James Corrigan: Tiger lost in natural habitat where Super Mac rules

View From The Sofa: Wimbledon, BBC
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The Independent Online

Expectation and Tim Henman never were ideal doubles partners so perhaps it was no surprise to discover that he who was once Tiger Tim had failed to do the research expected of a man receiving thousands of licence-fee payers' pounds. I don't care who you are, or which noble beast has the honour of prefixing your Christian name, you don't turn up to add your voice to the unfolding story without knowing the story.

Hammerhead Henman – as he might very well have become known if the headline writer had enjoyed a particularly big night on the grog – had not read the morning's papers, seen the morning telly, listened to the morning radio, or been within 100 feet of the morning's worldwide web, so could not pass comment on the "war of words" between Andy Murray (Anteater Andy as they will doubtless soon christen him) and Ernests Gulbis (old Earwig himself). But he could sit there and just be Tim Henman. Which is what it's all been about these last few years.

It's not been: "Oh look, there's Tim Henman, I wonder what fascinating insight he can give me into the pressures that poor dolt Murray is operating under." It's been: "Oh look, there's Tim Henman. Blimey, it's Tim Henman. At Wimbledon. How poignant." And now those shivers down our nostalgic spines have worn off, with what are we left? "Oh look, it's Tim Henman. At Wimbledon. Hmmmmm."

Still there is John McEnroe. Thank all that is holy for Super Mac. It really doesn't need yet another Sport on TV column to point out that this chap is rather adept with a microphone wedged under his snout; or, indeed, that in the land of fine sporting punditry he is not only without equal, but without company. But he isn't and I will. It's my right.

What defines McEnroe from the rest is neatly summed up in the aptly named L.O.V.E acronym – Learned, Observational, Valid, Entertaining. Of course, the third of these is the most important, as any Tom, Dick or Buster could make people laugh, while making them think and understand. But only John McEnroe can be John McEnroe. Because of who he is the antennae twitch that bit more frenetically and the words are taken in with almost fanatical fervour. McEnroe the intellectual affords the sport its substance, while McEnroe the punk rocker somehow manages also to give it some edge.

The old boy – 50 now – is at his best on radio. Any broadcaster who can make a phone-in bearable, never mind listenable, must be some sort of genius. It may seem odd, weird even, but I like to tune in to "6-Love-6" on the net and watch McEnroe on the webcam. It just wouldn't be the same without his continual fidgeting and repeated scratching of the nose as the responses brew for the dullards on the line. If you didn't hear his comparison of Murray and Henman last year – one orchestrating the crowd like a master conductor, the other barely able to pick up that wand – it is, blessedly, on YouTube.

As, of course, by now will be Saturday's unfortunate piece of commentary when Andrew Castle said just the wrong thing as a young lady's bosom came into focus. McEnroe keeping it together at that moment was deserving of an award in itself. But hey, when all said and done this is still tennis and this is still Wimbledon. You cannot be delirious.