Friday, July 2, 2010
The amount of sporting expectation in this country, and therefore pressure heaped on to our sportsmen and women, is enormous. Part of this stems from the knowledge that we invented many of the world's sports, and so, ipso facto, we should be the best. It's a bizarre argument. Yet the frenzy, the desire for a national sporting saviour is very real. And no one feels it more keenly than our tennis players when Wimbledon comes around.
Actually make that player, singular. Andy Murray to give him a name. A British man has not won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936 (I knew that fact without having to Google, so often is it repeated, and despite tennis being down my list of favourite sports. It's down quite a few other people's too. We Brits tend only to get interested in tennis during the Wimbledon fortnight, which makes the expectation even more intense - and ludicrous: how can a nation that spends two weeks a year interested in a sport, hope to produce a stable of champions? It's a bit like reading one crime novel a year and thinking you can master the genre.) Ever since I can remember, the search has been on for a tennis champion. It has been a quest laden with woe and tribulation.
Next was 'Tiger' Tim Henman, a grass court specialist with the air of an home counties solicitor. A certain golfer carries the nickname Tiger pretty well. Meanwhile, 'Tiger Tim' (Jeremy, Timothy, sorry these are not the names of champions, these are the names of your first girlfriend's dad - or cracking crime writers who divide their time between LA, Bangkok and Cambodia...) just made him sound like he should be on a cereal box. Henman was actually a good player, and did extraordinary well to reach a couple of Grand Slam semi-finals, where unfortunately his scone-loving, public school educated backside was inevitably kicked by a streetfighting, consonant-laden east European hewn by years of struggle. Each time he went deep at Wimbledon, nice young gels from the shires would be pictured draped in the Union Jack, the tabloids would pronounce 'This is it!' and a nation's expectation would be heaped on to Henman. Then when he lost people would label him a choker, forgetting that he was simply a good player who had done damn well to get as far as he did.
As I indicated last week, for such an old country, there's still alot of growing up to do.
at 7:52 AM