Roland-Garros, the GOAT, and Pineapple on Pizza

By André Rolemberg

Rafael Nadal.

14 Roland Garros titles, and if not for his very problematic foot, I reckon he’d love to see if he could break the 20 mark.

Nadal’s foot — the infamous foot — draws a lot of attention. Some good, some bad. Some wonder what would have been of his career if his foot was healthy. Some, like me, wish it was healthy just so we could see more of Nadal in a full season, and see him retiring just because old age and more “normal” injuries. Some others don’t even believe in the foot. But we’re not here to talk about some others.

The GOAT

The Greatest of All Time. The entire world knows what this acronym means. 

Every sports fan likes to chat about the GOAT. Every TV broadcasting channel likes to post fancy graphics with cool pictures of athletes to compare stats and debate who the GOAT is. Everyone on Tennis Twitter — a mere product of the social media’s algorithm to ensure people see the same content from an umbrella topic (in this case, tennis) — likes to tweet about the GOAT. Heck, we might talk more about GOATs than zoologists and vets. They probably end up on Tennis Twitter every once in a while and wonder what kind of hell hole they’ve fallen into.

I like to chat about the GOAT. It’s fun. I say why I think one player is the greatest. I disagree with someone else. We have a beer or a coffee (but most likely a beer), then we change the subject and life goes on.

And that’s what I wanted to do post-Roland Garros, when the player I personally believe has the highest peak level of all time, Rafael Nadal, won an astonishing 14th title at the event.

Screenshot: Roland-Garros

It would have been so much fun. I would be like “but Nadal has 22 Grand Slam titles, the best winning percentage of all, and has won 22 finals out of 30 played! This is unbelievable! Plus, he manages all that foot pain” and then my mates would be like “but no one is like Djokovic, and Nadal hasn’t beaten Novak on hard since God-knows-when. Djokovic also has the most weeks at no.1 and the most big titles!” And we’d have a conversation knowing that, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t matter. I’m not Nadal. They’re not Djokovic. We are just drunk and enjoying the NBA playoffs. The Warriors blew a 3–1 lead. LeBron is the actual GOAT, or whatever.

It’s the fun of sports, for me. To watch, to be entertained, try to analyze what’s going on during the match, to be amazed by how damn hard these people hit that ball and by how consistently they are doing it. To be entertained by conversation starters such as someone who just watches tennis during the Grand Slams and basically only knows Wimbledon, Roland Garros, Nadal and Federer, asking the group “but you know, who’s the best player of all time?” (We would then proceed to roast the dude who dared say Roger Federer.) We’re drunk. We’re enjoying the NBA playoffs in a bar. The Warriors blew a 3–1 lead — heck, I can’t get over this, what a freaking tragic series. LeBron might be the GOAT.

I also just love Roland-Garros. I love clay, having grown up playing on the beautiful red dirt of Northeastern Brazil, and having my absolute favourite player of all time, Gustavo Kuerten, being a Roland-Garros icon and three-time champion. So I enjoyed watching the French Open this year, as I do nearly every other year. I love tennis, so the better the matches, the more I love it. And Nadal’s level of tennis is too high for me not to enjoy it. I do wish Casper Ruud could have played the match of his life and made it a little longer and more competitive, though.

I like to talk about the GOAT, because it’s a fun, non-serious topic that keeps me engaged as I chat about the sport I love. With the right people, that is.

Pineapple on Pizza

Are you old enough to remember the time when the internet went absolutely crazy about whether pineapple should be on pizza or not? 

It got intense. The memes got funny, then funnier. The roasts were unbelievably good. People were really into it, and some were truly into it, really believing that one or the other was actually the ultimate truth.

Well, I don’t actually know if everyone was just having a good time, but the internet is vast and full of surprises, so I’m fairly certain someone really believed in and was dedicated to defending their position seriously.

People still eat pineapple on pizza and are happy, and are drunk, and are now watching the NBA playoffs. None of the “meme wars of 2010” events made a difference.

What the actual f*** am I talking about now?

I have come to the conclusion that the Pineapple on Pizza and the GOAT debate are, in fact, the same in nature. I shall call all these stupid, heated discussions the “Pineapple on Pizza Summit.”

The POPS, for short, is a heated debate where people really get serious. They research and make excel sheets to prove their points, and get legitimately offended if someone simply disagrees with them. It’s also an utterly useless debate that has no bearing on how people actually engage with the topic.

Just like people still eat pineapple on pizza, Nadal now having a double career Grand Slam and 22 major titles, or Djokovic having a double career Golden Masters and being one win away from the calendar Grand Slam last year in 2021, doesn’t change that tennis is still awesome. I will still watch it when these GOATs are gone, and some people who barely watch tennis will still only know Roger Federer’s name.

Because no one cares about the conclusion. You might come to the conclusion that, actually, the GOATs are Lottie Dod and Paolo Lorenzi and that would be fine. I would forget about it tomorrow.

I simply wish people liked tennis, had heaps of fun chatting about it and watching it, got drunk or had too much coffee, then went home happy and got back to watching more the next day.

It’s simply phenomenal, and not in a good way, how much the said “GOAT debate” separates people. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad. It’s annoying.

Personally, I love pineapple on pizza. Especially with goat cheese.

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