“They’ve got a name for the winners in the world – I want a name when I lose”.
Steely Dan’s sentiment in Deacon Blues is one British sports fans could wholly relate to until what happened this Summer.
The days of being plucky runners-up and gallant losers is, temporarily at least, in the past.
The turnaround all began with the unqualified success of the London Olympics which brought an unprecedented haul of medals for team GB.
When Mo Farrah was interviewed by the BBC immediately after winning his second gold medal in the 5000m he was asked the secret of his success. He looked into the camera, addressing the TV audience rather than the interviewer, and said “It’s all down to hard work and grafting”.
This simple message was repeated in some shape or form by all the competitors and medal winners. In the Paralympics the ‘anything is possible’ philosophy was even more evident.
The icing on the cake for these heady few months came in the early hours of this morning (CET) with Andy Murray winning his first ever Grand Slam tennis tournament by winning the US Open.
I tuned into the match at Flushing Meadows after he had won the first two sets but my long distance support (via a dodgy internet connection to CBS) seemed to put a curse on the game as Novak Djokovic proceeded to win the next two.
I couldn’t stand the tension, the buffering and what looked like heartache so went to bed fully expecting to read headlines this morning about another gutsy defeat. What a great surprise to read of this ‘fairytale in New York’.
Murray himself looked too shell-shocked and knackered to punch the air and follow the usual victory rituals. Unlike Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, Murray doesn’t look like a natural athlete nor does he have the obvious style or sangfroid of his closest rivals. His achievement is all the more human and heartwarming for this.
With self-sacrifice, discipline, will power, hard work and sheer bloody-mindedness Murray and countless other Team GB athletes have given an example to a nation that may actually fulfil the hype of ‘inspiring a generation'; replacing a ‘mustn’t grumble’ fatalism with something resembling that rarest and most precious of commodities: optimism.