Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bring Out Your Dead

The tumbrils are ready in SW17, the charnel houses of South London are preparing for an influx of customers.
Like virgins to the altar (oops sorry; this is not a Solstice piece) like lambs to the ritual slaughter Britain's young tennis hopefuls will be taken through the streets the place of execution, The All England Club where they will kneel before axepersons with names like Federer, Roddick, Williams and Clijsters. The axe usually falls mercifully quickly to cut off careers that had promised so much.
Every year at this time sports pundits ask why can Britain not produce a contender. And ghostly eminences of Andrew Castle, Chris Bailey and Annabel Croft rattle their chains and cry "I cudda been a contender." But seriously, could they? The dichotomy (Ian shows off his Guardian reader vocabulary there,) of British sport is that while we want our champions to win we do not want them to be winners. Thus is the British hope condemned forever to be the jolly nice chap or chapess who is nearly great. This is why Tiger Tim never quite made it of course, (apart from being saddled with a nickname taken from an under-5s comic character) he is just to well brought up. You can imagine him, when his opponent slams a second serve into the net to go three match points down, saying "oh jolly hard luck old chap," instead of suggesting that the opponent will soon eat excrement. British players might say an umpire's decision is rather harsh but would never suggest the official has an unnatural relationship with his mother.
English Tennis is about strawberries and cream, cucumber sandwiches and being a good loser.
Now who could imagine John MacEnroe eating cucumber sandwiches? YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! Johnny Mac was who he was because he ate steaks, raw steaks still attached to the carcass of a bull that had not yet been slaughtered. Do you hear what I am saying?
Winners are red in tooth and claw and if we ever want the annual slaughter of our innocents to cease we must find or make winners. Here is my five point plan.
(1) Identify promising youngsters at junior school level.
(2) Take them away from their parents in Surrey or Hampshire and send them to live with the Gallaghers from Shameless on a sink estate in Manchester until they are sixteen.
(3) If they survive to sixteen give them jobs as trainees in a Gordon Ramsey kitchen.
(4) After two years of that introduce them to the world of professional sport by appointing Mike Tyson as their personal fitness instructor.
(5) Once they are fit, find the school bully who made their young life hell, put him / her in an enclosed tennis court, equip the future champion with a tennis racquet and immunity from prosecution. If the bully is dead within five minutes or alternatively survives more than two hours of extreme pain and humiliation, hire the best tennis coach in the world and commence lessons.

Tim Henman
John McEnroe
Andrew Castle, presenter on TVAM and Former Future Wimbledon Champion
Annabel Croft, Celebrity Wrestling victor and Former Future Wimbledon Champion
Annabel's wrestling career
Shameless - Channel 4 comedy drama