David Cameron believes a lot of things. David Cameron believes we are all Thatcherites now. David Cameron believes dismantling the Welfare State is compassionate. In 1989 David Cameron believed Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Now David Cameron believes there is no one more deserving of a knighthood in the United Kingdom than Andy Murray.
Leaving aside the fact that Cameron is simply using Murray as a political tool (ironically, David Cameron is a political tool) and the sad reality that today’s honours system is less slaying dragons and rescuing princesses and more being famous, alive and not under suspicion by Operation Yewtree, there’s nevertheless been an increasing rise in opinion that the most coveted of British titles should be awarded instantly to every sportsman and woman who succeed at the thing they’re supposed to succeed at.
Ever since Chris Hoy was propelled into the company of Arthurian legends by being the best of the hundred or so people who cycle round and round in a circle for a living, any Briton who is good enough at the sport they do to win a thing is immediately propelled forward as a prime candidate for knighthood.
When Steve Redgrave was knighted in 2001 for becoming Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, he at least did so at the end of his career, having retired from his epic knight-worthy quest of paddling backwards in a small boat at the sportingly pensioned age of 40. It was a gold watch, a sprinkle of cinnamon, the cherry on the cake of his career.
Andy Murray is 26. He is in the prime of his ‘tennising’ and will continue to play for many years to come. Unless he’s forced to enter every court on horseback to the sound of trumpet fare while a parade of minstrels frolic in his wake singing the tale of his progress through the tournament, what’s the point? How utterly smalltime is it to foist this already quite ludicrous honour on one so young merely to curry knee-jerk public favour while we’re all a bit giddy?
And so we come to football. A sport whose status as the nation’s favourite already make it an obligatory point scoring stop off for any politician, from war-mongering Newcastle United fan Tony Blair to painted egg Aston Villa die hard David Cameron. And yet surprisingly football largely eschews this type of reactionary nonsense, perhaps because team sports are harder to apportion credit, or perhaps because football already exists in a state of perpetual over-celebration that it doesn’t need any more back slapping. Whatever the reason, football has sensibly managed to limit its knights to retired legends and Alex Ferguson. Even Geoff Hurst, a man who’s lived off one good game for a lifetime, currently enjoying his obligatory three year hibernation in time for Brazil’s lucrative gathering season in 2014, had to wait 32 years to receive his grandiose prefix.
But if the current rationale of winning the biggest thing you can win in the thing you do is to be applied sport-wide, then any push for Murray would surely be a slap in the face for many of Britain’s heavily decorated football players? Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Neville, A.Cole, Lampard and Terry have all won everything their domestic careers could afford them and done so with copious national service to boot. A good case could also be made for Steven Gerrard, while the Liverpool faithful already feel slapped in the face by the snubbing of their three British European Cup winning managers.
Of those players listed only three (Beckham, Giggs & Gerrard) have any honours at all, and those are largely for charity endeavors. Beckham will inevitably get a KBE tattooed onto whatever miniscule part of his body is left at some point as the most visible ambassador for English sport, culture and pants over the last decade. He’ll do so retired though, unable to step onto increasingly irrelevant pitches as Sir David of Leytonstone, minstrels in tow.
Giggs, who like Murray has already reached the penultimate level of OBE, will likely follow him before his half-century is out, and also like his fellow periphery Brit has already been championed for it pre-retirement for his dedicated services to anti-ageing.
Gerrard, a ladder rung lower on an MBE – allowing me to legitimately call him a member in print – could feasibly get one too, in time. Though if he were to be honoured before his fellow LFC member Kenny Dalglish, any lingering questions of its dubious meritocracy would be thrown further out the window than their current precarious ledge hanging position.
Frank Lampard, who’s A* in Latin makes him the prime candidate to interrogate a Roman priest over the whereabouts of the Holy Grail, seems criminally ignored by her Majesty’s cultural guardians, but is unlikely to escape a similar clamour upon announcing his retirement, if only from Chelsea fans, notoriously the most nationalist of England’s high end football teams.
But at least these erstwhile candidates will get to enjoy their cake after they’ve finished the meat and potatoes of their playing careers. Because when it comes down to it, sport isn’t that significant, and if David Cameron truly believes there is no one more deserving of a sword on their shoulder within its celebrated confines than Andy Murray, let alone outside of it, then he believes even more rubbish than usual.