How do you take the pleasure out of something so marvellous and joyful as Emma Raducanu’s US open victory last night? Easy — turn on Twitter, which spoils everything including sport.
Raducanu’s victory is truly a great triumph; the most breathtaking sporting feat by a female British athlete in our lifetimes. Emma is 18 and beautiful, just did her A-levels and got A* marks, had been 400/1 to win the tournament, never dropped a set — all these facts make her achievement even more delightful. I’ll stop the adulation there, because an entire industry of sports commentators already exists to make these points over and over. We don’t all need to join in. Yet for some reason it’s expected that we do.
Remember the Euros — it was only two months ago — when every Twitter blue-tick decided his or her online status demanded endless pronouncements on England and other matches? It’s the same deal. Politicians started posing online as serious tactical analysts. Lifeless corporate accounts lectured us about passion, the Three Lions and racism. People who don’t usually follow sport at all pretended to be fanatical about it.
Idiocy is memetic and social media has created that most awful of creatures: the blue-check omnipundit, who has to have their say about absolutely everything. Some sports people pronounce incessantly about politics, too, you may have noticed.
Even weirder is the habit of clueless media addicts to issue formal statesman-like congratulatory tweets to victors, or commiseration to the losers, as if they were some dignitary presiding over the closing ceremony.
The retweet-junkies of the world know that major sporting events are great opportunities to generate online engagement and improve your profile. The more vapid the better. (Confessing to being ‘too tense to watch’ while still endlessly tweeting is a good one).
The worst part is that, because even on social media everybody gets tired of making the same point, the political-cum-culture wars come crashing in.
That’s why Alastair Campbell, who should probably be having a break from the internet after his performance on Wednesday, felt compelled to tweet-lecture Priti Patel, the Home Secretary whose family come from Uganda and India, on what Emma’s story teaches us about the blessings of immigration. Other Labour figures did the same.
Idiocy is memetic, did I say that already?
There’s already been a mental health row over Emma. Piers Morgan was vilified for suggesting ‘she couldn’t handle the pressure’ after she withdrew from Wimbledon suffering from anxiety on court. Morgan is now being attacked for ‘backpedalling’ because he too has now applauded her victory.
No doubt a sexism row will now follow — about whether it’s creepy or patronising for men to thrill at female tennis stars. You can’t like Emma if you are a cis white male. Online, the fun is often all about ruining other people’s enjoyment.
On a brighter note, Jamie Carragher the retired footballer tweeted something genuinely funny about Larry David in the crowd at the Arthur Ashe stadium. And Raducanu’s own social media profile is endearingly amiable, restrained and professional. If only the political class and the rest of us could do the same.
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