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Visitors stop to take a photo of a billboard featuring defending champion Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open, at Melbourne Park, on Jan. 11.Mark Baker/The Associated Press

On Friday, the Australian government re-cancelled the visa of the tennis world’s No. 1 men’s player, Novak Djokovic. His lawyers reapplied for judicial relief. He will be reinserted in hotel lockdown. The court scenes will likely be replayed this weekend. Meaning we’ve all got a little time to recommence our outrage.

As solutions go, it isn’t one. It’s giving yourself an extension of the problem.

If this had all happened in the United States or China, they’d have picked Djokovic up as he deplaned, tied him to a wing with bungie cords and told the pilot to take off again.

But Australia, like Canada, values process over outcomes. Does the country look ridiculous on the world stage with its dithering and inability to enforce its own tough talk? Sure. But all the paperwork is correct. No form shall go unfilled with these ninnies on the job.

As Djokovic next goes to court, the Australian Open will have just started. There is now a possible world in which he wins his case, then finds out he’s been disqualified for failure to show up for his first-round match. Whereupon, one supposes, Djokovic’s team will immediately file a civil suit and we can spin this merry-go-round again.

The thing this is all ostensibly about – a tennis tournament – now seems inconsequential. Who really gives a damn if Djokovic plays? He may or may not win this Australian Open, but he will win the next one or the one after that.

If Australia tries banning him for three years, he’ll arrive next year with a handlebar mustache, calling himself Djovak Nokovic and win anyway. The guy is like Godzilla with nuclear waste – the harder you try to kill him, the stronger he gets.

That’s the tennis reality of it, not that anyone cares any more. What people on every side of this debate want now is to be proved right.

In that sense, this meaningless tug of war over sports has become the perfect metaphor for the Western world’s COVID-19 response. It’s a bunch of people who should be helping each other trying to gnaw each other’s arms off instead.

Like any pandemic-era social-media flame war, everyone who participates comes out of it looking like a hypocrite, an idiot or both those things.

The Australian Open is terrible for creating a loophole specifically designed to admit Djokovic. The doctors who signed off on his exemption should be ashamed for abetting that medical farce. Djokovic is indefensible for his self-centred focus on his rights, rather than his responsibilities as a global citizen. The Australian Prime Minister looks a buffoon for crowing about the outcome (“Rules are rules”) just before the rules blew up in his face. The institutions and bureaucracy backstopping this play come off as capricious and cruel.

Those are the back-row pieces. Up front, the pawns of the pro-lockdown v. anti-vax brigade have begun treating this like a true-crime podcast. Was Djokovic even sick in the first place? Why don’t the QR codes work? Is that him working out in Spain at Christmas? What’s the time stamp on that photo? Is that him giving interviews and taking pictures with children? Is there no depravity this man will not debase himself with?

On the one side, the kooks. On the other, the puritans. If I had to choose, and depending on how many people we are allowed to have over this week, I’d prefer to invite the raccoons currently dismantling my roof. At least they don’t talk.

Every turn in the Djokovic story is a new opportunity for more self-righteous bellowing.

Stuck in the middle are all the schmucks who do their best to follow the rules, while not treating the rules as a sort of Orwellian loyalty test for citizenship.

What’s missing is a little grace. No one is willing to take one for the team (the ‘team’ being the human race).

Djokovic could not imagine denying himself a chance at a little more glory. Australia’s politicians could not imagine giving him a pass once they’d pooched their chance at kicking him out. The screamers on either side of the debate could not imagine finding something more constructive to scream about.

The only thing binding all involved parties together is a great love of grandstanding. Winner or victim – either one works when you’re preaching from the virtual pulpit.

This could have been constructively solved at several points with a climbing down and an extended hand. Djokovic could have offered to leave and promised to be back. The Australian bureaucracy could have admitted it screwed up and offered to let him stay. There are a dozen ways this gong show could have been turned into a sweet story.

But no one does that any more. We are all too entitled and too angry. We want someone to listen to us and figure the best way to achieve that goal is get up right up in their grill and start lecturing.

Quiet dignity is out of fashion. Self-denial has been replaced by self-care. Conciliation or kindness? Are you kidding me, man? What are you? Religious?

The goal now isn’t solving anything. It’s ramping up the emotional temperature of the fight in order to jack the dopamine hit.

There are a whole bunch of noses still out there and they won’t cut themselves off, so let’s get cracking. See you again in court. And at the presser afterward. And on the practice court, maybe. Or at the airport. And then back at court and at other pressers and on Instagram and Reddit.

If we keep at this long enough, we’ll eventually get to the point where we aren’t fighting about Djokovic, tennis, COVID-19, politics or because we’re lonely. We’ll be fighting because we like to fight.

Novak Djokovic's bid to win a record-breaking 21st men's Grand Slam title at the Australian Open without a COVID-19 vaccination is in jeopardy again after he admitted he lied on an immigration form. Here is a summary of key dates in the still developing saga.

Reuters