A Little Help From Henman

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Tim Henman reacts to the news that the Guardian have posted a link to this website.

So Henman crashed out of Wimbledon in the first week, denying thousands of housewives all over Britain their chance to screech "Come on, Tim!" at the television for the rest of the tournament. Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and this cloud is no different.

While the housewives bite their fingernails and plead with the television, the Guardian website (Guardian Unlimited) does a sterling job of providing the office-bound masses with a means of following Wimbledon from the comfort of their desks. In the case of Tim’s calamitous loss last week, Sean Ingle was the game-by-game correspondent keeping the nation up to speed with proceedings at SW19.

The format is simple: Sean sits in his office watching the match on TV and posts updates to the website as events unfold. He also fields e-mails from those of us following his commentary, occasionally beefing up his analysis with the nonsense he receives.

I loaded up the page in good time on Thursday afternoon, only to find that at five past one Mr Ingle still hadn’t posted any preamble. I e-mailed him, and so it was that his second post read:

We’re off! Tursunov to serve. Meanwhile John McClure (who may or may not be related to the fictional Simpson’s character, Troy) is in fighting mood: "Hurry up, Ingle," he says. "Step away from the strawberries and get with it." Will do, John. Once they’ve finished warming up.

I’ve had the odd e-mailed comment posted on the Guardian’s over-by-over cricket coverage over the years, but as far as I can remember, this was my first appearance on the tennis coverage. I was quite chuffed. I e-mailed back and, a mere five posts later, I was in again.

First set: Tursunov* 2-3 Henman I'd be lying if I said this was scintillating feast of tennis - both men are making mistakes, and finding the net more times than Andrei Shevchenko. However Tursunov holds on, despite facing five breakpoints in his last two service games. Meanwhile John McClure (see earlier email) is back. "I'm no relation to the Simpson's star, but I have been offered money to name my first-born 'Troy'," he writes, sadly declining to mention just how much.

Of course, that required a response too, so I took a shameless punt to see if I could get Sean Ingle to tell the nation about the Ultimate Olympian. Sure enough, eight posts later (and I should warn those of you who find foul language offensive that Mr Ingle does nothing to sanitise Tiger Tim’s potty mouth in this one):

Second set: Henman leads Tursunov* 6-3, 1-3 "Come on!" cries Henman as he recovers from 40-15 down to have a breakpoint. The inevitable screams follow but it does little good as Tursunov wins the next two points. Henman fights back to earn another chance, but Tursunov produces an amazing drop volley to hold. The British No1's response? A loud "Fucccccccccccccccccck!" - but amazingly the umpire does nothing. Meanwhile John McClure is back. "I'm doing all 136 Olympic sports", he writes. "If your avid readers can contribute a grand to the charity I'm doing it for, I'll change my name and enter next year's London marathon as Troy McClure." Well, any takers?

Like I said, it was a shameless attempt at self-promotion, but it worked - the "136 Olympic sports" bit was posted as a link to this site. Still, no one was going to pledge any money for something quite so silly as me changing my name, right? Wrong. A mere three posts later:

Second set: henman leads Tursunov* 6-3, 2-5 Another Henman service game, another struggle. From 0-30 down he recovers to 40-30, only for the Russian to win the next three points. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. "Which charity is John McClure supporting?" asks Luke Williams. "If it's a good 'un, and if the offer is verifiable, I'll put up £50 notes." Top work, Luke. Anyone else?

Crikey. But still, a grand is a long way off fifty quid. I e-mailed again. Two posts later:

Third set: Henman* - Tursunov* 6-3, 2-6, 1-0 After watching his serve go into meltdown in the second set, Tiger Tim holds comfortably to 15. "The charity is the Sobell House Hospice," says John McClure. "They provide care for people with life-limiting illness and support for their families. It's a very worthy cause. And I'm off to the Deed Poll website."

And so I was. To my dismay, according to the website, it seemed perfectly legal and entirely inexpensive for me to change my name to ‘Troy’, even if only for the duration of a marathon. I got a slightly sick feeling in my stomach at that point.

I thought about how I’d react to hearing of some stranger doing something similar - the vehemence with which I’d call him an idiot - and I thought about that occasionally asked question on forms one has to fill out, ‘Have you ever been known by any other name?’

Thankfully, the tennis suddenly got exciting at that point and all talk of me changing my name subsided. The end of the match arrived and I had received no word from Sean Ingle that the thousand pound target had been reached. I logged off, slightly relieved.

A co-worker came over to my desk. “Getting a good bit of publicity there!” he enthused, presumably having spent the afternoon juggling work and tennis coverage himself. “You never know who might be reading!” he added. I agreed - you never do know. Even so, I was quite surprised to find an e-mail in my in-box the following morning with the subject ‘Book deal?’

It would seem that Ben Heywood from Chrysalis Books Group had also been keeping an eye on the tennis via the Guardian. He’d followed the link Sean Ingle had kindly provided to this site and made a few phone calls.

I’ll not go into too much detail yet, but suffice it to say for now that, by the end of Friday, Ben had not only sent my contact details to the editor of the relevant imprint at Chrysalis (Robson Books), but he had also (thanks largely to some apparent goading on the part of the rest of his office) agreed to be my partner for a synchronised diving event.

He was careful to stipulate that he’d commit to the 3m springboard, but only offer his services for the 10m platform provisional to his form in the former event. Oh, and that he would wear Speedos for no man.

I’ve since e-mailed the Southampton Diving Academy to see if they would be willing to help us out. Ben will no doubt be relieved to hear that they haven’t come back to me yet.

Needless to say, I’ll keep you posted as things progress.

[The full transcript of Sean Ingle’s commentary is here in case you missed it.]


In other news:

Triathlon training is going reasonably well, if not in terms of quantity, then certainly in terms of quality. This week, I have done something that I’ve never done in my life before - I’ve enjoyed running. Better still, on one run, I started off feeling dreadful and hating every step, but ran through that and was really enjoying myself by the time I got home again.

This afternoon I ran for 25 minutes (five laps of the park at the end of the road). That doesn’t sound like much I’m sure – probably about 6km - but when I think back to how I felt several weeks ago after a mere seven minutes (and one lap of the park), it feels like hefty progress.

Of course, to get to the running stage of the triathlon, I need to first not drown for a mile and then cycle a marathon. I’m off to bed shortly so I can get up for a swim before work tomorrow.


Paul said...

Hi, found your blog via the guardian tennis commentry, and posted about your exploits on my own, raising the question about whether your book deal was already in place - sounds like I was being slightly prophetic.

Anyway, really inspired by what you are doing, it sounds like a great idea.

On the running front, I managed to slog my way round the Great North Run last year, and when I started training could only run for 20 minutes, so keep going, it does get easier as you go on.

Anonymous said...

Your mother and number 1 fan here!!
BUT--YOU CANNOT be SERIOUS!!I'm OUTraged that you could POSSIBLY CONSIDER changing your name --and in Wimbledon fortnight when I am SO PARTICULARLY proud to be able to say I gave birth to "John MAC"..might have to sponsor you NOT to change your name!!

Anonymous said...

Your hit map sucks, it calls NZ Australia