You cannot be serious.
thank goodness Wimbledon is over. Every year, I dread
it. I loathe its faux drama, and its umpires on stepladders,
and its scurrying about with covers when it rains,
and its little white socks, and its hero worship of
grunting chancers with their fancy bats and their
halitosis of the personality.
This feeling of loathing
began in childhood. I had been on holiday and was
looking forward to getting back to playing football
with my pals. The sea, the sands, the frequent feeding
with fish and chips, while welcome and delightful
in themselves, did little as time wore on to quell
the longing felt for the well-scuffed ball and the
jerseyed goalpost. Imagine my horror, then, when I
turned up at the usual place to find all my pals playing...
tennis. Quelle horreur Únorme.
Thirty-five years later,
the wound still hurts. Indeed, in many ways, it has
deepened, as tennis seems every year to grow in popularity,
rather than to diminish, as one might expect, like
the Rubik's Cube, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and
It is particularly distressing
that this essentially English jessie game, with all
its snooty appurtenances, should have become so popular
in the manly and democratic semi-republic of Scotland.
The whole ambience of tennis reeks - does ambience
reek? it does now! - of Sussex and scones, and strawberries
and lashings of Enid Blyton cream. It is a world of
honey still for tea, and clocks on the pavilion, and
poncing around on the lawn, and Scots trying to pretend
It is true that the
English rarely win, and that Americans and other people
with foreign-sounding names seem to win most of the
time. But the English are absurdly proud of hosting
this egofest, boasting of their sitcom ground as the
headquarters of tennis, a word that so tellingly lacks
Invented by aristocrats,
its insidious spread into the parlours of the proletariat
has sapped the fibre of that now doomed class, planting
within it the ruinous seeds of aspiration and destroying
the healthy desire to level everything down. The sheep-like
way that folk flock to their television sets to watch
this tournament - a sort of Gladiators for pansies
- appals the disinterested observer.
Apart from anything
else, I distrust any sport that women like. They're
usually only in it for the thighs, and quickly develop
unseemly crushes on the participants. Sport is thereby
diminished to the depraved depths of pop music. Hence,
the girlie screaming at Wimbledon, which increasingly
resembles a concert by The Wham, or whoever is topping
the charts these days.
It is not only tennis
that offends, however. All games, other than football,
are in fact rubbish. And it is the disproportionate
attention given to these minority sports in the media
that has resulted in Scotland's decline as a footballing
Not too long ago, when
people spoke of sport, they meant football. They didn't
mean archery or snooker or skiing or water polo. They
meant football. Now, you switch on a so-called sports
programme sometimes and it barely gets a mention.
As a result, the nation's children are growing up
with the warped idea that football is just a sport
rather than the sport. I
exaggerate perhaps. Perhaps I have even got my facts
wrong. But I am not going to let such considerations
spoil my argument, which is based on reasoned prejudice.
At secondary school,
we were not allowed to play football - and it was
a state school, before you ask, though one with pretensions
(until it went comprehensive) - but were dragooned
into rugby, a game completely lacking in grace, and
cricket, a form of inactivity calculated to dampen
the most adventurous spirit.
As for golf, I would
sooner have my tongue tattooed with "Rangers 1690"
- and I speak as a Hibs supporter - than indulge in
anything riddled with Freudian undertones too terrible
to contemplate (I don't know exactly what I mean by
that, but just threw it in to discomfit the practitioners).
What else? Basketball? Don't be absurd. Cycling? You
call travel a sport? Boxing? D'you want a punch in
the mouth? Swimming? Has mankind evolved no further
than this? Soon, with the new season approaching,
football will resume its rightful place as the focus
of attention. Football is art. It is war. Chess. Journey.
Return. Football is love. Be it ever so Scottish,
be it ever so rubbish, it is the sport of gods. All
the others are mere games of the devil, and tennis
is by far his infernal favourite.
The Scotsman 15/7/2000