Na Li is apparently getting crap from Chinese bloggers for yelling "Shut up!" at the Chinese crowd during her semifinal loss to Dinara Safina.
"The yell came as Li lost a critical set point shortly before losing the match to Russia’s Dinara Safina 6-7 (3), 5-7, ending China’s hope to win a silver or gold medal in singles tennis play. The incident, now dubbed as “Shut-up Gate” in online chat rooms, provoked wide accusations of Li trying to distance herself from her Chinese identity.
“Can’t she just speak Chinese? She thinks she’s so Westernized just because she plays a bourgeois sport,” is typical of the barbs bouncing around cyberspace in the last few days.
Although Li has admitted that the shout came from her frustration over losing control of the game, some angry netizens remained skeptical and skewered her for failing to accept the audience’s good will.
“You can’t expect everyone to understand the rules of watching a tennis game,” one sports blogger wrote. “What we can do as Chinese is to cheer as much as we can whenever we see our players competing. What’s wrong with that?”
I watched the match and yes, the crowd was rowdy. But no more than a typical Fed Cup match. Was it classy? No. Did it show they weren't he savviest of tennis crowds? Yes. But I don't think it portrayed Chinese fans as being disrespectful. If anything, throughout the tennis tournament, they seemed so excited and enamored by the quality of tennis they were seeing. I thought it was great.
But behavior like this is only acceptable when you're first learning about the game. The Chinese crowd now do have a responsibility to learn the game and the traditions and respect them. Because the game is bigger than them and it is universal. Cheering when someone misses a first serve is bush league. Booing the supporters of another player, no matter how partisan or patriotic the crowd, is not sporting.
So I guess my point is that there comes a point where innocence turns into ignorance and the latter is much uglier. I hope the Chinese were able to see something awesome at the Olympic Green Tennis Center last week and that it encourages them even more to get into the sport of tennis and become more knowledgeable.