When England exited the Euros it was an acoustic cover of Linkin Park's 'In the End'. When the tournament as a whole finished, we got a curious Imogen Heap rendition of 'Thriller'. As Wimbledon came to a conclusion that was, from a British perspective, drenched in cripplingly inevitable disappointment, we got 'Let It Be'. With plenty of British sporting hopes still to be dashed in this Olympic summer, we can expect another bunch of slow-montages, showing [Insert Nation's Sweetheart] advancing through the early rounds, only to fall at the final hurdle, soundtracked by something hopelessly bleak (probs Coldplay).
These montages are indicative of a British sporting culture that fetishises the epic. We're not content to allow people who are very good at a sport to play that sport. We drape their efforts with narratives of destiny, contrast their careers with mythologised retellings of past successes, and in doing so thrust immense amounts of pressure on our athletes. We paradoxically expect them to recognise these burdens, yet not be overwhelmed by them. And at the same time we want them to be permanently clad with an ear-to-ear grin, happily pose for photos with every Union Jack-clad berk who approaches them, and keep us posted on every aspect of their 'journey' in 140 characters or less. British sport has undergone a horrific X-Factorisation.
The choice of 'Let It Be' to accompany the compilation of clips charting Andy Murray's brave but ultimately fruitless journey to the Wimbledon final was an appropriate one; we can't seem to allow him to get on with his game in his own way. Relentlessly criticised for being dour, miserable, and apathetic (i.e. Scottish), Murray, despite being Britain's greatest player for the best part of a century, seems to attract irrational levels of dislike from sections of the viewing public; not for his game, but for those elements of his personality that jar with the 21st century perceptions of what a sporting hero should be. He's not exactly helped by his peers; every stroke Djokovic makes is filled with emotion, Nadal climbed through the crowd to his family after his maiden Wimbledon title, and Murray's eventual vanquisher, Roger Federer oozes grace, class, and that aforementioned epicness (the man has his own logo). Set against this trio, Murray's 'flaws' are emphasised; add to this that he's following in the footsteps of menopause-magnet mum's fave Tim Henman, and what is in fact a focussed and grounded athlete is made out to be as enthused as Ian Curtis after downing a bucket of Horlicks.
Hopefully, that will change in the aftermath of Sunday's final. Afterwards, Murray showed how much the moment meant to him. Breaking down into tears (which is the natural reaction to being accosted by Sue Barker), he thanked his fans and family for their support, and graciously congratulated Federer. 'Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon,' he said 'but it's not the people watching- they make it incredible'. He clearly isn't the emotionless cyborg he's often portrayed as, but someone who just wants success on the tennis court, and to be judged on that alone; and who genuinely does appreciate it when people get behind him. After seeing that raw emotional reaction to defeat, hopefully people will now leave the poor guy alone; he doesn't want to hug Dermot and feed us sob stories about how much this means to him. He just wants to win Wimbledon. Shall we let him?
The British sports fan is like a child beauty pageant mom, thrusting our not overly-pretty little girl in front of the baying flashbulbs when she'd much rather just be getting on with being a kid. Maybe having to invest our hopes in someone who refuses to play by the rules of our media's games will force us to reduce our hopelessly high standards and allow our sportsmen and women to do what they do best. No? Alright, someone fire up 'Viva la Vida' then...