Andy Murray and Marcelo Bielsa show honesty is the best policy on social media

There are few sights in sport as poignant as a champion raging against the dying of the light.

Last week ended with a tearful Andy Murray announcing that this year’s Australian Open could well be his last as a professional tennis player, and that he believes that his hip injury has essentially robbed him of a shot at further grand slams.

Then this week began with the result he feared – a defeat in the first round to Roberto Bautista Agut – but not in the manner many expected. A limping Murray, with seemingly no concern for his own health or wellbeing, fought back from two sets down to claim something approaching a moral victory, even if he could barely stand by the end.

It was the performance of an ageing champion. Murray fought like the lion in winter, gamely persevering and vainly fighting when all was lost and when there was to be no ultimate reprieve. Defeat, surely. Retirement, maybe. But definitely no going gentle into that good night.

Similarly striking was the reaction. An outpouring of emotion was in evidence on social media from those witnessing the performance. Close to a decade ago, wasn’t Murray an anodyne personality with all the charisma of a wet towel? Now, he’s a true champion and a hero to many, not just for his sporting achievements but for the manner of his defeats, for the size of his heart.

Maybe that’s because he appears to be one of the most authentic sports personalities of his generation. Feeling no need to ham it up for the cameras, Murray engaged on social media only when he wanted to.

He did so on his own terms and in his own way. And without changing a thing, he went from a man the media felt they could get nothing from to a personality loved by millions around the world for the kinds of qualities he showed both on the court and off it: a loveable stubbornness and a refusal to give in.

Such authenticity may be rare, but you know it when you see it. This was also the week when Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa called an impromptu press conference to deal head on with accusations of espionage aimed at him by Derby County and their manager Frank Lampard. He didn’t act as you might have expected, though: he denied nothing, apologised for nothing and laid out everything he’d done meticulously; he even did so in a PowerPoint presentation. He asserted that what he had done was not illegal, but admitted that not everything that is legal is right, and for that he’d accept whatever punishment was given to him. He didn’t tell anyone what they wanted to hear, but rather laid it all out on the table for no reason other than it was the truth.

This has been far more polarising than Andy Murray’s display of authenticity, and I can see why. But I get the feeling that the two will eventually show the same thing: that the fakery of the early days of the social media age has left us with a bitter taste, some serious societal problems and a keen sense for digging out a chancer.

Then again, maybe it’s just another sign of the times that I’m praising another human being for sincerity and authenticity.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 775 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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