I went to Paris this weekend for a special family escape and what did we do, we watched the Any Murray Wimbledon Final back home in England. And we weren’t the only ones as we had to go to several places to find a bar not already packed with fans. Especially after the first set win, the ultimate spiral to defeat was especially heartbreaking for everyone pulling for this earnest and talented national hero.
Nonetheless, A.A. Gill’s Bloomberg piece “Murray’s Wimbledon Loss Is Britain’s Triumph” turns that adversity to advantage. Admittedly, it rolls in a heavy dose of classic British irony, which doesn’t count as sincerely embracing failure. But its bright side perspectives nonetheless and I particularly appreciated his reference to the shattered dreams…
- “England’s motto should be “Sorry.” We have so many ways of saying it. And so many reasons. It ought to be printed on the currency. The other thing we say to one another a lot is, ‘It’s not the disappointment, it’s the hope we can’t bear.’ And then we laugh. In that brittle English way…Like I said, it’s the hope I can’t bear. Not the fear of what it will feel like when Murray loses. It’s the terror of what this will do to the nation if he wins. Americans have never really got the point of competitive sports. We know what it is really for. We invented almost every game that’s worth playing. And a whole lot that aren’t. Including baseball. The great age for organizing the rules of sport and setting up governing bodies was the 19th century. The engines for fairness and uniformity were English public schools. Games were character-building. Paul Newman is said to have summed up the American attitude to sport when he said, ‘Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.’ Well, we know that if you show us a winner, you show us someone who has learned nothing useful apart from doing something repetitive with a ball. A good winner and a bad winner look just the same. A good loser and a bad loser are very different. A point of all games is not to teach you how to cope with winning. Any Neanderthal can do that. It’s how you lose with aplomb, with flair, with humility and optimism, that’s the trick. That’s the point of sport. A good loser should look like an Oscar acceptance speech. If sport were simply about faster, higher, harder and longer, then it’s a shallow cul-de-sac, only fit for Kipling’s flannelled fools and muddied oafs. If, however, it teaches young men and women character in the face of public disappointment, then it’s a boon. It’s the loser’s hand you should shake. He is taking home something far more important than a hideous mantel ornament. So the English have become supremely good at failing to win. We joke about it. We are comfortable with it. We have the weather for it. We are so good at coming in second we can toy with it. We can almost win. Unlike Samoa or Kuwait, who are never in contention, we could, we might, we just don’t. But if Murray, by some kismet, some destiny-swerving fluke, grabs this one, well, who knows what will happen. It could do critical damage to the national psyche. We might imagine it marks a change in the natural order of things. We could start believing that the toast will fall butter side up. There will be horrible exhibitions of self-belief, too ghastly and un-British to contemplate. I can just remember the last time we won. The 1966 World Cup. It was like the Blitz. Due to home-field advantage and bad refereeing, we fluked the final from the Germans. It was a nightmare. I was only a small boy, but I can still remember the cloying, sickly taste of victory. We’ve only just got over it…So we can rest for another generation, being modestly proud about not winning. Making jokes about gentlemen coming in second. And smiling with an amateur humility, whilst looking the other guy in the eye and saying that, on the day, the better man won. But knowing, secretly, amongst ourselves, as on every other day, we have the best of it. You judge a man, a child, a nation, on how it loses.”