The lights are on
Sporting history would be a dreary, desolate wasteland without the flawed genius.
We’re still painfully aware of Paul Gascoigne, not for his talent, but the fact that so much of his life has been undermined by familiar human frailties.
For being a bit of a rum lad and putting the Australians to the sword in one series, we lionise Andrew Flintoff, forgetting a career Test batting average of 31.77 and bowling of 32.78 were meagre returns on his talent.
Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray Live
Wimbledon 2013 TV Schedule
When : Sunday, July 7 at 9 a.m. ET
Where: All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London
Live Stream: ESPN 3
Head to Head Statistics: A. Murray und N. Djokovic Year up to 2013
We romanticise James Hunt, not solely for his 10 Grand Prix victories and World Championship success of 1976, but for the partying regime that accompanied them.
Ricky Hatton’s post-fight binges might not have been as celebrated as his brave ring triumphs, but they were part of what made him a hero of the common man.
And let’s not even start on George Best.
The “where did it all go wrong” legend has become a touchstone for those who love their heroes seduced by demons.
And there is nothing wrong with that. There is something impossibly romantic about a dreamily talented individual succumbing to destructive temptation.
But today – regardless of result – we should salute a different genre of idol. One who wrings every last drop of achievement from his talent.
This is not to undervalue the wealth of Andy Murray’s natural ability. He is blessed with an extraordinary gift.
But here is a sportsman possessed by the desire to ensure not one shred of that ability goes untapped.
Just under a year ago – in that Olympic summer – tales of sacrifice and determination proliferated.
But to maintain an obsessive level of commitment over a lengthy, successful, lucrative professional career needs special character.
The comfort zone is a deeply alluring place for an athlete already feted and already with millions in the bank. Murray has never been tempted.
But then we should not be surprised. While the extravagant funding towards developing British tennis players is intended to nurture champions of the future, it doubles as a comfort zone.
Murray never sought such a cosseted career launch. From mid-Scotland, he travelled hundreds of miles to play in boys’ tournaments. As a teenager, he took himself to the academy in Barcelona.
Murray’s single-mindedness seems everlasting. In terms of titles, he has been a junior member of a glorious gang of four.
It would be easy to settle for that. Yet there will never be any settling.
Plenty to celebrate: And thousands will be hoping for more today
Just as his game often appears to be based on remorseless pursuit, so does his career.
But it seems not to be a pursuit of material trappings or unanimous public acclaim.
It is a pursuit of maximising his gift. In an interview two years ago, prior to the 2012 Grand Slam breakthrough, Murray said this.
“… if you are prepared to sacrifice just a little more than your opponent, it will give you an advantage. If you’ve done the extra mile, you might have the better of him.
“I’d love everyone to see the work that goes into it, because this is not just a case of having talent and believing that is all it takes. I am trying so hard to get that edge.”
That hard work paid off in New York last year – it may well pay off on Centre Court today. If it doesn’t, Murray will simply redouble his effort to find that edge.
Chronicles of sport will always be sprinkled with the stardust of the flamboyant, the extravagant, the tortured and the troubled.
But there should always be a place for those who are unrelenting in their quest to make the most out of what life has granted them. And I doubt there has been a British sportsman or woman as unrelenting as Andy Murray.