Brit Sport Stars

Created on 1/7/2008

I am a lover of the new, the trendy and those gadgets that push us into the future. A friend asked me to take a look at a new virtual environment on my computer. He was clearly captivated and he wanted to share his pleasure at the cleverness and creativity of this virtual environment. For me the advent of the Avatar tells more about the absence of a core to our life than it does portend any new creativity. What’s the point of being a virtual sports star when you can try to be a real one?

It’s also extremely sad when you live your life in front of a screen when you can look up and take in the real world. But, a lot of people, and I suspect it’s a very fast growing number, now live vicariously through others. The growth of the celebrity culture demonstrates this perfectly. People really believe that they are friends with the stars, and that they are entitled to an opinion about them because of this assumed, but unreal proximity.

This was very clearly demonstrated over the last couple of days, with the Scottish tennis player, Andy Murray, reaching today’s quarterfinal match with Spain’s Rafael Nadal. I am not going to pretend to tennis expertise I don’t have, but I suspect Nadal will demolish Murray, purely because he is also a terrific player, who wins most of his games, and is more powerful an athlete. I hope, as a British person, that I am totally wrong and Murray overwhelms him. No, the point I’m making is that the controllers of BBC prime time television pulled their main scheduled new series show, Criminal Justice, at the last minute to feature the climax of Murray’s thrilling five set encounter with the equally young Frenchman, Richard Gasquet. Murray came back from the brink of a straight sets defeat to pull off this victory, and it was great tennis to watch. But it clearly shows how keen the British are for a winner at Wimbledon as the viewing figures for this clash went over ten million.

As a long-suffering British sports fan I have long since reconciled myself to a few facts. We win events where we sit down, like yachting, rowing or horse riding, which the upper class can indulge them in. They do well at these events because they are the ruthless descendants of robber barons and pirates. We do fairly well at some athletics where our working class Afro Caribbean descended athletes do proportionately as well as those from America. Or we do exceptionally well at club football and boxing which have long been populated by desperately hard up working class people with unending drive, hunger and commitment. When it comes to tennis or cricket or sometimes rugby, our middle classes are involved, and they are just too polite to do whatever is necessary to win. There are some fantastic exceptions to this rule, like Sebastian Coe or Paula Radcliff, but it is, unfortunately mostly true.

That’s why you can usually bet on the British tennis player, however skilled and able, losing to the street kid from some overseas slum. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times the moment comes where they might reach out and grab success they never seem to.

It reminds me of when I was walking past a big wooden fence at the side of the local mental facility and I heard the residents chanting, “Thirteen, thirteen, thirteen!”

Curiosity got the better of me, so I looked for a hole in the fence because it was too high to look over, I found one and looked through it, but immediately someone stuck their finger in my eye. From the other side I heard more chanting, “Fourteen! Fourteen! Fourteen!”

I don’t know how you motivate nice soft kids to become fighters in their sport, but it certainly won’t happen via the Internet or any kind of screen game. It must surely start with every school in the country meeting their commitment to provide much more sport for all their students. I also believe if we want to win in international competition then there have to be winners and losers amongst our sporting young. I’m not convinced that there should be a mandatory age before which competition should be banned as many sporting experts now propose. The politically correct believe that taking part is all there is to sporting fun and the future health for our kids and this is not true. We all like to win, and the best way to learn how to win is to compete and sometimes lose.
Let us dream for a moment of what it would be like if Andy Murray suddenly became the player he thinks he is, and he won Wimbledon. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? In the meantime let’s hope that last night there was some working class kids watching that match last night and thinking I could do that.