Wed, 10 Jul 2013 15:21:31 GMT
So it looks like today I’m going to be writing about sport. Look, I know it’s going to be pretty painful for all involved and I’d really rather not but there’s really no way of avoiding it. Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory on Sunday was the stuff of early 90s underdog movies – in fact it might have been even better than The Mighty Ducks. And Cool Runnings. And A League of Their Own. Generally speaking, when it comes to watching sport, I have two settings: ‘dispassionate observer’ and ‘reading a book’. But this? This was exciting.
I’ve been trying to figure out just why I got so swept up in things. In all likelihood the fact that Murray is Scottish (though the New York Times appears to have been a bit confused on this point) would have had something to do with it. However, on the rare occasion that Scotland wins at anything I never get as giddy as I’ve been for the past few days. Back in the 1970s, the Monty Python team thought the idea of a Scotsman playing tennis so ridiculous that they created a whole sketch around it, complete with Michael Palin in a ‘See You Jimmy’ hat. So, perhaps my glee has been buoyed along by a sense of vaguely patriotic vindication.
The personal and psychological nature of tennis might have something to do with it. Individual rivalries take centre stage (court?) and personality, rather than nationality, determines who we root for. The funny thing about Andy Murray is that he hasn’t always been easy to like. Unlike the smooth PR-friendly packages of David Beckham, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods v 1.0, Andy Murray has never been one for a cheesy grin and a sound bite. A few years ago he almost lost his fan base when he suggested that he would support ‘anyone but England’ at the 2006 World Cup. It’s a sentiment that’s not uncommon in Scotland, but one which might be unwise to voice when you’re seeking the support of the whole of the UK. The thing is though, once Murray wins you over, you’re hooked. The surliness becomes a dry sense of humour, the curt interview responses become the sign of a serious sportsman. Brand Murray’s strategy of authenticity might not have resulted in an easily-bought legion of fans, but over the years he has slowly but surely won over a fiercely loyal band of supporters. Wow. I think there might be a lesson in there somewhere.
Another reason for the overwhelming enthusiasm for Murray’s win is that it showcased some of the key ingredients of a classic narrative. Would it be a push to compare the three sets that Murray and Djokovic played to the three acts of a classic dramatic arc? Perhaps, but I kind of like the idea, so let’s run with it. A straightforward first set, a tricky second set where Murray had to dig deep and claw back Djokovic’s lead and a climactic final set against one of tennis’s most determined fighters. And of course no Hollywood movie would be complete without a shoe-horned in love interest. I’ve nothing against the lady, but did TV coverage really need so many cutaway shots to Andy Murray’s girlfriend, Kim Sears, and her impressively bouncy hair?
Going further, there’s probably some struggling writer hunched over his or her laptop right now cobbling together a treatment for Andy Murray: The Movie. There’s a story in there, certainly: the ambitious mother, a difficult early experience (Murray attended Dunblane Primary School and was present during the awful 1996 massacre), the grudging relationship with the British – or at least English – public. Then of course there’s delayed resolution – the British public and Andy’s mum have been wishin’ and hopin’ for a Wimbledon victory for years. Last year he came close, only to burst into tears after being beaten in the final by Federer, a moment equivalent to a Hollywood movie’s third act major setback. Cut to a montage of Murray winning the US Open, the Olympic tennis tournament and training really, really hard.
BBH captured this feeling of relief and release perfectly this week as they re-released their 2009 ad for Wimbledon sponsor Robinsons. The original ad was called ‘Imagine’ and speculated how the UK public might react to a Brit winning Wimbledon. Four years later the agency revealed the spot that they’d always hoped they might be able to air – the same ad but with the addition of the simple end line ‘worth the wait, wasn’t it?’
And yes, it really was.