(c) Colin Houston (colhou, flickr)

Andy Murray: ‘The great English tennis player’

As most of you will already know, on the 7th of July Andy Murray became the first British male to win a single’s Wimbledon title for 77 years, a historic day, not only himself, but also his country – Which is?

Obviously us locals will know Andy Murray as a product of Scottish breeding. A true Scot, with a slightly pessimistic demeanor and a blunt honesty that we all strive for.


But what about everyone else?

You would think Murray’s nationality was well known, with him constantly being in the public eye and his life being broadcasted all over the television; however, quite shockingly, the Wimbledon winner was repeatedly referred to as English, not only from general viewers but also some expert guests before, during and after the match.

One American guest speaker on 5 Live in the aftermath of the game was quoted as saying: ‘it was a big day for England’.

To those from outside Britain, it may seem like a minor mistake. Are there any real differences between Scotland and England?

But to us Scots, especially the patriotic binge drinkers among you, it is almost insulting. To have one of the leading sports icons of this generation being associated with those who were once our fiercest enemies (need I remind you of Robert the Bruce?)

Obviously referring to Murray as English is wrong, but it is interesting to look into why this happens. Why is it that people seem to only associate Britain with England?

The main reason is that London is the capital of the UK. The London Eye and Big Ben are the symbols of Britain. Just like the Sydney Opera House is the symbol of Australia and the Eiffel Tower that of France, our nation’s symbols lie in England. This is why, not only Scotland, but Ireland and Wales get forced into the shadows when foreigners envisage Britain.

When people think of holidays abroad, their thoughts of Britain will be of Buckingham Palace and the River Thames rather than The Giant’s Causeway and the River Clyde.

When people attempt to put on ‘British accents’ their accent will be one of upper-class English, rather than a rough, alcoholic Scot or a soft-speaking Irish leprechaun.

This association England has with the idea of Britain and British life is why people automatically think of a British person as being English as well.

It is easier for people to do this because these are what our assumptions and ideas of Britain are like. To an extent it is a stereotype, and we tend to be based around stereotypes, as they help us to understand complex things. They make our lives easier, essentially.

It is interesting to point out that this is similar to what happened during the summer Olympics of 2012 in London. It was a largely successful event, not only for the city but for the British athletes. They were a unified force spurred on by the home support and they performed well. When they succeeded they were hailed as our proud British athletes.

However, when they didn’t do so well and lost, they were usually branded by their home country of birth: Scottish, Welsh, Irish. As athletes they were only unified by success.

This is an interesting idea: the idea that we only group good things together. We use association because, as humans, our biggest fear is being alone. If we feel part of a group we feel secure. There is strength in numbers, and when those numbers are selectively chosen to be the best, we feel our group to be worthwhile and we feel even more secure. Association is how reputations are built.

For example, when the 9/11 tragedy shocked the world it also tarnished the reputation of Islam and the Muslim people. The actions of a few extremists undermined all the moral teachings of an entire faith.

Despite the fact most Muslims are peaceful, non-violent people, the idea of a Muslim person is now forever tainted by the extreme actions of a few. This is because of association. We associate large events to groups because they last longer in our memory, particularly the negative ones because we tend to remember potential threats rather than the goodness of others because of our innate instinct of self preservation. You may feel that this is an extreme example, which it is, but a relevant one at the same time.

Any country wants the best possible reputation. A good reputation is good for the residents and it is also good for tourism. English people won’t mind Andy Murray being associated with them as long as he is successful. They will use him as a source of inspiration for themselves and others while he continues to win.

However, there is no doubt that had he lost the final, he would immediately be re-branded as a Scot. This isn’t just feature of the English, us Scots are guilty of this as well. We as a nation come together to support our home-grown figures, but alter our interest depending on the results of their endeavors. We sing in harmonious unison when our combined representatives are winning and disperse when they begin to falter. We only want to join with one another to celebrate success because we all want to be a part of that rather than defeat. However, we cannot always avoid it: sooner or later we will have to face up to it-together.

Supposedly, we are known for our inner-steel. The ability to look adversity in the face and work through it. However, from the evidence here, perhaps this is an association which isn’t so accurate.

Image: Andy Murray with trophy © Colin Houston (colhou, flickr)

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One comment

  1. Interesting comment. I see a slightly different view of Andy’s national status in the eyes of our friends who live South of the Border. For many of the English the words ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ have the same meaning.

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