Osaka: Proof the Free Market Trumps Social Issues

2018 US Open champ Naomi Osaka seen playing tennis in June 2018.

While airheads debate the controversial calls at the US Open, Naomi Osaka continues to enjoy the perks of a free market

Naomi Osaka vs. Serena Williams Donna Chang

What can we learn from the controversial US Open showdown between Serena Williams and 20 year-old Naomi Osaka? I’m sure you’ve heard the story — Williams confronted the official after receiving what she felt was an unfair warning for coaching. As the match went on, the confrontations escalated, and eventually Williams lost to the newcomer, Osaka. There are several takeaways from this championship that have been stealing headlines for over a week now. First, who is Naomi Osaka?

Doesn’t her name alone remind you of that episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry goes on a date with a girl, solely because her name is Donna Chang, and he’s interested in Asian girls? (How can it be racist if it’s good things he associates with Asians?) Osaka, unlike the girl in the Seinfeld episode, really is of Asian descent — half-Haitian, half-Japanese, which is a unique combination of heritage, to say the least. One last note about Osaka’s heritage — she was born in Japan, but raised in the US, which seems only fitting, since her last name is so patriotic, sounding very similar to the first three syllables of our national anthem.

A less flattering view of athletes

We can also learn it’s not particularly enjoyable to listen to the actual conversations athletes have when arguing over calls with officials. This is not to pick on Williams, whose outburst was in no way unique to her, but to say that hearing her heated demand for an apology isn’t exactly awe-inspiring like her actual tennis game is. We all know that professional athletes are humans, just like the rest of us, but who wants to be reminded of that when we’re watching them on TV?

But there’s another lesson that rings true after this match: The free market moves on while social justice warriors and talking heads continue their never-ending arguments. After winning the US Open, Osaka didn’t make any strong comments one way or another on Williams’ behavior during the match, and whether it was justified. She was too busy signing contracts with Nissan and Adidas as brand ambassadors

Set for life

Osaka already had a deal with Adidas, but after winning over Williams, several reported estimates of her new deal ring in around $8 million. Not too shabby for 20. Then there’s Nissan, a company Osaka said she was proud to partner with because of its Japanese DNA.

I haven’t seen any definitive figures on this deal, but by all accounts it’s a contract that includes multiple appearances in ads, a long, lucrative deal.At any rate, before she can legally drink, Osaka is financially set for life. Oh sure, she has a promising tennis career ahead of her, but if she ever got sick of the sport and decided to walk away, she could. With no backup plan! If she ever harbored any irrational dreams of pursuing stand up, marionette theater or (God forbid!) becoming a sports columnist, she could.

Osaka is young enough she could also do the typical athlete retirement of pursuing a second career in broadcasting, sign a book deal, slowly fade out of relevance and then get back into pro tennis before she hits 30.Of course, all this financial security is assuming Osaka doesn’t go on some bizarre, ridiculously politically incorrect Twitter rant that causes Adidas, Nissan and any other potential ad partner to end their relationship.But it seems like that won’t happen with Osaka. When Williams was arguing with the official, Osaka said she did what she’d been taught to do: Turn around and focus on your own game. That strategy has served, and will serve, her well.

Add me to the entourage

You might think this column about Osaka is too glowing, that I’m caught up in all the media hype. That’s not true; as a commentator, I’m totally objective, treating every athlete with the same professional aloofness and objectivity.

However, if Osaka decides she needs an entourage, I’d be willing to forgo my journalistic integrity. I could be the guy who wears Adidas track suits and makes Seinfeld references all day. Every entourage needs one of those guys, right?By the way, Naomi, my Nissan needs to have a couple of car seats, and I hope you’re OK with me changing diapers when the entourage is cracking open $200 lobster at five-star restaurants. My baby and I will both be wearing bibs, isn’t that cute!First Nissan, then Adidas, now the world’s best entourage … will Osaka ever stop winning?

This column was originally published Sept. 20, 2018, in the Republic-Monitor.

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