…and he might not
It’s Wimbledon fortnight and if you live in the UK then I guarantee you will have heard some derivation of the following:
I’m not going to get excited about Murray’s prospects. You know what’ll happen. He’ll get our hopes up and then just disappoint… again.
I hear it a lot. In fact I heard it three times this morning (I’m writing this on the evening of day 1 of Wimbledon). Whenever I hear it, the same questions occur to me:
- Why do we feel entitled to have a world tennis champion born on the same land mass as the one on which we live?
- Why do we imagine that Andy Murray is playing tennis for anybody but himself?
- Why should Andy Murray play tennis for anybody but himself?
- If you care so much about his performances, how he did he get on in any other tournament throughout the seaon? *
Before I continue I must point out that I just watch the odd tennis match on TV occasionally, so I’m not a tennis fan or an Andy Murray fan. This piece isn’t for or against Andy Murray; it’s about our weird collective attitude towards him.
We don’t pay Andy Murray’s wages; his income is from tournament prize money and corporate sponsorship. He earns both of these revenue streams himself, not just for his current performances but for the years of hard graft as he worked his way up from a junior to amongst the top 4 in the world.
Now that’s quite a feat – top 4 in the world. But that’s not the point I’m making. He could be fourth in the world or four-hundredth; it’s not really any of our business.
It could be argued that football supporters, and I mean the ones who go to the games regularly, have a right to some sort of input into the running of their team. Your bona-fide fan invests a great deal of time and money attending the games, literally ‘supporting’ their team regardless of success or failure. A supporter could argue that he pays the player’s wages, so he’s perfectly entitled to moan about a string of slack performances or some perceived bad management. The same can be said for rugby and cricket and plenty of other sports too, I’m sure. But the same doesn’t ring true for your average punter who never watches tennis but talks as if Andy Murray somehow owes us something as a nation. We didn’t do anything to help him become one of the elite tennis players in the world, and of course Andy Murray didn’t expect us to. We invested nothing in his development. We weren’t shouting our support from the side of the practice court when he was 14. We didn’t even know who he was until he started doing really well. We didn’t own him before his success, and we certainly don’t own him now.
Ah, but what about lottery funding? We have invested something in his development, so we do have a say! We also funded the Royal Opera House through the lottery and we don’t feel qualified to air our views about a badly curated summer season because of that.
It seems that our ‘support’ is a one-way street and the message to our top sportspeople is clear – we’ll pin our colours to your mast in good times but if you aren’t successful then we’ll bitch and moan about you. In fact, even if you are successful, we’ll take great delight in saying that you’ll probably lose the next match, in the same way as when there’s midweek sunshine and we delight in grumbling that “it’ll probably be raining at the weekend”.
When Tim Henman was doing well (although he was the target of much of the same criticism), Henman Hill came into being. It’s where people who couldn’t get tickets to the actual matches went to watch the match on a screen and try and get to do a vox-pop with Sue Barker with all union jacks on their heads. It’s called Murray Mound now. So much for the traditions of British tennis and the All England club. Is our ‘support’ so transient? Do we just insert the name of the most successful and current British tennis player and try and come up with something alliterative that means ‘raised piece of ground’ to celebrate them?
Whoever the best British tennis player happens to be, it’s nice to see them win, I guess, but it doesn’t have any bearing on our lives whatsoever and to decide that they are letting us down if they lose is ludicrous.
This wasn’t a very funny article was it? Oh well.
*This isn’t a quiz. That was a rhetorical question. Of course some people know how Murray did in other tournaments. I was using a dash of poetic licence to make a point.