I don’t know what I can say that is more or even equally powerful to the emotional effect, the instinctive reaction of Murray’s win over many people. I myself was in a pub in Kilwinning surrounded by Scots who were starting to believe, ready to pounce on the clement moment of victory before finally being able to, and being clutched by my father in an ecstasy born of 77 years of waiting. It was sport in its purest form, and as pithy as my response is, the weight of that history demands as much documented reaction as possible.
My love of sport, and my belief in it as a medium has given me a few dogmatic and certainly clichéd refrains, one of which is that ‘narrative is the key’ in sport. We clutch stories to our hearts, and, in my experience, its these stories that we remember, interspersed with soundbites and maybe still images – accurate or not – when we think of defining moments in history and even our own lives generally. That is just some of the value of sport, and sport seems to have an uncanny knack for providing the narrative. Today, one of the longest-standing narratives in British sport finally came to a satisfying conclusion. I think it is very safe to call Murray’s win at Wimbledon the most significant moment in British sport since 1966. I don’t know when it started to become an issue, but for my entire lifespan certainly, the wait for the next British winner of the male singles Wimbledon championship has been an ever-present source of intrigue and discomfort for even the usually disinterested Brit. If narrative is indeed the key for great sporting moments, then 77 years of suspense makes for a degree of instant sporting significance.
I think the over-riding feeling was of relief. For year we have been anointing single players as our saviour, with Tim Henman becoming something of a plucky, caricatured British sporting martyr, unable to deliver the championship back to its native land amidst dying cheers of “Come On Tim!” Despite Murray being clearly several levels above Henman in terms of skill, the 77 years of hurt (as t’were) meant that no one ever really considered Murray’s success a fore-gone conclusion. That didn’t dampen the desire for the once polarising player to claim the trophy.
The advert captured not only national feelings surrounding the albatross around Britain’s neck, but also predicted very well the atmosphere when releasing it actually came to pass. One of the most powerful narratives, caught in the advert, and self-evident in sports across the world, is that of the triumphant homecoming. There is something beautiful and instantly relatable about watching someone fight, and win, before their home crowd. I am reminded of the Jim Ross call during the first ever TLC match at Summerslam 2000 accompanying Jeff Hardy (wrestling before his hometown crowd) dragging himself up a ladder, crying “you’re at home son!” That was part of the joy at Murray’s win; not just that we naturally support a British sporting figure, but that no British person has held that particular title, that British title, in so long. That moment of tense, heart-racing, breathless silence was something seemingly uniform across an entire country with the weight on Murray measured in the anticipation of a nation. With this background, the source of joy becomes obvious as, at least figuratively, Murray brought the title home.
In order to try and stem what may be becoming a drippy love-fest, i’ll move on to frame Murray’s win with another beautiful, recent, sporting moment that I neglected due to my time being at a premium. That caveat in place, i’m talking about Brazil’s recent victory at the Confederation Cup, hosted in Brazil. The ‘homecoming’ theme was strong here – most immediately because the tournament took place in Brazil, but even more because the final itself was at the refurbished and reopened Maracana – a pure and historical sporting cathedral. In the first sporting final in the reopened arena, for Brazil to be involved and succeed there so convincingly was incredibly poetic. And finally, there was a real feeling that the Brazil team who, for a while had floundered in the international rankings and were taking on the undisputed best team in the world and current #1, were returning on the world’s stage before hosting the World Cup next year. Before the tournament, the team had been chastised for not living up to former generations of Brazilian teams; teams that themselves were naturally considered what Spain are now considered – the best team with the most beautiful playing style in the world. Brazil went in as underdogs, but after the glorious, acapella rendition of the Brazilian national anthem at the revitalised Maracana, a feeling came across me that no-one could possibly defeat Brazil in this setting. That feeling was supported with Fred’s goal after 2 minutes and categorically concluded with an emphatic 3-0 victory. Brazil are back, and it was one of the most beautiful events of recent memory for me.
Today was beautiful and will go down in history; and all we need now is another sporting goal for the nation to get behind and feed us a narrative to buy in to wholeheartedly.