Monday, 23 July 2012

Wiggins v Eddie the Eagle - the changing face of the British Anti hero

Oi Bradley, read the script! You were supposed to get a puncture on the Chans de Élysées, or do the gentlemanly thing and let that nice Italian pass you on the last lap, or even get your sideburns caught in your chain and come in second, bloodied but heroic. But what is this kind of relentless victory?

This was a Sunday when the sporting psyche was turned on its head. A confident Australian bottled the Open when he practically had his name on the trophy, and a plucky Brit closed out a victory without even a hunt of a wobble. What kind of summer is this where the weather and even the national sporting stereotypes are upside down? We just don't have a paradigm for understanding this!

Bradley Wiggins is a total failure of a British hero. Doesn't he realise, his role is to raise our hopes, try really hard, then fail spectacularly at the last to a technically superior foreign opponent? We can then satisfy ourselves by saying its not really a proper sport, or the way that these Europeans win is boring anyway.
For years we have had willing contenders to this anti hero underdog role. Tiger Tim Henman, nearly man Andy Murray, any England penalty taker of recent tournaments.  But Wiggins, he is not our kind of hero at all. We actually prefer the under funded amateur, the self made man who battles against the odds with pluck and courage. Pluck and courage are not to be dismissed, no one is going to win anything without them, but they are not enough in the hands of a jolly amateur who is having a go in the spirit of Eddie the Eagle. 

Wiggins diversion from the British cultural script is wonderful. 20 years ago he would have made his own bike out of spares, done sponsored rides to pay for the tour and finished after dark every night because he had a carrier bag of bike spanners and a halfords puncture repair kit swinging from his handlebars. 20 years ago us Brits were still suspicious of exotic European men in Lycra. We preferred our endurance athletes in tweed suits and handlebar moustaches. At least Bradley is part way there with the sideburns!

But now, this utter professionalism, where nothing is left to chance. We've never lacked courage, but now it is allied with relentless preparation and planning. Bradley even has someone pass him a ready peeled banana after the race. He has to do nothing other than cycle brilliantly. Poor, brave Eddie the Eagle never got near a banana or an isotonic sports drink, he was too busy making his own skis out of his neighbours garden fence!

So we salute you Bradley wiggins, Chris Froome,  Mark Cavendish! You British cyclists are slowly but surely breaking the contented cycle of plucky defeat in the British psyche. We don't want to be happy losers anymore, last ditch bottlers, we want to celebrate world domination - who knows, maybe a pile of gold medals in the next few weeks in the warm English sun will sweep away this failure complex forever - let the Aussies or the Germans catch it for a while - We are British and we are here to win!

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