We have to protect the broadcasters from themselves

Don’t say it, don’t even think it.

After five sets of high-octane tennis spread over three hours on Centre Court, the last thing Andy Murray needed as he floated off the grass into Wednesday evening, was an audience with the BBC’s ever-present roving reporter Gary Richardson.

“Alex Ferguson was in the Royal Box today watching” Richardson breathed nervously. “He has been known to go into the dressing room after matches and give his players a bit of hairdryer treatment...”

Murray looked at Richardson a little mournfully. No doubt the US Open champion would have taken an hour of agony in one of his famed ice baths rather than face this mandatory two minutes with the BBC’s favourite courtside interviewer.  He knew what was coming.

“I don’t know it all” the Scotsman replied to Richardson’s suggestion that he might receive a spot of criticism from his coach Ivan Lendl. “But I don’t see why I should get told off for that, I fought as hard as I could.”

Richardson knew he was playing a stinker. This was his own Wimbledon quarter-final and he was blundering through it with a mix of stuttering double-faults and painfully off-target questions.

The impression from Richardson, indeed the impression from the whole of the BBC team across all platforms, was that there was just no way that Murray could lose over five sets to Fernando Verdasco. To suggest otherwise was illogical. After all, it’s his year, right?

I have a real thing about jinxing anything. In sport, in particular, the British broadcast media have a real penchant for it.

And, a generation of English footballers aside, few sportsmen can understand the nonsensical over-confidence better than Andy Murray.

Every year the tension, hype and confidence grows, every year the disappointment is grander.

Andrew Castle channelled the spirit of 1980s Cliff Richard music videos and gave it his own First4lawyers twist as he took to the BBC’s daily ‘Pundits Pick’ on Tuesday night to roundly put the mockers on Murray.  

It is difficult to understand how educated media professionals, scarred by decades of bad experience, can get so smug about British tennis’ few rays of optimism. But year after year, they get smugly ahead of themselves before, inevitably, being forced to eat humble pie three hours down the line.

Bet365 were offering a generous 7/1 on the Verdasco before the first ball was struck and, had I not lost my pin, I would have happily wasted £10 on jinxing the annoyingly handsome 29-year-old- returning Castle’s curse with a ham-handed lob.

But in the same way Murray seemed unable to offer but scant resistance to the Spaniard’s power in the opening two sets, the deluge of comments kept coming.

“The match turning” the BBC’s live text assured us as Murray broke at the start of the second set.

“Some things never change. But this match seems to be” said the Guardian’s own game by game commentary at the same point.

There was nowhere else to turn. I could not bring myself to listen to the Radio 5’s live commentary in case, as was the situation on Monday, they broke off from a crucial point of the match to talk about Pat Cash’s potential appearance on the senior tour later this year.

I haven’t been so annoyed since I had to explain to a then paramour that the Argentinean coverage of Chelsea’s 2010 Champions League exit at the hands of Inter Milan did not mean that Didier Drogba would be playing in goal.

So, Twitter’s warm embrace it was. Even in the midst of a British tennis storm, the limited shelter from the hype was preferable.

There is something strangely relaxing about watching a match through the eyes Twitter. There are no gut-wrenching nerves every time a sliced backhand comes within a foot of the net, nor panic as a mistimed lob lands just on the baseline.

Points and games are just numbers to be won and lost. Non-tennis fans rehash clichéd thoughts about Andy Murray’s nationality. The Times’ Neil Harman writes “Jeu decisif” every five minutes. Actual score updates are few and far between.

By the time I was on the train home, however, things had taken a turn for the worse. The former Chelsea footballer Jody Morris had taken to cockney rhyming slang (“This Verdasco puts soooo much Dusty Bin on his forehand!!!”) and Murray’s former coach Brad Gilbert- still highly respected after his work with Andre Agassi in the 90s- had taken his penchant giving players incomprehensible nicknames to new levels; (“Are you kidding me Muzzard in big trouble vs a very hot Tabasco”).

When Murray finally broke for 6-5 in the decider, the sense of relief was awesome. Unfortunately, the crowing sense of confidence was not far behind.

Destiny, fate, logic. The sporting media will not take yesterday’s near-miss as a warning. The reality is that should Murray find a way into Sunday’s final, the prospect of beating Novak Djokovic over five sets to end of one of British sport’s biggest hoodoos would be like winning a Grand Slam in itself.

The chances are that you might just have to remind them of that fact. I’m off to lay a grand on Jerzy Janowicz to win the whole thing.

Andy Murray beats Fernando Verdasco on Day 9 of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 3, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

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Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.