Saturday, March 29, 2014

Doctoring Nadal

During this week the Tramuntana has been transformed into a Christmas card scene. Absent from its snowy peaks, though, was Mallorca's Mr. Christmas (Sr. Nadal). He was in Miami and was thus spared the snowballs of the press being lobbed in his general direction. It was a difficult week for Rafael the red-faced racket-player who declined to go down in history by becoming the first sportsperson to accept an honorary doctorate from the Universitat de les Illes Balears.

The source of the boy Nadal's embarrassment was the succession of volleys fired over the net of the university management council's decision earlier this month to award the doctorate. When the press did finally manage to catch up with him in Florida, he explained that his life was just fine without a doctorate. Which it almost certainly is, so why disrupt this wonderful life by bothering to make space in the Nadal trophy warehouse for an honorary mortar board with accompanying gown?

At the heart of the rumpus - supposedly - was whether Nadal was deserving of the award. He is only a sportsperson, after all. Had he added to his sporting achievements by presenting a thesis on the aerodynamics of belting a small yellow thing over some netting, then that would have been all right. But no, all he had done was win the odd tennis tournament.

The university rector Llorenç Huguet, only in the post for a few months, has been learning, as did his predecessor, the late Montserrat Casas, that there is more to this running-a-university malarkey than smiling nicely when handing over certificates. There are the politics as well, and Huguet suggested that elements on the university governing council (as distinct to its management council) had been the ones who had "dynamited" the doctorate. Rafa had been blown up.

With the press and its readership also none too certain that the doctorate was merited, Nadal added to his wonderful-life statement by saying that, in the absence of unanimity at the governing council, he would decline the offer. And more light was shed on these dissident elements on the council by Miguel Deyá, who is the regional government's director-general for universities. He described them as "anti-Spanish". Because Nadal "feels Spanish" and has shown himself to be, the anti-mob wanted nothing to do with him. Or at least I think this was what he was on about (and Nadal is a Real Madrid fan).

Perhaps with this rather odd observation in mind, Huguet moved the tramlines in justifying the original decision. Nadal was deserving not just because of his sporting achievement but also because he should be considered part of the culture - Balearics culture, that is. Whether he is or he isn't, advantage was with the governing council dissidents, and Huguet and Nadal duly lost. Game, set and match to the anti-Spanish.

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