Andy Murray won a match and a lot of Scottish people are very happy. If you think that’s absurd, you’re probably right – Murray’s just one guy who got where he is by working incredibly hard to maximise his natural gifts and being born in Scotland has about as much impact on his success as him being born right-handed. Twitter is not awash with people jabbing their thumbs at screen in a desperate attempt to clumsily communicate their pride that right-handed people finally got their spot on the world stage though.
Scotland is a nation that is pretty into sport. Not playing it so much as drinking heavily in its vicinity, but we like it. And not a huge variety of sports either – the Scottish Sporting interest top ten pretty much runs as: 1) Football, 2) Football, 3) Football, 4) Rugby sometimes 5) Football, 6) Golf, 7) Football, 8) Tennis for two weeks a year, 9) Cycling if Chris Hoy flexes a thigh at us, 10) Football.
Our fervour for sport is completely out of whack with our general success at it, but completely in whack with our dwindling population and famously shitty public health record. Our golden years as a footballing nation were defined by glorious failure and dismal choking on the biggest stages – now we spend our days enjoying miserable failure and planning late-July trips to the small-to-medium sized stages.
So yes we cling to Andy Murray, because he is the most Scottish person he can be. He has talent and potential far beyond what his nation expects of him, but he is riddled with flaws. That wandering attention, that chippy self-criticism. The way he surfs to success on a crest of mild disbelief then screams at himself for failing to meet this new exulted standard when he screws a passing shot three millimetres wide of the tramline. He displays that naked, unmaskable mental process that swings violently between “Yes we can” and “nonononowefuckincannae” that distils Scottish uncertainty so beautifully it should be our national anthem.
We’re delighted because he’s us, and we don’t find ourselves in a place where other folk can hear us very often. I’m not sure how to explain that feeling to someone who lives in a culture that everyone hears all the time – I’m not even sure I can. It’s not like we’re a terribly oppressed people after all, we’re not a minority fighting for our rights in a society that is actively geared towards denying them – we’re just a bit insignificant in the grand scheme of things, so hearing a Scottish accent telling the world how it feels to be the best at something becomes a big deal for us. It reminds everybody that we’re here.
Any success would be enough for us, but the fact that Murray’s doing this in an era when you have to be one of the greatest players of all-time just to get the fourth-seed in a Grand Slam? This is excellence beyond our wildest dreams. And you know what, England can call it British success and join in if they like. We don’t actually mind England, it’s just that they have this terrible recurrent viral disease that breaks out in voting in Tory governments every so often and that can makes relations a little strained. Doesn’t matter though, we know where Murray’s from, and he’ll make sure everyone else knows too.
Yes Andy Murray’s success is mostly his, a little bit Catalonian training’s and a little bit English funding’s – but the fact that pictures of Dunblane (a place that might as well be called Anytown, Scotland) are transmitted across the world when he wins matters to us, even if it’s only as a wee irrational boost to our national self-esteem. Murray’s success means everything to us, and it means nothing at all.
That’s sport. That’s what it’s for.