Canada's Rebecca Marino reacts during aRebecca Marino’s decision to walk away from professional tennis has been greeted with wide spread praise. As it should be. The 22-year-old Vancouver native was on pace to become Canada’s next star, joining Milos Raonic in creating an unprecedented Canadian youth movement. Sitting down with the New York Times’s Ben Rothenberg for an interview earlier this week, Marino explained how her sudden rise to fame – she rose form number 192 to 38 in one year – came with its pitfalls, namely, exposure to the internet jackals who live to troll.

Things were being written about me, and I’m quite sensitive about that. And I’m quite nosy, so I’ll look it up. And then I’ll realize I shouldn’t have looked it up.

More importantly, Marino had been dealing with depression for six years. She took a break from the game, returning in September of last year after feeling restless away from the court. Her comeback lasted only a few months.

Naturally, Canada’s most popular sports columnists – Bruce Arthur, Steve Simmons and Damien Cox – covered Marino’s retirement. That’s a credit to them. If the story isn’t about Raonic in a Grand Slam, or Raonic winning a tour event, tennis stories are often left for the back pages beside the local weather report.

They also deserve praise for covering the most important aspect of the story. Mental depression can affect anyone, even those perceived to have the so called ‘good life’. While the corporate aspect of Bell Let’s Talk was disconcerting, a day devoted to removing the stigma surrounding mental health was a positive step forward.

Most interestingly though, was how social media related to the trio of Arthur, Simmons and Cox. Marino said she couldn’t help but search for her name to see what people were saying, but cyber bullying extends to high profile members of the media as well. Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman was once advised to Google himself in order to make sure nothing about him online was a lie or incorrect, advice he later admitted to regretting.

Arthur:

Twitter gives a voice to everyone; just search Joel Ward’s name after he scored the winning goal in Game 7 against Boston last year, or P.K. Subban’s when he scores, or whomever.

Simmons:

She was a perceived victim of cyberbullying, the way many of us are victims of cyberbullying. There is so much hatred out there today from anonymous cowards. It comes in many forms and in her case she had trouble ignoring the worst.

Cox:

Two weeks ago, someone purporting to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks said he hoped someone else would slit my throat. You try to engage, then argue, then you block access to those who are the worst of the worst, and finally you just learn to ignore it all and use social media for your own ends.

Twitter Search the names of the three writers above – most especially the latter two – and you’ll see they’re not exaggerating. The racial abuse hurled at Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim was reprehensible. As a person of Indo-Canadian descent it hit close to home. Contrary to what noted academics Seuss, Silverstein and Berenstain have said, people can be really terrible.

I’ve hated on columns by Arthur, Simmons and Cox before, but that’s never led me to hurl abuse (aggressive sarcasm is not abuse) at them. What I find interesting however, is their response to valid criticism, which often devolves into the petty name calling they claim to detest. Lumping in the hoards of brainless idiots with those who wish to partake in civil debate helps no one, and facilitates the idea that media elite have no time for the common people who want to challenge their opinions. That’s pretty much the point of Twitter.

Marino’s situation was different. Degenerate gamblers and unhinged super fans flooded her mentions with invective language regarding her weight. Trying to avoid that, while dealing with depression at 22-years-old is something I wish upon nobody. Her work ethic and drive brought her to the top 40 in the world. Whether she plays again or not doesn’t matter. Reconnecting with her loved ones and finding solace in a normal life is the goal. Best of luck.

Twitter gives  a megaphone to everyone. That’s normally a good thing. For the mega columnists who can reach a wide swathe of the population that comes with its pitfalls. How they handle it says a lot. We’re not all enemies, waiting under the bridge with an axe to grind. Let’s talk.

Comments (17)

  1. TL:DR : she lacks mental toughness. The spotlight brings haters, once in a lifetime talent has now been wasted

    • This is too perfect to not be satire.

    • I really hope this is a joke. Would you criticize someone with cancer for walking away from a sport? And yes, it’s an apt analogy.

      • How can you possibly compare having cancer, and being forced to walk away. To retiring at 22 because she’s not able to ignore hate on twitter. Not bashing her choice, bashing your brutal analogy.

        • Depression is the root cause here, not “twitter hate.” Depression is an illness–not something that can necessarily just be overcome through sheer strength of will. Like cancer, it can be overcome with treatment, but we shouldn’t criticize someone who chooses to step away to look after their illness.

          It’s exactly this attitude–that somehow mental illness is a lesser illness–that perpetuates the problem.

          • depression is a lesser illness compared to cancer.

          • Yep exactly.

            Ever notice how all these mental illnesses have crept all of a sudden?

            Not only that but people are more medicated than ever. Maybe just maybe therapy and over medicating every depressed person in the planet isn’t the answer.

            this woman needs to put on her big girl pants and realize she’s in a position most would kill to be in.

            Unless she’s fellating the end of a pistol every night she needs to get her ass back on the court.

          • Lol

            Everyone goes through bouts of depression not everyone gets cancer. Stop your bullshit analogy.

            If anything your analogy only serves to mock the people who actually have cancer

    • I would never criticize her for her decision, but Ggg’s not wrong, a little insensitive but not wrong.

      • No, “Ggg” *is* wrong. Using your own MMA analogy, no one would say that a fighter who taps out lacks physical toughness. Rebecca Marino doesn’t owe any of us anything.

        • You’re equating depression with tapping out from being in submission ?

          Are you fucking retarded?

        • I don’t see that as an insult, lacking mental toughness is part of depression, but it is much more complicated than that… and you missed the whole point of my mma analogy, I was trying to say that relative to the outcome the pain is minimal, and despite that it is still impossible to overcome.

          • I re-read this and it sounds like i’m saying the pain of depression is minimal, that is not what I am saying. I guess in the end this issue is too complicated for my simpleton analogies…

    • “Mental toughness” my ass, you stupid troll. You’re part of the problem. Go away.

      (Unless, as others theorized, it’s satire. Then, uh, I dunno. Hmm.)

  2. really sucks that she feels like retiring is the only escape. it always seemed to me that someone should fight through the pain if the end result is good enough, that’s not really clear, I guess it’s like an armbar in a title fight, it would seem that a broken arm would be well worth being a champion for the rest of your life. but clearly there is a point where pain is just too much and one has to tap out or in marino’s case step away.

  3. Depression is confused with sadness much too often. The over prescription of anti-depression drugs is dangerous for our society. Cancer is not over diagnosed – it is clear whether or not you have it.
    I know this will upset the PC crowd around here who are outraged any time someone’s feelings are hurt, but its the truth.

  4. I don’t blame the media elite from having a hard time separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. First of all, it’s hard enough to detect tone and sarcasm over the internet without being limited to 140 character bursts. Secondly, these people can’t possibly be expected to answer everyone who “challenges” them on Twitter in a thoughtful manner.

    In addition, I completely disagree with the notion that the point of Twitter is for “common people who want to challenge [the elite's] opinions.” No, it’s a communications tool that is primarily for self-promotion. Cox hints at this when he says “you just learn to ignore it all and use social media for your own ends.”

    It’s a nice populist thought to think that Twitter is a way for the masses to engage with the elite, but it’s naive. So long as know-nothing marketing firms push a Facebook or Twitter presence as “essential” to business, I don’t see this kind of thing stopping, but a massive rethink of how corporations or public figures use social media has to be in the offing. Frankly, I just don’t see how it’s beneficial to anyone to have a forum for every whack job to post how customer service treated him poorly, even if it was only after he started throwing around ethnic slurs (which he conveniently forgets to mention in his breathless account of events.)

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