Friday, November 14, 2008

It's about the personality - Allout

Some will say Chris Hoy and others will back Lewis Hamilton but neither of them really do it for me. Of course Hoy’s performances were amazing and to win three medals, particularly in the convincing manner he did, is almost beyond description. However, great though Hoy’s performances were, we need to bear in mind he was helped by the strongest team in track cycling with the most generous national funding programme, the best system and the leading equipment.

Hamilton, likewise was helped by the strong McLaren-Mercedes team and (let’s not forget) was two bends and a large chunk of good fortune away from topping Rob Smyth’s next edition of his great sporting losers blog.

No, the man I propose has had little help from a generous government programme or techies whose specifications can give him an extra split-second. The man I propose has been on a personal voyage in recent years from surly loser to gracious winner, making the tough decisions and sacrifices on his own.

The bald facts show that this summer Andy Murray reached a Wimbledon quarter final (then his career Grand Slam best); won two Masters series in a row (Tim Henman, by contrast, won one in his entire career); reached a US Open final; and is now the number 4 in the world. He beat the three best players in the world at various points and is now generally regarded as one of the very best all-round players. When was the last time a British tennis player entered a major tournament not played on grass as one of the favourites? These facts are only half the story though: Murray’s has gone from a point where his volcanic temper was a massive problem to where he can channel it positively. Even more that this – he has done this in his own way, making difficult decisions and maturing himself, rather than having a team of advisers appointed by others making the tough calls.

There are those that will say that the award is for the top sports personality and argue that Murray’s lack of natural charm precludes him. The 22 year old is hardly like to be offered his own prime time TV show but this is just one aspect of personality. Another is character and the will and desire to do things your own way, making the necessary sacrifices to improve. Murray showed plenty of personality when he left his native Dunblane for Barcelona at the tender age of fifteen; Murray showed plenty of personality when he ditched the coach appointed by the LTA and put his own advisors, led by a little known mediocre former player Miles Maclagan, in charge; and Murray showed plenty of personality when he outplayed Nadal (who had been invincible all summer) on the big stage in Flushing Meadows.

Murray has, in short, shown the character, will and temperament necessary to be an absolutely top sportsman. It is that personality we should be celebrating, and not the ability to fire off witty one-liners!


donwendyagain said...

Sorry Allout, not buying this at all. Greg Rusedski was once number 4 in the world and played in the US Open final. The masters series wins are very impressive but major honours are what counts like olympic golds or world titles. I agree that his dull personality shouldnt be a hindrance as it hasnt prevented some of the most boring men & women on earth winning the award previously and no doubt this years winner will be equally dull given who the favourites are.

He just hasnt had a good enough year for me, had he beaten Federer at Flushing Meadow, rather than being dismantled by him, then he would have been a worthy contender.

Well written piece though.

Guitou said...

I am 100% with Ebren on this one.Sportsman of the year is also about sportsmanship-Giggs is the man.

MotM said...

I felt that the matches against the French guy at Wimbledon, then del Potro and Nadal at Flushing Meadows were sport of the highest order. When tennis gets it right, it's fantastic stuff and Murray has the game for "tennis" to get it right quite often.

Very decent shout allout, but like my effort, too straight for the voters.

mac millings said...

nicely done, allout - 'fraid I'm not convinced either, though. It feels like you've argued that he has the potential to get the award in the future. As donwendy said, it's the Grand Slams (and maybe the Olympics) that matter - if he wins a Grand Slam next year, someone will have to do something special to beat him to SPOTY (which is the prize he's really after).

Allout said...


Thanks but there is no real comparison between our efforts in terms of style - yours had a flow that I can only hope for. My main criticism of yours was that Bolt was such a frontrunner that there was no real controversy in it. One of the reasons I went for Murray is because, being a dark horse, I thought he would have the right balance of being controversial but not too far-fetched, and would therefore lead to a good thread. That was the theory anyway!

don and mac - sure, his lack of a Slam is a clear counter-argument and if you look solely at success then there are others ahead of him. That's why I tried to argue for the criteria being a combination of success and winning solely through your own actions, rather than having the best technology, more resources or a strong back-up team. If you buy into that then Murray becomes a strong candidate; of course if you don't accept the premise then Hoy, Hamilton etc. are clearly ahead of him.

Thanks for all your comments - it's great to get some feedback!

MotM said...

Firstly - thanks Allout.

I'll own up to spending the last 18and a bit years working in a university, and if there's one thing guaranteed to rile students, it's when the brief asks one thing and they get assessed on another.

You've written a very good piece on "Apart from the obvious contenders, who should be the SPOTY?" (I'd have gone for Valentino Rossi or if being really controversial Alberto Contador!)

But the brief didn't ask that did it? It asked for a straight piece, then bloggers found those boring and went for a one-dimensional pisstake and a piece that wasn't about personality at all, but a single brave decision. (You stamp your personality on a Grand Tour, not on a quick BMX race or even series of BMX races, fun though it is). And there was nothing about Ms Reade's personality in the piece at all.

So I would argue that you were much closer to the brief than either the winner or the second and deserved better (at least a hon mensh as did Mac).

This week's topic is impossible as far as I can see, so I'm going to ignore it and write something different.

MotM said...

The brief has been tweaked now, so it's much clearer.

Now, where's my hatchet and my photo of Juan Roman Riquelme?

mimi said...

Having just listened to Murray's match today, I think young Andy is a strong personality. He didn't even have to show up today - already through in this strange tournment, but he played to win, and win he did.

Never having met him, I don't know if he's dull. He's certainly not the sort of media-friendly star of sport such as Rossi, Hoy, or my man Cavendish, but what a battler!

Not what we have come to expect from British Tennis where "niceness" gets plaudits.

Murray has had an outstanding year. I'll be rooting for him in this tournament.

offsideintahiti said...


I think that volcanic eruption "song" you link to probably gave the judges the irrepressible urge to throw your piece in the bin. Which is a shame, as it is well-written otherwise.

Apart from that, I stopped watching tennis when McEnroe retired, so I have no idea what you're talking about.

Allout said...


Thanks for your feedback and your kind words.

Interesting that you mention Contador. I thought about writing about him - winning the three Grand Tours within fifteen months is an awesome achievement - but I decided (rightly or wrongly) that it would be "cheating" for a Brit to write about a non-Brit. I got the impression that the scope was extended out of a sense of fairness to non-Brits!

As I say I thought that Murray gave the right balance of being controversial but not far-fetched. I don't do irony well so even looking back it was the right decision for me!


I couldn't decide whether to put that link in or not - maybe it didn't help my case but you win some and you lose some.

greengrass said...

Well-argued, Allout, but the only tennis players I regard as personalities are the likes of Nastase and McEnroe.

offsideintahiti said...

And it looks like Andy Muraille has just turned into Andy Muret again.

(apologies to non francophones)

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