Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tennis is a game that's hard to love

Andy Murray, Wimbledon champion. I was there to see it, even if it was just on the big screen inside the grounds, a couple of hundred metres away from the Centre Court. I'd spent the night ill-equipped in a tent to be there, queuing along with a few thousand more.

Cost £8 entry. £7.50 for a watered down Pimms, £2.50 for a water (that HSBC were giving away free in smaller sizes admittedly, with their “literature” in the queue and all in all £100+ to arrive, eat and get home.

I wanted to be a professional tennis player. I wanted to win Wimbledon. Definitely a dream, like many other people. And like many others, I didn't make it. Yes, I was good. I had the physical attributes, but not the mental, strength not as a youngster anyway.    

A big part of the reason I wanted to win Wimbledon was genuinely to give something to those Brits who followed tennis and who had to suffer defeat all too early in the two-week tournament, year, after year, after year. I wanted to make them feel proud to be British. Really.

Andy Murray is a truly amazing tennis player. He's almost the very best on the planet at tennis. He deserves to win Wimbledon. Few have worked harder over the years, with so much talent. Yet for all the patriotism on the hill at Wimbledon, thousands of people celebrating his win, I didn't feel so uplifted by his victory and this feeling, if anything, has got worse since Sunday.

Wimbledon, the tournament for me anyway, got it badly wrong. All these crazy young tennis enthusiasts leaping up and down, shouting and yelling, hugging each other on Murray's victory and yet a few minutes after Murray had left Centre Court, walking around the grounds, life seemed to carry on like any normal Wimbledon day I'd witnessed over the years.  

Lots of us went to the grand entrance at Wimbledon to wait for Murray to appear with the trophy, but the security guards weren't shy, telling us, "He's not coming out, he's busy doing press. There are no plans for an appearance." Yet, soon after we'd left Wimbledon, he did appear on a top balcony, a little remote from the public, like a royal at Buckingham Palace (even if he did do an impressive fist pump and not a royal wave.)

Of course, he's to be knighted soon, an open secret judging by the pictures appearing from Downing Street where all three leaders of arguably the same party took delight in the reflected glory.

What did the papers say about Murray's win? Well, I read it was the highest rating TV programme of the year so far; 17 million viewers had it on. The Independent also reported that Murray stands to earn £100 million winning the crown. The Telegraph, £200 million. In prize money he's worth £18 million already. Plus he already gets a load of money from RBS bank, Adidas and Rado watches.

Indeed ,on winning the US Open last year, Murray can be seen immediately afterwards, not celebrating and letting himself go, but instead searching for his Rado watch within his rackets and stuff, which his girlfriend, Kim Sears helps him locate, so he can be photographed wearing it, whilst holding the trophy aloft.

I believe in sport. It's better than killing each other. It spurs us on to ever higher levels of ability. It keeps us fit. It's entertainment. Patriotism? Well, people who didn't know each other were hardly engaging much in the scheme of things beyond two minutes of Murray's victory. And anyway, who cares what country you're from? People are people now in the 21st century, no?

A top 100 tennis player is worth so much and lives in such a little corporate bubble, that they are hardly in touch with normal people. But maybe they are in touch with modern politicians, (see picture!) just as long as they are successful, God help 'em.

I was therefore wondering why so many still come out and support a multi-millionaire who really is trying to win Wimbledon for himself and those closest to him? Clearly many people are patriotic and they love a winner. Wimbledon would be nothing at all without its tens of thousands who support it each year.

But, to me, the people deserve far better. A game to love? Yes. But those in power make it very hard for me to do so.

Dylan Strain

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