Monday, 15 July 2013

Why Andy Murray deserves a knighthood

Andy (left) with older brother Jamie - who also plays professionally - in Wimbledon T-shirts
A friend of mine recently posted the following remark on Facebook:

"Andy Murray has bagged himself a personal fortune, and an unfeasibly pretty girlfriend, through playing a sport he loves. Mr Cameron, if you can think of "nobody more worthy" of a knighthood, then I suggest you are suffering from a chronic lack of imagination!"

Several mutual friends “liked” the comment and appeared to agree with it.  I found myself disagreeing so completely that I wanted to put into words why – hence this blog.

Andy Murray isn’t just “playing a sport he loves”.  Maybe that’s what he was doing at the beginning, when he showed an unusual aptitude, and like his brother he was supported in his development by parents who were qualified and involved in the sport.  But then, as with all children in such circumstances (gymnasts, swimmers, dancers, athletes), he was shown a mountain at least the size of Everest to climb: having been told that at the very top lay the ultimate prize: to be the best male tennis player in the world. 
He chose to take that on – HE chose to take that on (You can take a horse to water...) – and with it he took on the hopes and dreams of a British tennis-loving public who for an unfeasibly long time had seen a world-class tennis tournament run in this country without a British born male getting remotely close to winning.

Apparently, the rest of the world could play the game better than we could...

Thousands of promising youngsters from all over the world were and are on that mountain: youngsters from unfeasibly sunny countries, where tennis could pleasantly be played most days in the year - a fair distance from Dunblane (Andy’s home town).  Many of the youngsters on that mountain were born into families with tennis courts at the backs of their houses.  Many of them have parents of far greater means...

Yes, he was given the motive and the cue for passion that he clearly had in spades from an early age, and yes, he was encouraged at every opportunity; but the vast majority of children (for very good reason) would never have devoted their lives to honing that one talent so devotedly, so utterly - with all the blood, sweat, tears and toil that that must have entailed and must still entail - to get to be that good.

When he walked on to Centre Court for that final, watched by millions around the world, he carried the nation’s hopes and dreams on his supremely muscled back, and in his toned-to-perfection arms and legs and most importantly in his steely, well-practised mind.  He had faced down previous failure; he had learned from past mistakes; he had remained determined.  At least 20,000 hours of unremitting toil were behind him, and he was in control of the pain in a body that had recently been pushed beyond its limits: causing him to miss the French Open.
Through his endeavour, he had earned enough to be able to pay the retinue of trainers, dieticians, sports psychologists and goodness knows who else needed in this day and age to get that good.  (Go on YouTube and watch Fred Perry strolling round that court in his long white flannels in 1934-36: I’m not belittling that achievement, but we are not remotely talking about the same level of effort and endurance). 
And thank goodness for Kim – the unfeasibly loyal girlfriend - who follows every point intensely and whose voice is often the last to be heard encouraging her man.

He won and the nation wept for joy.  It now feels that bit more confident about itself, just as it did during and after the Olympics.  That’s worth a heck of a lot in a world so often terrible.  Thousands of youngsters all over Britain now believe there is more hope for them as they strive to emulate him...

And what did he do with the £1.6 million in prize-money?  He gave it all to cancer research at the Royal Marsden Hospital, having seen his best mate recently come through chemotherapy.  How’s THAT for an example to us all?

Of course you can argue the pros and cons of human virtue, and analyse what motivates each of us to do what we decide to do in life.  You can agonise over blends of egoism and altruism behind each deed, each thought...

...but speaking personally, if Andy Murray doesn’t deserve a knighthood, then I don’t know who does.

(At the moment I’m trying to be unfeasibly good at writing for bright children between the ages of 10 and 110. You can find out more at