/2008 at 05:31 PM

I'll simply say this about the "religion" discussion that Uncle Toni's words have inspired:

All believers in the Christian faith (I cannot speak for others with any deep knowledge) are sinners by nature.

If I am a non-believer, does that mean I cannot sin? Of course not. This is where morality comes in, divorced from religion.

Posted by Matt Zemek 10/22/2008 at 05:34 PM

Syd:

cc: Kaygee

I'm not going to pretend that Christians are persecuted in a country where roughly 78-84 percent (various surveys) of adults represent themselves as Christian, but a distinction should be made, and that is that in the whole of contemporary American society, religion is losing a certain significant amount of heft/weight/centrality in people's lives.

We're definitely a long ways removed from the brick-and-mortar powerhouse days of the Catholic Church in the pre-Vatican II era, when priests were plentifully found and nuns ran schools and hospitals.

Yes, much of the reason for religion's decline, Christian or otherwise, stems from bad leadership and the awful results of religious extremism around the world. In many ways, religion has become its own worst and most evil enemy.

However, contemporary American society and popular culture are witnessing very significant forward advancements of anti-religion sentiments from thinkers, moviemakers and commentators. Hitchens, Dawkins, Maher, Julia Sweeney, and others. A book-publishing industry that thrives on conflict and sells confrontation is giving a wide berth to anti-religion extremists right alongside religious and ideological extremists.

I fail to see and understand, then:

1) Why non-religious folk don't enter the fray at the same rate religious people do.

2) Why it is in society's best interest for these issues to not be talked about (in a civil, intellectually honest, and respectful manner, of course).

As a progressive Catholic, I've caught hellfire from conservative Catholics, conservative Protestants, Korean non-denominational evangelicals, and from secular humanists, atheists, and deeply wounded ex-Catholics. I've received arguments both passionate and profound, painful and putrid, from just about everyone under the sun.

With more and more Americans rapidly falling under the "unaffiliated" banner in religious surveys, the need to speak to them becomes ever more urgent.

I say this (and can say this) not as a religious person, but as a human person who wants the best for everyone.

To put a finer point on the subject of religion--in a way I haven't done to this point--I would say that the place of religion in human life is to try to speak to that part of ourselves which is spiritual, thaat part of ourselves which transcends our purely rational and biological identities. Religious people would call this supra-rational and supra-biological part of the human person a "SOUL," but if you reject that term/notion, which is fine, what can't be denied is that we're more than just animals, and more than just computers who can do awesome things in realms of math, science and music. We need discipline in the art of learning how to tame our primal energies and to express our deepest feelings in ways that honor, care for, and improve the lot of others around us.

That's what religion exists for. Sadly, religion is so poorly practiced by so many--due not to the weakness of the masses, but to the weakness and powerlust of various institutional religious leaders--that this essential purpose of religion never cuts through the clouds and makes itself known to people.

Final note/postscript.

If anyone here (or anyone known by anyone here) is having a difficult relationship with religion, particularly Christianity, the one person I'd refer them to--do a Google on him--is RICHARD ROHR.

Give Richard Rohr a few hours of your time, just once, and you will never look at religion the same way ever again.

I'll check back in later...


Posted by Sherlock 10/22/2008 at 05:34 PM

"But the thing is Matt, most nonbelievers are not interested in a protracted discussion of religion. It is the BELIEVERS who are doing most of the talking on the subject."

Can someone show me the spreadsheet where we've tallied the numbers on who is talking and what their belief system is? :)

I don't think we have any idea who is talking more on the subject.

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 05:36 PM

GV, te invito a imaginarte lo siguiente (en resumen, mis pensamientos mientras me ojeaba los cientos de escritos en este hilo):
I INVITE YOU TO IMAGINE THE FOLLOWING SCENARIO(TO SUM IT ALL UP:MY THOUGHTS WHILE I SCNNED THE HUNDREDS OF POSTS ON THIS THREAD):

-Joder, otro puritano anglosajón... ¡pasemos página! -OH HECK,ANOTHER ANGLOSAXON PURITAN ON HERE..LET'S SCROLL ON DOWN
-Este está chalao.-HERE WE HAVE A WHACKO
-El analfabetismo es un problema creciente en los EEUU...- ILLITERACY MUSTBE ON THE RISE INTHE U.S. TO JUDGE BY THIS ONE
-Madre mía.-OH MOTHER OF MINE!
-Menudo coñazo...- WHAT A DRAG THIS ONE IS..
-Leñe, ¡¿esto qué es?! Esto me gusta.- HOLD IT!! WHAT'S UP? SOMETHING I LIKE?

-A ver a ver, una defensa férrea de las prácticas medievales de la iglesia católica en España, sin mostrar un solo atisbo de moralismo religioso...-WHAT IS IT,A DEFENSE OF THE MEDIEVAL RCC IN SPAIN WITHOUT A HINT OF PIOUS MORALITY?
-Esto está pero que muy bien.-HEY,THIS IS OK STUFF
-Anda, si afirma tener pasaporte español... quien dijo que "por tus palabras y actos se te conocerá" habló sin conocimiento de causa.WHOEVER SAID BY YOUR WORDS AND YOUR ACTIONS YOU WILL BE KNOWN WAS WRONG!
-Espera, retrocedamos, ¿esto quién lo ha escrito? Ahhh, sí, la Gabriela Valentina. ¿Quién si no? Si no recuerdo mal, es andaluza.-GO BACK A BIT. WHO THE HECK WROTE THIS? OH OF COURSE! GABRIELA VALENTINA .WHO IF NOT SHE! IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY ,SHE'S FROM ANDALUCIA

-¡¡¡SAMUEL HUNTINGTON Y SU PAVOR A LAS DOS AMÉRICAS--LA USURPACIÓN DE LOS CATÓLICOS MORENITOS Y SUS BURRITOS DE CAMARONES!!! Samuel Huntington indeed and his (atavistic) fear of the TWO Americas- the usurpation(of the country) by little brown catholics on donkeys
-Guay. GREAT!

MODERATOR: I hope that was sufficient. The above were his thoughts and words and expressins. DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER PLEASE.

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 05:36 PM

GV, te invito a imaginarte lo siguiente (en resumen, mis pensamientos mientras me ojeaba los cientos de escritos en este hilo):
I INVITE YOU TO IMAGINE THE FOLLOWING SCENARIO(TO SUM IT ALL UP:MY THOUGHTS WHILE I SCNNED THE HUNDREDS OF POSTS ON THIS THREAD):

-Joder, otro puritano anglosajón... ¡pasemos página! -OH HECK,ANOTHER ANGLOSAXON PURITAN ON HERE..LET'S SCROLL ON DOWN
-Este está chalao.-HERE WE HAVE A WHACKO
-El analfabetismo es un problema creciente en los EEUU...- ILLITERACY MUSTBE ON THE RISE INTHE U.S. TO JUDGE BY THIS ONE
-Madre mía.-OH MOTHER OF MINE!
-Menudo coñazo...- WHAT A DRAG THIS ONE IS..
-Leñe, ¡¿esto qué es?! Esto me gusta.- HOLD IT!! WHAT'S UP? SOMETHING I LIKE?

-A ver a ver, una defensa férrea de las prácticas medievales de la iglesia católica en España, sin mostrar un solo atisbo de moralismo religioso...-WHAT IS IT,A DEFENSE OF THE MEDIEVAL RCC IN SPAIN WITHOUT A HINT OF PIOUS MORALITY?
-Esto está pero que muy bien.-HEY,THIS IS OK STUFF
-Anda, si afirma tener pasaporte español... quien dijo que "por tus palabras y actos se te conocerá" habló sin conocimiento de causa.WHOEVER SAID BY YOUR WORDS AND YOUR ACTIONS YOU WILL BE KNOWN WAS WRONG!
-Espera, retrocedamos, ¿esto quién lo ha escrito? Ahhh, sí, la Gabriela Valentina. ¿Quién si no? Si no recuerdo mal, es andaluza.-GO BACK A BIT. WHO THE HECK WROTE THIS? OH OF COURSE! GABRIELA VALENTINA .WHO IF NOT SHE! IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY ,SHE'S FROM ANDALUCIA

-¡¡¡SAMUEL HUNTINGTON Y SU PAVOR A LAS DOS AMÉRICAS--LA USURPACIÓN DE LOS CATÓLICOS MORENITOS Y SUS BURRITOS DE CAMARONES!!! Samuel Huntington indeed and his (atavistic) fear of the TWO Americas- the usurpation(of the country) by little brown catholics on donkeys
-Guay. GREAT!

MODERATOR: I hope that was sufficient. The above were his thoughts and words and expressins. DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER PLEASE.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/22/2008 at 05:38 PM

Damn Typepad to hell. ;-))

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 05:43 PM

naughty t: please tell me you are still around. I saw your auto da fe post and was siezeded with a mad desire to sing with wild abandon the way they do in the best sort of musicals. Outflung arms,grand jetés etc etc and soaring voice. What more joyous song than the Oh What a Beautiful Mornin!" from "OKlahoma".

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 05:45 PM

MODERATOR:if you have a drop of the milk of human kindness left in you after being Moderator today,please have mercy and take pity on me and erase one of the double posts of the translation up above. I abjectly apologise. It really is my computer. It has been doing this all day!!

Posted by Syd 10/22/2008 at 05:52 PM

OMG (irony alert) Gabriela whatever are you doing. Look at the mess you've made you naughty girl. :)

Posted by Syd 10/22/2008 at 05:54 PM

and Gabriela, the messegers always get shot: I would advice getting out of the profession—at least on this board. lol!

Posted by Syd 10/22/2008 at 05:54 PM

eeek! it's catching!

"messengers" and "advise"

I'm gettin' outa here before the roof caves in.

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 06:07 PM

SYD? MESS? What mess? ( BTW hope you saw my note to you above...)

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 06:18 PM


TRANSLATION OF SPANISH PORTION OF MY (Gabriela Valentina) REPLY TO FELIZJULIANIDAD:


felizjulianidad:

-not too sure which part of all of that referred specifically to me.


-I don't recall making any mention of my passport.
-I made no defense of practices of RCC in medieval times ; I asked(implicitly) that they be placed in perspective and compared to what else was going on at the time. I thought that that was what I was doing. Defense of the indefensible? I would hope not.
- no soy andaluza; meramente resido aquí...I'M NOT AN ANDALUCIAN;I JUST LIVE HERE(I'M FOM THE NORTH)
- gracias por lo que supongo una aprobación a medias pero no sé si te he entendido del todo(ni tú a mí) THANK YOU FOR WHAT I GUESS SEEMS LIKE YOUR APPROVAL OF WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN BUT I'M NOT SURE I ENTIRELY UNDERSTAND YOU (OR THAT YOU HAVE UNDERSTOOD ME)
- some of your reflections on our own national ignorance are hysterically amusing because so true!!

Posted by jeff 10/22/2008 at 06:32 PM

Ok I don't get why all of you are getting mad that tony doesn't believe in a higher power. Ok look at the world today (9/11), How can you believe in a god really? Science basically says there is no god and Toni believes that. I'm not trying to be mean but I Toni has the right to believe whatever he wants. I do find it morally wrong though that he isn't married and has 3 kids. kinda scummy imo but everyone picks the way they live their life. The fact that Rafa doesn't have a house or many nice cars is also disturbing bc hes rich and should be buying what he wants now. He won grand slams and worked hard to reach that point. Not saying the money he made is worth it because when you look at what rafa does, its not very hard and unfair for him to receive millions of dollars playing tennis.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 10/22/2008 at 06:38 PM

had a very minor (2.5 magnitude) earthquake/temblor with an epicenter a few miles from my office in Southern California. For a couple of seconds, I was feeling a bit more religious than usual. that feeling didn't seem to persist, however.

Posted by gabriela Valentina (the pop historian ) 10/22/2008 at 06:59 PM

manuelsantana: how could you even feel an earthquake so low on the Richter scale? I was in hospital once and the 7.8 mother of most earthquakes ripped all the IV needles and tubes out of me. They were on this wheeled drip support thing that started rolling to and fro and then when the BIG ONE came it rolled all the way across the room away from my bedside taking the IV s with it. I was 15 years old and I thought it was cool. Aaaah!! the wonderful unconsciousness of extreme youth!!

Posted by Sherlock 10/22/2008 at 07:05 PM

manuelsantanafan, LOL. Now that was funny. Yeah, just wait till Toni feels the earth move under his feet. Besides breaking out in Carole King, that will bring him to religion. :)

Hey, Tom in Smalltown, if you're out there, I forgot to mention how much I liked your 1:36 post. Great thoughts.

Mr. and Mrs. D., wonderful "I don't know/not me" story earlier. :)

Posted by tina 10/22/2008 at 07:15 PM

This is far more interesting to me than yet another discussion of the GOAT. One of my problems with having been raised RC is the fact that as a woman, well, being a priest is a good-paying job - why can't a woman be a Catholic priest?

When the risen Christ appeared, it was Mary Magdalene to whom he first made himself known, the men (disciples) had run back to town in fear, but it was the women who stayed around. This was something I noticed in childhood, and used time in the Confessional Room at my parents' parish church to try to discuss this with various priests. There are many misunderstandings about the Magdalene, whose story was conflated with that of the stoned woman by one of the Middle Ages popes - Gregory VIII? Long before I read Kazantzakis, long before recent "Rosicrucian" and "Templar" fiction offerings, I was a child wanting to know why Mary Magdalene wasn't considered a full-fledged disciple. I still attend Mass during Holy Week - every year, no matter where I am - just for that moment when the Magdalene recognizes Him. And no matter what language I must try to discuss this in, I've still never heard a satisfactory answer.

Posted by sic (Rafa Nadal, 2008 Year End #1) 10/22/2008 at 07:25 PM

Jeff, I'm curious why you think it's "scummy" to have three kids if you are not married. Toni lives with his girlfriend and their three kids. They have a life together, they just don't believe in marriage contracts or religious ceremonies. Aha, but he has condemned his children to a life of bastardy!! Oh the ignominy! Wait, what century are we living in?

By the way, if we consider that Rafa is on the road for about 85% of the year, it's not really surprising that he hasn't bothered to buy a house of his own. The little time he has off from the tour he loves spending with his family and friends. Understandable, considering how close knit his family is.

Jeff, it's disturbing to you that Rafa doesn't have "many nice cars"? Really? You find that disturbing? I really do need to step out of my moral matrix to begin to comprehend this conception of the world...

Posted by Matt Zemek 10/22/2008 at 07:31 PM

Tina,

Amen to women becoming priests.

A classic case of crappy ecclesial leadership and male patriarchalism in the institutional realm of Roman Catholicism. The extent to which women have been subjugated by and marginalized in the Catholic Church is one of many reasons why ex-Catholics are rapidly growing in numbers (and I can't blame people for leaving... Catholicism has to do a better job, plain and simple...)

But, of course (and I'm speaking to the whole community now when I say this), this does not mean that religion is inherently bad or a bunch of bunk on the raw merits.

Posted by Janet Gibson 10/22/2008 at 07:44 PM

I wonder if you asked U. Tony about Rafael's injuries as his knees are always strapped. Wonder if he has tendernitis? Once U. Tony said that he would not be able to plat for too long because of his knee problems?

Posted by Rosangel 10/22/2008 at 07:48 PM

Thinking of the Nadals, I have in mind writing a soap opera along the lines of "Dallas", though obviously the entire extended family lives in an apartment building rather than on a ranch, and their business is in windows rather than oil. Surely "Manacor" would be a great hit. The ex-soccer star, the unmarried brother with three kids, and of course el numero uno would probably be the core characters.

I'm now thinking of Toni's line, something like "at least he didn't bring home a girl from the city" when Rafa's relationship with Xisca was made public. I think it was Toni who first talked about the girlfriend, in fact.

In my first episode (well, this is loosely related to Dallas, so the Bobby 'n' Pam plot needs a twin here) perhaps el numero uno will bring home a "girl from the city". And we'll see what happens after that:-)

Posted by Whitney 10/22/2008 at 07:59 PM

LOL Roseangel... I'd watch. ;)

Posted by Whitney 10/22/2008 at 08:01 PM

Ah sorry ROSAngel! shameful of me...

Posted by rafadoc 10/22/2008 at 08:03 PM

Rosangel...now here is a conversation I can get in on..."Manacor" would be a hit for sure...I am so shallow....and I love it. What city would "city girl" be from? Can't wait for the plot line for episode #2:)

Posted by iamu2 10/22/2008 at 08:05 PM

Fascinating article. I agree with Toni in almost everything, he's a very smart guy. Rafa is lucky to have him.

BTW, religion did indeed arise from ignorance - thats a fact. And god does not exist - another fact. Unfortunately, common sense and logic are foreign languages to much of the world. I mean, someone who is so good at appearing not to exits might just not exist...

Posted by iamu2 10/22/2008 at 08:06 PM

exit = exist
sorry

Posted by Bismar(in)c[ilic]k 10/22/2008 at 08:11 PM

certainly one of the more interesting non-tennis topic threads at TW.
found *some* responses really intriguing.

Posted by Sherlock 10/22/2008 at 08:12 PM

Mmmm, Pam Ewing.

"And god does not exist - another fact."

Bad day for you someday if you're wrong - another fact. :)

<<      1 2 3 4 5      >>

We are no longer accepting comments for this entry.

<<  Your Call, 10.22 Your Call, 10.21  >>




Wild Women of the U.S. Open
Wild Men of the U.S. Open
Roddick's Imperfect World
"It's Kind of a Dance"
Nadal's Kneeds
The Racquet Scientist: Canadian Tennis
The Long and Short of It
This blog has 3693 entries and 1646147 comments.
More
More Video
Daily Spin