Unkind things are being fumed by Australians about the extreme utterances of Serbians aggrieved by what befell Serbia's vaccination-evading Novak Djokovic in Australia.
Serbia's excitable president has accused Australia of "torturing and tormenting" the tennis star and of treating him "like a mass murderer".
ABC Radio National's reporting of the wrath even found an aggrieved Serbian man-in-the-street gibbering that Australia had subjected Serbia's national hero to "genocide".
Yes, some patriotism-stoked Serbs have said some daft things and we are right to tsk tsk at this daftness.
And yet, invoking my saintly New Year resolution to try far harder to put myself in the shoes of others (even when those others are foreign, obnoxious and weird), I find myself having some sympathy with upset Serbs.
Serbia is a small, landlocked country with a population of just 6.8 million. To be small and landlocked is to be at risk of being and feeling obscure.
One is sure few Australians and almost no Americans (for Americans struggle even to know the whereabouts of Canada and Mexico) could point accurately to Serbia on a map of the world.
Indeed, just before writing that last sentence I went to a map so as to find Serbia again for myself and found it was not quite where it ought to have been.
Its juxtapositions with Romania, Bulgaria and Montenegro have changed since my last opening of an atlas.
But my point is that when yours is a small and obscurely-sited nation there have to be pressing issues of national pride and national self-esteem.
It is no wonder, then, if Serbians have made unusual emotional investments in their adoration of a native Serbian who has figuratively put their small and hard-to-find nation on the map.
If they have made him a bit of a god and have become delirious about him and have tenderised feelings about how he should be treated by foreigners, then this is understandable.
Australians too are prone to making gods of Australian sports stars. Djokovic's importance to today's Serbians perhaps bears some comparison with Don Bradman's god-like importance to Australians.
When The Don had his heydays in the Depressed early 1930s, little Australia's population was about what Serbia's is today and our national inferiority complex (somewhat diluted today, but still evident everywhere) was burdensome.
Djokovic's importance to today's Serbians perhaps bears some comparison with Don Bradman's god-like importance to Australians.
The Don's importance to the nation was something far more vital than just his importance to Australian cricket. Australians were crazy for him.
And, profound and discerning as my Bradman and Australia/Djokovic and Serbia analogy is, it doesn't fully wield the matter because cricket has only ever been a craze of a few of the world's peoples while tennis, the throne on which Djokovic sits as that sport's best in the world and perhaps its GOAT, is universally watched and doted on.
Djokovic is globally famous, and I readily forgive Serbians for finding him of such god-like importance to them that this religiosity sometimes a little disturbs the balance of the Serbian national mind, just as all fervent worship of all gods always leaves the worshippers a bit bonkers.
And so on to the Djokovic-bereft Australian Open.
When I was a tennis writer and palely loitering at and sparklingly writing about the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, I used to characterise the opening two days of the pageant played on Rod Laver Arena as Lambs To The Slaughter Sessions.
The lambs were the poor lowly-ranked souls in the men's and women's singles required to play and inevitably to be humiliated (in front of the stadium's patrons and teeming millions watching on their devices) by their events' top-seeded superstars.
These unequal, bullying jousts make for uncomfortable viewing (highly unsuitable for children) and must cause the humiliated deep psychological scarring.
So I have always advocated that the umpires at these matches should have powers similar to those given boxing referees to stop bouts in which one overwhelmed boxer is being made mincemeat of.
On Monday our dear Ash Barty made mincemeat of Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-1. It was painful to watch from my couch. I missed quite a lot of it because I was looking away, flinching, the way one does when there are scenes of gratuitous cruelty in Nordic Noir TV dramas.
With my proposed reforms in place last Monday would have seen the umpire humanely intervening, early, lifting Ashleigh's arm in victory, saving Ms Tsurenko from further horror when it was clear she didn't have a Golden Gaytime's chance in Hell of even raising a sweat on Ash's hallowed brow.
This would have saved Ms Tsurenko prolonged cruel and pointless punishment, giving her therapists (and with her first round loser's $64,000 prizemoney she would be able to afford the very best of them) a less deeply damaged client to work on to seek to restore to lustrous mental health.
READ MORE IAN WARDEN COLUMNS
I remember feeling the same way, too, during the famous 2015 televised Q&A debate between Richard Dawkins (the Novak Djokovic, the world number one of world atheism) and Cardinal Pell (the intellectually lowly-ranked Christian).
One was always hoping referee/host Tony Jones would stop it, to save the stumbling Cardinal being further bruised by nimble Dawkins who floated like a butterfly and stung like a hornet.
One is not so worried about any nationally broadcast leaders' debates during the coming federal election campaign being so brutalising to watch.
Both Scomo and Albo are so artfully politically slippery that their debates will be like those giggly bouts of Jelly Wrestling in which no one is ever able to get a good enough grip on a slimily-lubricated opponent to do him or her any harm.
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
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