How Andy Murray won the nation's hearts and John Terry lost them.
Two of the country's foremost sporting figures are dominating the headlines this week. One is the people's hero, the epitome of bravery, a captain, leader and legend. The other is a dour Scot who fails to win round middle England due to a lack of grace, an accent from somewhere other than the Home Counties and the temerity to joke about not supporting England.
Over the weekend, one of these has been taken to the hearts of the British public after a primetime emotional outpouring, the other appears in court this week accused of a racially-aggravated public order offence. And so while former England captain John Terry faces his nadir, Andy Murray appears to finally have been accepted by the masses following his emotional response to defeat in the most prominent match of his career.
It only takes one moment of emotion, one show of weakness, one boneheaded comment to change a profile that you might have spent years building up. In the cases of Murray and Terry, the new public images they've gained as a result of these moments might actually be fairer reflections of who they are.
Andy Murray has never appealed to crowds in the way that Tim Henman did (though much of Henman's appeal appeared to come from some kind of Centre Court middle class affinity), but he is undoubtedly more talented and focused than ‘Tiger' Tim ever was. He has never tried to play to the crowd, and it was his authenticity on Sunday which was so moving.
For Terry, his court appearance is the latest in a series of incidents which have taken him from national hero and father of the year to pariah of the footballing community. Here's a man apparently willing to cheat on his partner with a teammate's girlfriend, part of a family who have been caught shoplifting and dealing drugs, and who's allegedly made racist slurs about fellow footballers. Perhaps what we now see is the real Terry, not the airbrushed media trained leader.
Following David Beckham's slow fade to irrelevance and Terry's quick descent to ignominy, Andy Murray is now set to win the nation's heart.
But do these image changes miss the point? Our narrative driven society demands extremes. Either someone is a hero or a villain, someone who should be on a poster on bedroom walls or on the front page of the paper in handcuffs. Public figures have ceased to be humans, instead they are totems for us gather around or despise. We can speculate that Murray's dour appearance may be down to being present in the school during the Dunblane massacre, a result of the, very public, distance between his parents or the possible recent loss of someone close to him (as alluded to by recent actions after games), or it could just be that he has a distrust and dislike of the cameras.
We can similarly speculate about John Terry - is there something in his homelife, background or upbringing which has caused him to do the things he's done?
What actually happens is that individuals get caught in perpetual whirlwinds of publicity, and lose their identities for the sake of a caricature. We place identities on to people we have never met, and buy into media-driven stories about them rather than seeking to see the image of God in them. As a church we should be seeking to challenge these practices, but instead we are guilty of doing the same. Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell can go from hero to villain based on one book or sermon, and our view of them is formed from a perception about their beliefs and practices, rather than their humanity.
We need to see people as God sees them, as fragments of humanity with the image of God inside them. We see Jesus hanging out with the Bob Diamonds and John Terrys of his day, so we have no right to follow the tabloid's example in shunning them.
Let's try, even if it is just for a week, to look past the headlines and see the people. To refuse to judge people as caricatures but instead see the indelible mark of the creator that is part of the people in the midst of scandal, failure and success.