High Ground edition 7; dateline 4 July 2011
Weather or not you should
Hello again from the barbecue summer in ‘Scorchland’. To be fair, it’s pretty damp and soft underfoot here in Caledonia, a bit like Glastonbury but without U2 and Coldplay. We do have Paulo Nuttini of course, a good Scots-Italian boy from Paisley with some of the cheeriest and then at times most melancholy (the Scots bit?) music you have ever heard. His last album was titled Sunny Side Up, which was about the last time anyone mentioned the sun up here, and he brilliantly headlined the Rockness Festival recently. One classic line from one of his song goes, “Standing here in the pourin’ rain trying to make myself a sail”. Yep, you’ve guessed it, even the ever-patriotic Mac Sideliner is fed up with the Scottish weather!
Hurry hurry hurry quick quick hurry (it's a song lyric)
Quick, quick: I need to make a sports link or I’ll get a music column to write as well. Got it. Paulo Nuttini, of course, is a Celtic fan. So that’s that then. Now what else has been happening in the sports world? Well, of course, it is Wimbledon again and we are back to the Andy Murray Question. The usual stuff is all over the airwaves as I write. Will he win it? Is he a choker? How much of a Mummy’s boy is he? What’s going on with his haircut? And not forgetting the whole ‘is he Scottish, is he British’ thing, which has got to be about the most boring ‘debate’ ever. So let MacSidey blow a few aces through all of the above for you, gentle reader from across these islands.
Will he win it? The answer is a classic Scottish response courtesy of King Kenny Dalglish, namely “Mebbes aye. Mebbes naw”. Let’s look at the facts here. There are four male tennis players pretty near the top of their respective games and Oor Andy is ranked the fourth. So the stattos would tell you not to expect better than a semi-final exit. The point that he has actually beaten the other three at different times in recent years means that you can’t rule a Wimbers Win out totally; and that’s why sport is interesting!
Is he a choker? Well, I don’t think so for the reasons given above and it seems to me that anyone, and I mean anyone, who plays against him seems to firstly have the utmost respect for him as a competitor as well as a person, and secondly those who do play him reckon he is among the toughest opponents they come across. The same accusations of underachievement were levelled at Andre Agassi in the first half of his career and look what happened to him.
How much of a mummy’s boy? Ooh, tough one in some ways. Judy has helped his career develop all along the way as well as that of brother Jamie and indeed of Colin Fleming, Jamie Baker and others in the Scottish (oops British) men’s game. So she isn’t really your average tennis mom, is she? Maybe there comes a point when someone in the camp itself may say, “You know we’ve tried everything else, why not try Judy moving back a bit?” but should he win a slam event, all that chat will disappear as fast as Agassi’s barnet!
Which brings us nicely to the next question. Why does a guy who has earned 16 million dollars in prize money, not counting his endorsements, cut his own hair? Perhaps he’s tearing out his own hair waiting for that elusive first Slam – I know everyone else is. You don’t have to be a genius, after checking out the Murray brothers’ old man, to work out that the boys might have a wee worry for the future up top. MacSidey has been using his new high-tech telly to take a closer look and I think there is very minimal wear on the court so to speak but nothing to be worried about. Murray’s thatch is way better than SuperMac’s was at a similar career stage and to be frank I think Rafa has more to be worried about. So absolutely no need to call Andre or Wayne at this point (well, maybe Andre for some advice on getting that first biggy in the bag).
Finally, the Scottish or British thing and how much of each, blah blah. Well, let’s remember for a second that this might get resolved in the next five years should Scotland’s independence referendum result go the way of the Yes camp. Until that possibility is resolved, let’s scotch a few myths and urban legends while we are on the subject. Andy was developed as a player in Scotland and then Spain so he is about as British as Greg Ruzedski. Judy reckoned the LTA academy system ruined the prospects of Jamie Murray, who had been world number two at age 13, hence the self-funded Spanish route for Andy. Of course, there are no guarantees in anything in player development but it may explain the perceived ambivalence of the Murrays to the British tennis establishment.
So here’s a couple of uncomfortable ‘truths’ for the media and for some people in Scotland. Andy Murray is both Scottish and British. What he most definitely isn’t is English, despite having an English granny. So there we are. That’s all, folks. Nuff said. He ain’t ever going to be an English player unless he does a Peter Nicol from squash or tennis develops rules like they have in international rugby; but let’s not get started on that again.
Now for the other uncomfortable bit – it has become the received wisdom for people in Scotland that “when he wins he’s British but when he loses he’s a Scot.” This has even crept into television programmes from south of the border, most recently on one of Lee Mack’s shows. MacSidey has to put hand on rampant lion heart and say I don’t actually ever recall England-based reporters or commentators coming out with the “British winner, Scottish loser” line. So that ball didn’t actually cross the line so to speak (steady now...)
[Note from the Editor. If readers would like to file this piece to read next year to save us the bother of writing it again, we’d be grateful.]
Meanwhile in the other round ball game
After all that tennis stuff I’m not going go near getting in-depth on the whole 2010 GB Olympic football team stramash; which is a nice wee bit of the Scots language for you, which you look up, you lazy so and so’s, given that it’s the summer holidays – at least up here it is – and the cut price childcare that we call our sports development programmes are up and running. MacSidey isn’t going to be side-tracked on this subject until after my own holibags, especially as there has been a much more serious story at the forefront of Scottish football. I speak of course of the recent case of a young up-and-coming footballer being convicted for internet sexual offences against under-age girls, the implications for his club and how this impacts on child protection in sport policy in Scotland. There have also been developments concerning the future development of the Scottish game in both governing body governance and performance development, and I’ll be back to chew them over after my break.
Bits, pieces and spaghetti
The national agency SportScotland has been getting itself in the news again (well, on the Glasgow side of the country anyway) after a welcome (for them at least) break over the last couple of years as requests under the Freedom of Information Act have been flying about like nobody’s business. Skulduggery has been alleged over funding decisions and organisational culture which is standard fare for any sports governing body and there will be more to follow I’m sure.
And finally, speaking of governing body land – that mystical ‘other world’ where everybody should be getting more funding than anybody else because their sport is the best sport because they say it is – we have a new leader on the track. Scottish Cycling has a new CEO in the shape of Craig Burn. Craig, fresh(?) from the cut and thrust, not of working in Scottish Fencing, but of a couple of years of local government (which some call the real world), is to take the reins, or should that be handlebars, at the cycling governing body – well one of the two bodies if you consider Cycling Scotland – bowl of spaghetti anyone? We wish you all the best, Craig, or, as they say in cycle sport, pass the EPO.
The High Ground
An alternative view of the Scottish sport, leisure and culture landscape