By Ed Op
If you were an alien from outer space and you came down to Earth in your little ship and gazed in wonder at who we were and what we achieved you would be forgiven for thinking that Andy Murray was, in many ways, essentially a God. Not a God like God the omniscient, omnipotent creator of all things who is so perfect he had to drown it all and start over. Not even a God in Zeussian sense, an exceptionally powerful being with the power of thunder and lightning in his hands. No, he’s a God who for some reason is a God because he hits balls. So do BDSM prostitutes and you don’t see them on the front pages of newspaper being lauded as heroes, nor do you see them getting medals off the Queen.
Then there was the Euro 2016 final, in which a grizzling pretty-boy came off after 24 minutes but you’d think he was left to control the entire rest of his team with nothing but the power of his mind or maybe his impossibly chiselled abdominal muscles. I am talking, of course, about Christiano Ronaldo, who was the focus of so much media attention you feel tremendously sorry for the 11 or so other players who didn’t leave their shift early because they jarred their knee. Imagine if you worked somewhere where someone went home after twenty minutes, all the rest of you really put a shift in, achieved all sorts of amazing things unknown at your business for many years and then the entire focus of the industry newspaper is the one bastard who went home early? You’d be livid, wouldn’t you?
This is just how it is with sportspersons in the 21st Century. They dangle around like baubles on a Christmas tree looking all pretty and special and pretending like they are the most important thing you will ever see when actually they’re a lot of hard work, mostly decorative and only relevant for a limited time per year.
Somewhere in this world there’s a scruffy haired woman, with a husband and children, who see her less often than they should have to, because she runs herself ragged earning her keep as she works tireless at her job as a cancer prevention and treatment researcher. She drains her mind and body on a daily basis to try to solve one of the greatest health problems known to a population of stubborn, fearful humans refusing to die and so exposing themselves more and more to these illnesses. She has the power of mind, the skill of hand and the will in her body to assist in easing people’s suffering and squeezing life out of what previously would have been a death sentence. But, Ronaldo is your hero. Murray is your God. She’s just some nerd and what do nerds matter? So they’re busy expanding the horizons of human knowledge and accomplishment, potentially solving problems such as disease and hunger along the way, who cares because Usain Bolt runs fast and that’s infinitely more important. Usain Bolt doesn’t need a cure for cancer. Usain Bolt can run away from his problems faster than any other man. Usain Bolt is so fast he can literally outrun cancer.
It’s like we live in an alternate universe where everyone actually important is relegated to the side lines while a bunch of show-offish, flashy, but ultimately quite disposable celebrities get paraded in front of us as objects of our veneration. Like dangling a set of keys in front of a kitten or a toddler or Katie Hopkins – idiots are easily distracted by shiny.
I find it all the worse when it is sportspersons playing purely arbitrary conflict simulations with nonsensical objectives. What, exactly, is the real world benefit to humanity if a person can jump a really long way after having hopped and skipped? Does kicking an egg through a tuning fork really mean rugby stars are in some way venerable? Sometimes even people who manage and direct eleven other useless people to kick a ball in a certain direction at a certain target are elevated, placed on plinths and chiselled like statues of the Augustorum of Rome.
I am not saying we shouldn’t celebrate their achievements and appreciate the people who push the human body to the limit. I just want some damn perspective to it. I am simply saying that when a man assisted landing a piece of human technology on a comet whooshing through space he got in a spot of bother because some uppity wankers didn’t like his shirt. Meanwhile Mike Tyson is still considered a hero to many despite being a convicted sex offender. I am saying that Andy Murray may not be the greatest Briton of all time simply because he won Wimbledon twice. We have the scientists who discovered the structure of DNA ushering in a new age of biology. We have one of the world’s greatest living physicists. We’ve got Doris from bingo who still volunteers once a day to help feed the starving and clothe the poor on the streets. What the sodding hell has Andy Murray done that’s so important? Hit a ball? This nation likely sired the person who invented the damn sport!
We seem to continue looking at the world as a grumpy toddler does. The parents, those who work tirelessly for your continued success – your scientists, your nurses, your cleaners, your charity workers – can wipe your arse, clean up your sick, fill your belly with sustenance, rock you to sleep at night and be there for you all the damn time but your hero is some floppy dancing puppet on CBeebies because their overexcited presenter tells you that this person is definitely the most important thing in the world. Please, stop being toddlers.