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It was as if someone had appeared on TV on December 22nd to tell us Christmas was cancelled this year. No daytime schedules packed with Hollywood blockbusters, variety spectaculars, and heart-warming outside broadcasts from hospitals making sick children’s dreams come true – as long as those dreams include a Blue Peter annual, and meeting Noel Edmonds. Instead, just Bargain Hunt and Loose Women same as usual.
That was how it felt when we realised yesterday’s Wimbledon’s men’s singles title was to be contested not by Andy Murray, but by two other guys, as it has been every other year in our lifetime. Despite the fact that last year’s final, which also featured two other guys, was some of the best sport ever seen on TV, what we wanted yesterday, really, really wanted, to quote my good friends The Spice Girls, was a match between Britain’s Andy Murray – or the Scots bottler, as he will henceforth be known, until the US Open next month – and another guy on Centre Court.
Such was the disappointment at Murray’s non-appearance that, according to no less authoritative a source than Saturday’s Guardian, experts predicted it could cost the economy £150m.
Like me, you may be wondering who these “experts” are, and how they make such precise calculations. If they are based predominantly on sales of snacks and beverages, I should like to tell them that I am writing this while watching the match between the two guys who are not Murray, and have just cracked open a reassuringly expensive lager and a bag of top of the range nacho cheese flavoured tortilla chips. I do not anticipate the lack of a Scotsman in the final causing significant diminution in my snack or alcohol consumption and, what the hell, I may even make myself a toasted ham and cheese sandwich later on, so that might be something else for the experts to consider.
Is this kind of calculation, I wonder, their sole area of expertise, and if so is it a full-time job? Are they perhaps making similar predictions all year round but failing to make the newspapers? On a routine Saturday, might they, for instance, work out that defeat for Charlton Athletic could cost the economy £575, while a run of four victories for Liverpool would enable us to resurface the hard shoulder of the M6 near Stafford and keep the war in Afghanistan going for another fortnight? The really frightening thought, of course, is that if the British economy is dependant on a British finalist at Wimbledon, we are in more trouble than any of us thought.
Alongside what is left of the British economy, the BBC were the big losers yesterday, with a large proportion of the 12-million plus audience who tuned in for Andy Murray’s matches choosing not to be among those present. Presenter Sue Barker gave it her best shot in a contrived intro linking one of the guys’ bid for an historic record-breaking fifteenth grand slam success with Usain Bolt, Shergar, Torville and Dean, the 1966 World Cup winners, and all sorts of other things that are not tennis. But even the dimmest amongst the Sunday afternoon crowd will have cottoned on within the first half hour or so that what they were watching was a tennis match between two guys playing great tennis, but failing dismally to be British.
I like the sport, and actually watch other tournaments apart from Wimbledon, but far more typical in Britain is the attitude of Arthur Smith’s dad. I heard Arthur on the radio yesterday saying his father reckoned Wimbledon was sport for people who are not really interested in sport. “They just want to put on a hat, squeak, and eat strawberries,” said Arthur.
It should be said the BBC never fail to put on a decent show for the strawberry-eating squeakers during Wimbledon with lots of shots of stuff not featuring tennis balls in any way. During yesterday’s final we were treated to a 30-second sequence of Federer’s feet displaying, full-screen, the huge gold Nike trademark tick, which in product placement terms would be worth about a thousand licence fees, and acted as supporting material to Serena Williams thanking Nike in her victory speech on Saturday.
There were regular cutaways, too, of stars of stage and screen on Centre Court; Cliff, of course, Richard Branson, and others too annoying to mention, including Michael Parkinson, who emerges mostly these days to have a go at reality TV stars, lightweight chat show hosts, and all the young, pretty, airheads who are taking the place of experienced authoritative figures (mentioning no names) in the increasingly vacuous world of TV.
Look mate, thought this particular viewer, why don’t you just trouser your Centre Court tickets, be grateful, and shut the flip up about the toothsome blondes doing your gigs? While the rest of us, Parky, are pinning our hopes on Ashes success to revive the economy, for some of you it is Christmas every day.
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