How Andy Murray's win has turned into a tug-of-war over identity

The running joke around Andy Murray is that he is British when he's winning, but Scottish when he's losing. This joke has roots in another that Murray himself cracked during an interview a while back. But there is some truth in the fact that many in England don't accept him as a legitimate contender for Wimbledon from their country.

Everything about Murray's spectacular win on Sunday in the Wimbledon final was about identity. The BBC kept switching the name of the hill where the spectators gather during Wimbledon matches from Henman Hill to Murray Mount. The hill was initially named after Henman, the English player who never made it beyond the semi-finals in the Wimbledon.

Andy Murray with the Wimbledon trophy. AFP.

Andy Murray with the Wimbledon trophy. AFP.

One reporter on the hill  said that the ratio of British flags to Scottish saltires were 2 to 1. When Murray won, Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, whipped out a saltire to wave behind British prime minister David Cameron's head. Nationalists later claimed that footage of the triumphant Scottish flag was edited out by the anti-Scottish BBC.

And then there was the  New York Times that had an unfortunate error in its headline which went thus: "After 77 years, Murray and England rule." The NYT's breaking news alert emails also called Murray 'British'. Some Scots were outraged by the NYT's blooper and declared that this headline signalled the end of the paper as a worthy news source. They also went on to explain how the paper was actually a proof of the stupidity of America in general. Finally, they declared that Scotland knows its place in the world and doesn't care if the rest of the world has confused ideas about it.

All this blabbering started just minutes after Murray's victory, along with emphatic demands that 26-year-old Murray be knighted immediately.

Britain and its media have particularly put insane pressure on Murray to win for years. Yes, it's nice to have a winner, but could any of us claim we could live up to the demands for perfection?

This noise over Murray is mostly about Scotland's insecurities - of a political sort at the national level and a personal sort to many Scottish people. So, the tennis star's victory is not enough. The demand for a formal British validation like the knighthood reflects the country's struggle with defining it's identity. The loud demands might also be similar in spirit to the flamboyance of the American identity - the Scottish people possibly want to emulate the arrogant confidence of the American identity.

A nation's identity doesn't have anything to do with jubilant flag waving at a sporting event, or with how a foreign news outlet describes a sporting star from the country. A country which worries about such things, is a very insecure country.

However, we all need to relax and stop subjecting Murray to a tug-of-war of identity. Instead, his win should be celebrated as an exceptional accomplishment of an individual first.

Updated Date: Jul 08, 2013 08:09 AM

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