Wimbledon this year made me sick. Not the results (although the Murray-Djokovic final almost had me vomiting with nerves) – no, I mean the great outpouring of vitriol and spleen it engendered, during and afterwards.
I’d always thought of it as a good thing: an historic lawn-tennis tournament, praised to the skies by players and fans everywhere; the one they all want to win; an iconic sporting event taking place in dear old Blighty, swelling the Treasury’s coffers with welcome cash as visitors stream into London to watch it. At the very worst, surely, it’s harmless; so I’ve been utterly staggered by the number of hostile reactions I’ve seen on social media over the past couple of weeks.
Mildest were the gripes about ‘too much boring tennis on TV’. Well, OK – if you’re not a fan, it must be pretty irksome. But crikey, it’s only one poxy fortnight a year; a BBC event as traditional as the Queen’s Speech (if rather longer lasting), as summery as strawberries and cream. It represents a very small fraction of the time spent on televised sports every year, and a mere drop in the ocean of the hours spent week in, week out, on brainless dross like Big Brother. Millions of people enjoy it. People who don’t can find plenty of other channels to watch; and since Wimbledon coverage is here to stay, next year please give us a break – your moans about its boringness are, well, boring.
Then there are the howls of protest and derision greeting the suggestion that Andy Murray might be knighted for his achievement. True, he hasn’t rescued a dozen orphan babies from a towering inferno or found a cure for cancer (maybe because he’s a tennis player, not a fire-fighter or doctor). But he is the most successful British tennis player of our generation; 2012 Olympic gold medallist and US Open winner, our first Men’s Singles champion in 77 years, our first Singles winner of either sex since Virginia Wade’s victory in 1977. Deserving of a knighthood? I don’t know… but if the powers-that-be decide he merits one, I won’t argue. Oh, and the rows over whether he’s Scottish, English or British – yawn. Why does it matter if people wave Union Jacks or Saltires for him? He’s a great role model, a sportsman everyone can and should be proud of wherever we live or were born, and he may well go on to be the best player these islands have ever produced.
But all this pales into insignificance against the revolting hate campaign directed at Marion Bartoli, worthy winner of the Ladies’ Singles. She has been called (literally) everything from a pig to a dog, and in the foulest language possible – I won’t dignify the vile, misogynistic comments with repetition, but you can find a selection quoted on http://publicshaming.tumblr.com . And why? Because she has committed the unforgivable crime of not being pretty enough for the narrow tastes of (I guess) loutish young men who watch Wimbledon not for the sport, but to get their pathetic rocks off by looking up women’s skirts; crude yobs who are a disgrace to their sex, to decent, polite men everywhere. It’s depressing enough that this sector of the male population still views women in terms of their looks rather than their achievements; more so that they are unashamed to bray their obscene opinions to the on-line world, regardless of the widespread pain and offence they cause.
Bleah. So to any of you horrible trolls and Twitter twits with the IQ to read this blog, I’d like to say back to you all you have said of Mlle Bartoli – with knobs on; and to wish you the sad, loveless life you deserve unless and until you grow up and learn some respect and good manners. It’s some consolation that Marion Bartoli has the last laugh: she achieved more on July 6th than you detractors will in your pitiful lifetimes – and picked up a big fat cash prize in the process.
So three cheers for her, for Andy Murray, for all the other competitors, for the Lawn Tennis Association and Wimbledon in general – and in 2014, I’m going to avoid all the Internet tennis trolls who’ve made me feel so sick, and simply enjoy my favourite sporting event of the year.