I admit it. I failed the "Tebbit Test". For those who need a refresher, Baron Norman Tebbit of Chingford famously devised this test a decade or two ago during an England-Pakistan cricket match. The honorable Baron was rather disturbed by the behavior of British Pakistanis betraying Queen and country and cheering for the men in green instead. He suggested that if there was a 'cricket test' to see which side you cheer for, a large portion of the British Asian population would fail it. The tabloids loved the idea and ran with it and it was 'christened' (no pun) the "Tebbit Test". A concept the honorable Barron returned to after the 7/7 London train bombings, making us feel like the enemy for cheering for the wrong cricket team, but I digress.
So a few years ago when I pledged allegiance to the Queen and got a purple passport (to prevent latex glove checks at airports, but I digress again), it felt like converting to a religion without really believing in it. Will I cheer for England cricket when they play Pakistan? Not if hell freezes over! But I was a bit surprised when I found myself gradually cheering British. First it was at the Ashes, but then I told myself who doesn't like rooting against the Aussie plonks. Next I found myself deflated when the England Football team got the two failures under Ericcson and I cheered hard for Britain at the Olympics. So like a Jew who eats pork, I allowed myself this one excess in my "Britishness". Other than when they play Pakistan at cricket, I cheer for all teams British.
It was in the same spirit that I found myself yelling my lungs out in support of Murray when he played Nadal in the semi-final of the US Open. Here was a chance (for us British-yeah!) to make up for the years of under-achievement by Henman. And what a victory it was. Murray out-muscled the muscular Nadal and won a beautiful game through powerful serves and relentless returns. He was even un-Murray like gracious in victory. So on Monday I put the kids to sleep early and settled in for a rooting session for a first British grand slam victory since Fred Perry in 1936.
Federer was in no mood to be denied though for he was on his own quest. If this was a "coming of age" match for Murray, it was a "mid-life crisis" for Federer. This year he lost his Wimbledon crown, his top world ranking and failed to get the Olympic gold. He knew he'd be written off by pundits if he lost this too and perhaps he was equally fighting his inner demons after so many defeats. The way he answered those doubts left me shaking my head in disbelief and appreciation and left little room for melancholy at the downing of my boy Murray. Federer's flowing ground strokes were back and the nimble touch was present as ever. It was poetry in motion and as a sports fan you knew it was time to enjoy an all time great back to his best. Grand slam number 13 leaves him one short of all time leader Sampras (see previous post) and with the young and hungry Nadal, Djokovic and Murray closing in, there can't be many more left in the tank. So with apologies to Baron Tebbit, cheering Murray will have to wait and I think I'll enjoy the Federer phenomenon while it lasts...