At the End of the Day

The only thing in Britain which doesn’t take us by surprise is failure

I imagine quite a few perfectly healthy Brits will be throwing a sickie tomorrow. Once again, Britain has a Wimbledon semi-finalist. He’s on absolutely top form, and playing the top seed Nadal in what promises to be a cracker. When that obnoxious git Krishnan Guru-Murthy said on a news comedy show last night “Of course Murray can’t win Wimbledon, don’t be silly”, I immediately began wanting Channel Four’s answer to Johann Hari to be proved spectacularly wrong.

A large part of me, however, thinks Guru-Murthy is probably right. For Wimbledon has become, over the years, the best weather-vane with which to gauge Britain’s state of mind, and level of decline.

Murray himself, for example, is a classic case of an obsessional loss of life balance in pursuit of a goal. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but our Andy has no sense of humour and – beyond tennis cliches about focus and attitude and feeling good about himself – little or no conversation. He has no style either, what with that dreadful wispy bumfluff sprouting from his neck, and shorts that always look as if they might be on inside-out. I know dozens of Andy Murrays in the UK. They work in ad agencies and commodities and Hitech and retail, and the reasons I don’t know them better are first, they never have any time; and second, they never talk about anything except digital banners, footfall and pork-belly futures. Andy Murray is the British dickheads’ champion.

Wimbledon crowds reflect our emotional incontinence and increasingly exhibitionist tendencies to a tee. Murray has set point, so those shrill “C’mon AndEEEEE!” yells start. He bounces the ball in readiness, and some twerp always wants to fill the silence by going “Whoooo” or “Yehheer”. In thirty years time, the yarooing twerp will play back recordings of the moment to bored grandchildren, saying “Hear that? That’s me that is!” It’s all part of living in the Facebook generation, because it’s all about Look At Meeeeeeeeee.

The expensive strawberries and corporate entertaining tents increasingly reflect a society within which the awful few have an awful lot, and the rest of us watch the telly. The prize money is getting ridiculous. And the ever-present pc insists that women earn the same as men – this despite endless market evidence that mens’ tennis is far more attractive to most fans. Once again, the feminists triumph over the realities.

Equally British is the BBC’s hold on the coverage rights. Auntie has lost most of them, but the traditional BBC (one somehow imagines) will always be the perfect Wimbledon broadcaster.

The Beeb still suffers from the generic live-sports delusion about former players making good commentators. Boris Becker makes technical observations during every game, but the problem is they’re the same ones over and over again. “That’s good, he has broken service. This means he can have a rest, and then come back fresh to clinch the set”. Becker is engagingly honest when talking about his life, but up there with Martin Keown in the commentary box. And Tim Henman is wooden. Nice enough, but wooden. I keep on wanting to shout “C’mon Tim!”: it was a way of life for so long, I can’t break the habit. Perhaps in recognition of his Wimbledon career, they won’t let him commentate on the Final. He’ll lose to John McEnroe in the semis.

Penultimately, if Wimbledon is about anything, it is about the British plonker. In the background are very old upper-middle class men trying to maintain some air of dignity in the face of all the grunting and line-call arguments. In the foreground are very wealthy young men and women cadging free Champagne off their suppliers and agencies. On the Court are British players who promise much and lose badly. And in the commentary box are the semi-finalists from three decades of average performance and hopeless temperament. Britain is superficial, amateurish, incompetent, visibly falling apart and devoid of adventure. All of this is on show at the All England Club championships.

And yet finally, the cachet of the event for foreigners demonstrates just how much potential there still is in the brand ‘England’. (Sorry, Scottish people, but on this issue I agree with you: Andy Murray is a Scot, but the appeal I’m talking about here is green England, not Bonnie Scotland). What’s lacking among many other things in the country England is one, any imagination within the Government corridors of Whitehall and Westminster; two, an education system based on ambition, inspiration and individuality; and three, a sporting investment plan to raise standards. What the Wimbledon Club itself is good at is preserving the brand Wimbledon. It was made in England to be quintessentially English. These days it is a confection: but the enormous power is still there.

Many English products reflecting our lingering image of fairness, eccentricity and decency are woefully under-exploited. The reason is obvious: Britain has no brand manager. I don’t mean the ‘Cool Britannia’ bollocks, I mean those aspects of England with global appeal – Savile Row, Oxford, Shakespeare, country pubs, solid furniture, tea, jam, milk chocolate, real ale, rock stars, the BBC, architecture, fruit cake, roses and a million other things.

Our lives in 2011 retain virtually none of this. But we don’t need to sell to ourselves, we need to sell our cultural output to others. I hope Murray wins tomorrow. But if he loses, that too will be in tune with our increasingly self-placating acceptance of mediocrity: “Never mind – there’s always next year”. The UK faces a situation in which there isn’t going to be any next year unless we raise our game now.



11 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Nevertheless, I’ll be watching Wimbledon LIVE on SporTV2 over here in Brazil. Coverage starts at 9:00am. The nicest thing about watching it here is there isn’t any BBC pap and mush to put up with.

    Let’s hope Nadal has another foot problem ;-)


  2. The reason we don’t have more world champions, and tennis is a classic example, is that the people who we find representing us have no street fighter credentials. By and large they are products of being able to get to a level where they can make a living at it, nothing more. There will be better players out there it’s just that even the ones who get the chance to try it out and show promise then have a thing called Real Life to cope with!


  3. Don’t know whether Jeremy will, but the comment “anyone but the English” did it for me.
    Humorous? Err, no.


  4. If you want to see the way that the Brits now do pap rather than class – I am afraid that the opening for the 2012 Olympics is likely to show the world exactly what we are capable of these days. The closing at Beijing showed a glimpse of whats in store !
    We have lapsed into a ‘that’ll do’ culture where the best is ‘elitest’ and therefore so long as we have the right cultural show in place (even if they cant act, cant sing and cant dance a bit) it is blown up to be the most wonderous spectacle ever produced. When really it is the most facile, half baked, badly produced debacle ever contemplated by a bunch of self styled ‘legends in their own mind’, overpaid, overhyped, unemployable (except on public funding) non entities – ever seen on the world stage.

    But more on subject(ish) – I hope Murray wins for two reasons ! First it’ll piss him off that he has been adopted as the ‘English’ champion and Second that the total and absolute masterbatory commentatory fawning over WAFFA will cease for a year !
    Oh and if your up for a larf – red button to the Womens World cup at 5pm Friday. The sycophantic bigging up of (no better than comprehensive school 10 year olds ) the ‘wonderously fantastic womens England team’ playing New Zealand ! Comedy at its best – especially the commentary !


  5. “Britain is superficial, amateurish, incompetent…….”.
    These are sentiments with which I instinctively agree. But I can’t help feeling that isn’t the entire truth. The “best of British” (apologies for that one, a cliche which should be banned on pain of death, like “the envy of the world” and other self-congratulatory platitudes) is still damned good. The (independent) education system is good, the armed forces are good (if left alone to do the job) etc.
    What, I think, has happened is that instead of there being a “middle” strata of goods and services which was fairly good, that has been driven down into the lower level. Naturally the price of them has gone up, in order to pretend that they are the same but the quality isn’t there. That is the superficiality and amateurishness-after all how else could such junk be sold?
    The “best” is still there but beyond the reach of all but the extremely wealthy, whereas once that wasn’t the case.
    Just some musings and it may well be total crap!


  6. Well, I didn’t say it yesterday to avoid being seen as a doom monger.
    But Murray lost as expected, although in fairness he did give Nadal a good run for his money. If the winner of the Men’s Final is decided by who makes fewer unforced errors, Nadal will win that too.


  7. Well, Wimbledon is just an excuse for those who wish to ‘show off’ their new designer ‘Brolies’ British strawberries are flavourless, unless they are grown away from fields which are sprayed with toxic poisions (oops sorry my typo).. sprayed by nice food. Andy Murry an unlikely hero for the middle English set who can’t play tennis, but want to be seen as interesting. OMG Eugh. We Scots do not share the same emthusiasm for Andy’s chosen sport or his err hmm ‘personality’ (I laughed out loud at him being described as a sports personality). So please keep him as our guesture of niceness and love towards you, our neighbour.. PC AND ‘Inclusion are partly to blame for the lack of competitivness in sports now a days. I recall my friends daughter and friends played football/net ball in the playground. When some children with disabilities were, quite rightly, allowed to join main stream school, the pc brigade banned ‘sports day’ and anything which involved competitions which wheel chaired or children with physical disabilities could not take part. Shocking to discriminate against disabled people and equally shocking to discriminate against abled bodied people.
    PS with the Golden Jubilee and the Olympics we are being bombarded by the Union Jack, not so long ago it was bad to fly it on the account is offended people.. See what money can buy? BTW it’s is great to see the macdonald olympic games being held in London…Well away for us thank f…k. Sorry my typo again I meant to say British Olympic games tsk!

    note to God… please do not let any royal people die this year, we can’t afford a state funneral-what with Jimmy Carr not paying his full whack in Tax..Would it be too tacky to have a state funeral sponsered by Nike or addidas or MacDonalds? Discuss..


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