Chris McGrath: Nostalgic BBC writes tennis history before it happens
View From The Sofa: Did Andrew Castle have a verbal time capsule ready for future generations?
This was a classic BBC occasion. And didn't the BBC just know it. Because you can forget the Centre Court roof – it's the closed shop they needed to worry about; the paradox that the most precious broadcasting rights in sport are those immured against the free market. And that means identifying moments such as these, in the nation's communal memory, as somehow contingent on their stewardship.
Sure enough, they set the scene yesterday on the margin between self-reference and self-reverence. The broadcast opened with a spool of iconic commentaries, from Peter O'Sullevan calling Red Rum's third National to Kenneth Wolstenholme himself declaring: "It is now."
You had to feel for Andrew Castle. Did he have his lines ready? Would he find the words to distil Andy Murray's golden moment, a verbal time capsule for future generations?
Expectation, in other words, was not confined to Murray himself: the whole nation was being invited to wallow in anticipated nostalgia. You could almost see it, certainly once the roof closed. As the players returned from the rain break, Sir Steve Redgrave was interviewed at court-side and observed how the arena had now obtained "a very yellow tint".
But all nostalgia is bittersweet, and the BBC team did not resist a due foreboding on Murray's behalf. A wistful Tim Henman, gamely pretending that he was not talking about himself, wished that Murray could be endowed with "a selective memory". That way, he could suppress the legacy of doubt – having failed to win a single set in three previous Grand Slam finals.
John McEnroe interviewed his boyhood hero, Rod Laver, who candidly reproached Murray. "He plays a safe game a little bit too long," he said. "That's the one thing I think maybe he's missing: that sixth sense, 'I've got to win this point'." Nor did McEnroe himself hold back. "I can't recall a time when Murray got angry and turned it to his favour," he said. This, then, was the day Murray had to ask himself: "Are you going to be an also-ran forever?"
And there would soon be a moment when this despondency unmistakably infected the whole nation. That was when Sue Barker turned to McEnroe and said: "I know we've got to let you go, you've commitments to American television." We had already seen Pat Cash summoned from the studio by his Five Live duties. "Tune into the radio everybody," he said, as he left. "You don't want these guys. What do they know?"
A trifle harsh on Castle, Henman and Boris Becker, even if their chat-to-camera in the commentary booth, during the rain break, would prove irresistibly suggestive of three Thunderbirds at the console. At the very beginning, as the finalists left the locker room, Becker instantly spotted that Federer had sportingly levelled out the odds. Only Murray appeared to be carrying a racket. But then Becker observed him jumping nervously up and down, behind the insouciant Swiss seraph, as they waited to step on to court. "Oh dear," said Boris. Henman said he actually liked to see that. "Oh dear," said several million Britons.
But the pressure was on Federer too, Becker noted. "It could be his last Wimbledon final, as well," he said. It was a throwaway remark, with epic intimations. True, the team briefly developed a surreal theory that Federer had won 16 Grand Slam titles with a backhand like a wet dishcloth. As soon as the roof closed, however, it caved in on Murray.
Becker noticed that his "bardy language" was increasingly negative. He did not mean that Murray had resorted to Hamlet's bleakest soliloquies. After the lachrymose presentation ceremony, Castle would instead end up invoking Kipling and the twin impostors. And if the tint was yellow, it had never been rose.
Barbarians vs Samoa interrupted by sprinklers as fans criticise lack of Wi-Fi and poor seating at West Ham's Olympic Stadium
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger 'optimistic' of making signing, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Edinson Cavani linked
John Stones to Chelsea: Next season's bumper TV deal means clubs such as Everton can say 'no'
Chelsea 1 Crystal Palace 2 player ratings: Who was to blame for Chelsea's defeat? Did Pedro impress on his home debut? Sako and Ward star
Kevin De Bruyne: Why do Manchester City put such a high value on a player Chelsea rejected?
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 5 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs