Mark Steel: Well done Andy Murray, some people in the pub even put their pints down
By the time Murray went up by a set and a break a heart attack was a dreadful worry, as there'd be no television in the ambulance
Commentator and stand-up comedian Mark Steel has presented several radio and television programmes, and appeared on Have I Got News for You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. In 2006 he published 'Vive La Revolution: A Stand-up History of the French Revolution', and in 2000 stood as a candidate in the London Assembly elections.
Monday 09 July 2012
In all the hours of commentary and analysis yesterday, I don't think anyone said: "The place to be today is the Wetherspoon in Crystal Palace." As the match started one bloke was sat under the television doing a crossword. He should have been barred for life. This was history. It's like if someone was at the signing of the Magna Carta, and when they were asked what it was like, said: 'I didn't watch, I had a tricky anagram for three down."
If a BBC presenter had left Henman Hill to say "Let's have a wave from the Wetherspoon", viewers would have heard: "Are those nachos ready yet? I don't care if you are Sue Barker, I've been waiting 20 minutes."
The pub, like much of the country, seemed divided between those who saw it as irrelevant, and sensible people, who'd been unable to sleep since Friday and were so nervous they couldn't take solids. By the time Murray could go up by a set and a break I was sweating, with an irregular heart beat and a pain down my arm, making a heart attack a dreadful worry, as there was no guarantee they'd have a television in the ambulance.
Ivan Lendl has done the easy bit, getting Murray to stop fretting and keep calm while playing, but now he should be employed to do the much harder and more important task of teaching the rest of us how to keep calm while we're watching him.
But maybe it's the petulance, the vulnerability, the visibly intense effort that makes him so endearing.
And that's why the crucial moment in matches in which he's lost to top players isn't usually an important point, but when his back's slumped, he's clutched his ankle, and started snarling, until you expect him to stomp into the corner and play on his PS3, while his mum, Ivan and Roger plead: "Come on Andy, finish the game, the BBC have cancelled Antiques Roadshow for this so it's not fair to sulk."
So during the rain break, there should have been officials, sent by the All England Tennis Club, at every Wetherspoon to announce: "Now listen everyone, we work tirelessly to make it extremely difficult for most people to play tennis, with a century of dedicated snobbery, so for Murray to be in the final at all is one of the most stunning achievements ever in British sport so SODDING WELL WATCH."
Then, during the critical period after the rain break, the all-day drinkers and those dipping nachos were converted to the momentous events on the screen. Murray's winners were applauded and the vital game in the third set was scrutinised, and maybe this was the moment, as it seemed possible Murray really could be Wimbledon champion, that the country realised the extent of the Scot's accomplishment, just in time for Federer to sweep him away.
When Federer hit that astonishing lob that landed on the baseline, for a moment the old Murray threatened to reappear, as he pointed at the grass, as if to say: "How am I supposed to play when there's grass? They all told me we'd be playing on cushions."
But he didn't collapse, he battled magnificently, so even the people who were taking no notice at the start left at the end with a sense of aching disappointment. Especially after his speech, he may well have won the country round to spending the next few years screeching and squeaking and making up words such as "Yagadrabaraaaa" when he puts a return in the net.
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