Andy Murray is about to take to the Centre Court at Wimbledon to do battle with Novak Djokovic. After two captivating thrill-a-minute semi finals this is a match that promises much. It hardly needs to be said that most of Scotland will be cheering for Murray, as will most of the other parts of the British Isles.
Wimbledon is a strange sporting beast. I’ll put my hand up without shame and say I love it. Its been an integral part of my summer since I was a kid cheering on the likes of Ilie Nastase and Yvonne Goolagong. We never saw strawberries and cream in those days but there was Mr Whippy’s ice cream van and between the black-and-white televised matches we’d use our garden fence as a net and try our hand at tennis for a couple of weeks.
So much has changed since the long hot summers of the Seventies yet the institution of Wimbledon seems impervious to changes in the outside world. Okay, there’s a hi tech roof over the Centre Court now, but the tournament itself and the culture that surrounds it remains steadfastly stuck in a previous century. Some might argue the century in question isn’t even the twentieth.
The Centre Court at Wimbledon – as a spectacle – can be hilarious. Its the sporting equivalent of The Last Night of the Proms – complete with promenaders (aka Henman Hill) -and has a similar perverse allure. For most of us its about the tennis but for the English upper classes its an occasion to don their glad rags, bray like donkeys, and relive the glory days of Empire. For the plebs watching on TV it gives us a chance to marvel at the social inadequacies of our ruling class. (Knowing that Irvine Welsh is a huge Wimbledon fan I’ve often suspected that Mark Renton’s famous “colonised by wankers” speech in Trainspotting was written during Wimbledon).
This year’s Wimbledon finale comes with added spice. The Centre Court crowd are desperate for a British champion. You can almost taste their desperation its so palpable. They want a champion they can raise their champagne flutes to and hip hip hurrah late into the night. You can feel the vibe. Last summer’s Olympics were such a wonderful celebration of all things British perhaps Andy can do it again…
To even mention politics on such an illustrious sporting occasion would be curmudgeonly. And so.. un-British. Damned poor show old chap. Yet mention it I will. For this is the final that dare not speak its nationality.
However churlish it may seem to to mention it there’s a shadow marked “September 2014” hanging over today’s proceedings. Even if no one is so crass as to mention it the Centre Court crowd and its attendant sycophants (the BBC) are well aware of the impending catastrophe. Their response has been to revert back to 19th Century type, ostrich style, and drape themselves in the Union Jack.
For this viewer it has been quite weird watching Andy Murray’s primary nationality getting airbrushed out the picture. Its also quite weird watching the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon where, between the action, camera operators repeatedly point their lenses at upper class weirdos decorated in Union Jacks. If he wins it will be even weirder to watch Andy Murray being goaded by political opportunists (aka the meeja) to wave a Union Jack to prove his, and his country’s, Britishness.
Should this bother anyone of a Scottish persuasion? The mature rational answer is no. But in a mature rational de-nationed world we wouldn’t be cheering for Andy Murray over his opponent. Which is why I’m glad I don’t live in a mature rational world. On occasions like this I enjoy being irrational and emotional. I enjoy being Scottish. Its why, like most Scots this afternoon, I’ll serve every serve, return every return, and play every rally in Murray’s shoes. And why not. It’s not about the Centre Court crowd and their daft wee flags. Nor the BBC. It’s about an athlete we’ve taken to our hearts.
Cmoan Andy! Do it for Scotland. But most of all do it for yourself.