There was an air of inevitability about having to write this article. In a way it’s sad that it has come to this, but, its origin descends from how life – and sport in particular – is now minutely analysed. Which is almost certainly, in fact, a case of paralysis by analysis. No sign of simply letting things be anywhere. How many different camera angles are now deployed at sports events? Or who ever thought they’d see the day when there’d be microphones in the pockets of snooker tables so viewers could hear – yes hear – the ball drop in? Mad stuff altogether. Now, of course video technology is welcome in both GAA and soccer. Most other sports have it and the other two shouldn’t have taken so long. What it does though is boldly underline how analytical sport has become.
That fact manifests itself in other ways also. When a young protégé breaks through in any sport they’re going to be a headline grabber. Throw in a bit of instant success and they become rave material. Thing is, there will always be people who will at least find fault or if not go all out and begrudge whatever success is garnered.
Such a modus operandi has a more bitter and loathsome side dish. It sits somewhere between a CSI-like investigation and a sniggering, sneering at the wheels coming off the wagon. Such things have, unfortunately, become part and parcel of the worlds of both Rory McIlroy and Andy Murray. So much so that you’d wonder is it time the two of them sat down for a chat!
There are many similarities in their career paths. Both burst onto the scene in the respective sports. And very quickly it became apparent that both were prodigious talents. Success came quickly. But success brought the spotlight, mass media attention and ever expanding levels of expectation.
Which is all fine if things are going well. When the wheels begin to come off the wagon, though, it tends to be a different story. Analytical attention becomes a bit obsessive, is mostly negative and, in many cases, borders on the intrusive. All of which is actually rather daft as it ignores reality.
For one thing, form is temporary, class is permanent. And for another, human beings by nature are prone to making mistakes and changes in mood and form. Whether in sport or any aspect of life, people that are good at whatever they do don’t suddenly become bad at same overnight.
Now, it’d have to be said that McIlroy has had a poor season. That level of scrutiny his form – and life in general – have been subjected to has been utterly ridiculous. You can bet that if his head was never messed up – as some detractors would have you believe was the case – it’s bound to have been by the circus that now surrounds his life. Few could wonder if the young lad – and remember he is still a young lad – was frazzled and suffering from paralysis by analysis.
My own view is that, quite simply, the young man’s confidence is shot. Blaming his deal with Nike for the downturn doesn’t wash. Fame and fortune have been his since his career began. His affairs are most likely astutely managed by a fairly extensive group of people and – though some golf aficionados might beg to differ – the notion that changing his clubs could have that drastic of an effect simply doesn’t seem right.
Think about it – would Henry Shefflin suddenly become a bad hurler if his first choice hurl broke and another one was thrown in? Or would Lionel Messi become a bad player with new boots? Of course not. McIlroy simply needed something to kick start things going the right way for him. You’d be hoping an encouraging showing at the US PGA Championship might do just that. And evidence thus far suggests it has.
In Murray’s case, the inquisition is surely even more unnecessary. Even allowing for the fact that the British media tend to go mad about these things, some of the coverage of his recent form has been unbelievable. After being a ‘nearly’ man in his sport for a long time, remember this a guy who has won two Grand Slam events in the last twelve months.
Yet, we were recently told that his preparations for the defence of his US Open title had suffered ‘major setbacks’ when he was knocked out of two tournaments in the lead up to the action getting underway at Flushing Meadows. Don’t be fooled. Be sure the player’s main focus was on the bigger picture.
Even though yours truly is tempted to have a few euro on Juan Martin Del Potro, expect the defending champ to battle manfully to hold onto his title and be a force in his sport for a long time to come. If he hasn’t done by the time you’re reading this, be sure McIlroy will be winning before long again too.
So, let’s enjoy and be entertained by these great sports people. More importantly, when they’re off form, support and encourage them rather than dissect and damn!