Simon Kelner: Calm down everyone, it was only a game of tennis

Kelner's view

Share

What does it mean if you weren't in the least bit excited by Andy Murray?

Does it signify a lack of patriotism? Or is it because tennis is a sport that fails to get your juices flowing? Or maybe you're just a misery guts. Or perhaps a little bit of all three.

If we believe what we're told, the entire nation was in front of their television sets yesterday afternoon to watch the first British man in 74 years play in a Wimbledon singles final. The build-up was hysterical and portentous, the front page lead in virtually every Sunday newspaper. Just a little over-the-top? I was listening to the radio commentary of Murray's semi-final win against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga on Friday, and found it hard to take in the hyperbole heaped on hyperbole.

Ok, no one doubts that Murray is deserving of his place at the top table of tennis and, unlike others, I've never had a problem with his personality. In fact, I don't know what his personality is. But to listen to the commentators, you'd be forgiven for thinking Murray had just broken the world 100m record, won the Tour de France, and dribbled past the entire Spanish football team, rather than made the Wimbledon final largely because someone else had done him a favour and sent Rafael Nadal packing.

"It's going to be like 1966 all over again!" exhorted one of the excitable voices, invoking the spirit of the England World Cup-winning side. Well, no, actually. I was only eight years old when Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy, and I still remember exactly where I was, and how I felt dizzy with excitement, that sunny late afternoon. I possibly won't remember for very long that I was driving down the M40 while Murray had his appointment with history. It's also nothing to do with his Scottishness. I wouldn't feel any different if he came from Hemel Hempstead (although in the much more unlikely event that he was born in Bacup or Blackpool, I might be more able to get behind him). The fact is that while tennis is an absorbing sport, it exists in our collective consciousness for only two weeks a year, and then as something of a backdrop to a social occasion. Did you see, for instance, the acres of empty seats in the early stages of Murray's epoch-making semi-final match? Where were all those people while Murray was sweating buckets in the national cause? They were having afternoon tea, discussing Murray's heroism over Chelsea buns, finger sandwiches and fruit cake.

Now, I know these aren't real tennis devotees. Those are the ones queuing all night singing old Cliff Richard songs. But I hope you get the point. In the end, tennis doesn't really matter. I doubt that anyone in the country made so much as a cup of tea during the 1966 World Cup final. We couldn't take our eyes off it. It defined us as a nation. And that was an age when we had much more of a sense of proportion.

So, call me an anti-patriotic, uncultivated curmudgeon, but this was a moment in our momentous summer that left me cold. Sorry.

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project