In the wake of our plodding footballers and hard-to-love tennis players, why do we insist on worshipping the least deserving sporting heroes?
Despite England's stolid Euro 2012 performance and Andy Murray's ill-tempered excuses - blaming his mistakes on everything from his shorts to his trainer - they have been lavished with an adulation they have done little to deserve.
Britain has too long lionised the flashy underdog, while undervaluing the real champion; a cyclical national trait that, fearing failure, hides behind nostalgia and mediocrity.
We lauded Eddie the Eagle, an incompetent ski-jumper. We bemoan the fact that David Beckham, a multi-millionaire five years past his prime, is rightly omitted from our Olympic squad. We cling to the notion that once upon a time - 35 years ago - a Brit won Wimbledon, even though Virginia Wade was effectively South African.
We invented football, cricket and tennis, so we still stubbornly expect to be the best. But - beaten by numbers and pig-headedness - we are not. Unlike rugby-centric New Zealand, we try in vain to compete at the top level in every sport. Unlike Spain, our pro-defensive football team is incapable. Unlike forward-thinking France, we lack the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy.
I wish Murray nothing but good will but is there any among us who truly believes he can do what Jeremy, Tim and Greg all failed so tediously to do?
Just as Groucho Marx refused to join a club that would accept him, Britain negates its strengths, perversely preferring to groom its weaknesses.
But if we could only look in the right direction, we have British champions aplenty to make us proud. Yorkshire-born squash player James Willstrop is the world number one, yet he struggles to earn in a year what Wayne Rooney earns in a week and is virtually unheard of outside the sport.
Stupidly, we take Willstrop and his ilk for granted. If this year's Wimbledon - with the demise of Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova - has proved anything, it is that David can defeat Goliath.
And Willstrop is far from alone. While our overpaid, underachieving footballers flew home from Kiev to a ticker tape welcome and yet another holiday, two of our potentially greatest ever athletes - cyclists Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins - go largely ignored in the UK, even as they slog their hearts out in the Tour de France, the world's toughest race. Lions displaced by donkeys.
For unlike our footballers, world champion Cavendish is the very best.
And, unlike Murray, Wiggins has total focus and bottle. If his shorts were ever to malfunction, he wouldn't bleat and roll his eyes at Ivan Lendl. He'd just take them off and carry on.
Sports stars do not, of course, have to be impeccable role models. It should matter not one fig that Ryan Giggs is a philanderer or that Rooney is thick or that Tim Henman is the world's most boorish man. When I last interviewed Henman, he had barely ten words to say to me as he grumbled: "I don't even have 'no comment' to say to you." They are, after all, sportsmen, not diplomats. They just need to be good at their job.
The fact that Roger Federer - one of the most gifted tennis players of all time - is also the most boring should be irrelevant, too. As Liam Nolan, Wimbledon's former chief racket stringer, revealed this week - you would not want to get "stuck in a lift" with him. So what?
But Wiggins and Cavendish are unique. They are ablaze with talent and character. And that is all the more reason to revere them.
Wiggins - helped by Cavendish, his Sky teammate - has a supremely realistic chance of winning the Tour de France this year.
And our Wimbledon and international footballing drought pale into insignificance alongside the three-week, 2,200-mile Tour. No Brit has ever won this gruelling and impressive race since it began in 1903.
Cavendish is a fixated professional who has his sights firmly set on Olympic gold in London this month. Regardless, he has vowed to put himself on the rack to help Wiggins achieve Tour glory - a win that, in terms of personal and national achievement, would trump football's 1966 and rugby's 2003.
But Wiggins and Cavendish are complicated men. Both are sufficiently self-aware to know that a sportsman's strengths and demons are often one and the same thing.
After narrowly winning the brutal fifth stage of the Tour de France last year, Cavendish said, tapping his head: "It's what makes me tick. Most of the problems are in here."
The existence of a pro cyclist is one of rare punishment. Their life expectancy - pummelled by brittle bones, distended organs, high-speed crashes and relentless regimes - is ten years below the average.
Both men have endured much to achieve. Already skeletal, Cavendish has spent recent months whittling off another stone in weight, hoping for extra speed in the mountains.
Andy Murray and boxer David Haye - another feted British failure, who claimed a broken toe put paid to his risible world title fight against Klitschko last year - could do worse than heed the driven, no-nonsense example set by professional cyclists like Wiggins and Cavendish.
When French champion Rene Vietto was laid up with sepsis, he briskly told doctors to amputate his toe and then went on to take fifth place in the 1947 Tour.
He even insisted that his team domestique Apo Lazarides cut off one of his toes to match.
You wouldn't have wanted Vietto to marry your daughter or even your sister. But he was a bold hero, a winner to fear and admire. And that - in rain and recession - is exactly what Britain needs. Not posturing, pampered also-rans who moan about having the wrong pockets.
Follow Adam Lee-Potter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/adamleepotter