Let's talk, you and I, about the two most important sports in the world. First, tennis.
OK, so I understand that there are some people out there who might like to support Melody Oudin. That's fine. You picks your horse in any competition, but eff eff ess, people. She got to the quarter finals. THE QUARTER FINALS. She didn't win it. The media were all a-glow, treating her as if she descended from heaven above, golden racquet in hand, surrounded by a halo of light, handing out twenty dollar bills and Wellbutrin XL to everyone. "ooh ohhh! Melody - and we'll call her Melody, because we're ALL her best friends, is the first American female tennis player to reach the quarter finals since 1999! ohh!! ohh! I think I just came a bit in my blue pants!"
Woo. The first American woman to reach the quarters in ten years.
This is unremarkable because A: it's been done before, so who gives a toss, B: it doesn't matter where she's from, she's here to play tennis, not play political diplomat, and C: you're just inventing benchmarks in order to create a story. This isn't 'non-white man gets elected to the Presidency' or 'human being walks on moon'. This is 'slope-mouthed teen does something that's been done before'.
It reminded me of the shootings at Virginia Tech a while ago. So desperate were the media to turn it into a news "event" and get the chance to make some fancy graphics and give it a snappy Lifetime Movie-ready name, that they scratched and scratched until they could find something, anything, remarkable about it. Not content with "unbalanced nutjob goes crazy-ape psycho and shoots a bunch of people", because that's just dull, it had to be: "the first mass-murder in HISTORY at a university... in the east... um... by a guy of Asian descent... with a B in his name.... before Thanksgiving.... on a Tuesday.... uh... with the temperature below 60. ...IN HISTORY! HIS-TOR-Y!"
The in-game hype that followed Oudin in the day and a half between winning (not in straight sets) and losing the quarter final game (in straight sets) was inescapable. From the game that followed her's to the next day's games, it seemed almost every sentence had to have the words "Oudin" in it. It didn't matter if she wasn't there physically, the commentators made damn sure that she was the subject du jour. Pay no mind to... I don't know... the games that you're supposed to be calling play by play on. Just you go ahead and talk about something else entirely. Tossers.
Of course, the game itself - versus the foghorn-voiced, not-all-that-great-herself Wozniacki, who is going to get humped by Williams, if she even gets that far - was even worse. If they weren't crafting every sentence to deny that there was actually two people playing the game, they were masturbating over how Oudin's missed shots were "so close" or "brilliantly played" or "a minor setback for the plucky champion who can walk on water and heal the sick" and showing cutaway shots of some slackjawed halfwitts in Oudin's hometown, roaring their approval as they watched the game in a dingy bar.
Was there a live remote from Denmark, featuring Wozniacki's hometown support group? Was there mention of Wozniacki's skill? Was Wozniacki's performance even referenced? Not on your life. When the commentators were required to even make reference to her in any way, they got it over and done with as quickly and as tersely as possible, so they could get back to talking about how the sunshine was streaming from Her Royal Highness Oudin's arsehole.
Oh, and who was the first person they raced onto the court to interview after the game...? Was it the winner? uuhhh..... nope.
It's time to lose the homer culture, folks. This is tennis; the gentleman's game. It doesn't matter where a player comes from, only how well they play. And please... can we have some perspective in the future?
(and before anyone says anything, I'll be CCing the BBC on this, for their utterly shameless flag-waving coverage of any Brit in the game. They're not going to win, let's concentrate on THE GAME instead of the effing soap opera surrounding the players' nationality. Please?)
Second! Football! "Soccer" to those who hijacked the name for that other sport that, bafflingly, features minimal ball-to-foot contact.
It happens every four years: England qualify for the world cup, and Scotland don't. Any other nation in the world would be PO'd about this, but one of the wonderful things about the Tartan Army is that - qualify or not - we're going to have fun. Because that's what it's about. Premiere league football, well.... that's a different kettle of fish. Wear the wrong colour in the wrong area, sing the wrong song, make a joke about the pope and you're probably going to end up in hospital. But when it comes to the international side... wa-hey! Party! Everyone's our best friend! Even the fans of the opposing team!
Scotland is under no impression that it's a world-class player. If, in the unlikely event, we actually do qualify for an international tournament, that just amplifies the party. But we know that even if we qualify, there's no way in hell we're going to win, so we have as much fun as possible and see how far we can get before we're kicked out of the competition. A telling piece of evidence for this is Scotland's official 1998 World Cup song, by the woefully underrated band Del Amitri. It wasn't called "Hooray We're Going To Win". It wasn't called "Watch Out World, We Gon' Beat Yo Asses". It was called "Don't Come Home Too Soon".
So long, go on and do your best,England, on the other hand, seem to be under the impression that just because they qualified by beating The Independent Republic Of Caspiar on aggregate, the trophy is as good as theirs. This, of course, all stems from the fact that they have actually won the world cup. Once. Almost half a century ago. Thanks, mostly, to a misunderstanding over whether the game was finished or not. And even then, there's controversy over whether the ball even crossed the line or not. Here's what the guy who supposedly scored it has to say:
Let all France have whiskey on it's breath,
The world may not be shaking yet, but you might prove them wrong.
Even long shots make it...
Geoff Hurst: "I have to admit that I had a bit of sympathy for the Germans. They genuinely believed the ball had not crossed the line and they may be right. I can no more claim with certainty that the ball did cross the line than they can claim that it didn't."So, the four year cycle begins again. England will beat their chests and swagger into the game, sure in the thinking that all they have to do is book into their hotel in Johannesburg and the world cup will be waiting for them in reception, Scotland will enjoy the fun of the tournament, and root hard for whoever is playing England.