Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory ended a 77-year drought for the British men’s singles in a tournament that is the source of national pride. Murray’s victory in the finals over Novak Djokovic led to a collective cheer across the country and might earn Murray a knighthood down the road. In America, it seems that there is not a title we are seeking desperately, a drought that weighs on our minds, or a victory that would bring about collective celebration. This to an interesting question, what is America’s Wimbledon?
In general, the American sports scene is heavily focused internally. The sports Americans care deeply about are almost always won by American entities in baseball, basketball, football, golf and NASCAR. American teams even dominate hockey, a sport the Canadians hold dear. There have been 20 years of successive Stanley Cup victories by teams south of the border. Americans constantly have national figures in individual sports to look up to in Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Lance Armstrong (back when he was competing). Even in tennis, it was not long ago that Pete Sampras ruled the courts under the United States flag.
In the future, it is possible America could see such a streak of external dominance. It seems inevitable that the NFL, NBA or MLB will expand their leagues overseas, hurting the brand at home, but making massive money abroad. What happens when other countries starts dominating those sports down the road? There will definitely be outrage the first time the London Redcoats steal the Super Bowl off the continent.
Currently, the Masters seems like the grounds for such an American drought if other countries golfers collectively overtake the United States. A 50-year drought at the Masters would cause angst among golf fans. However, golf continues to be a quintessential American sport, with a tradition and history that points to contenders for decades to come.
Would Americans feel tension if a male tennis player does not win another U.S. Open? Andy Roddick won in 2003. If by 2040 no man has matched his feat that could cause a stir among American sports fans. I’m not sure the passion is there here like Wimbledon is for Great Britain though. The feeling would probably be nothing more than the 30 seconds of disappointment I feel every year when a horse fails to win the Triple Crown. Tennis and golf are not ingrained in the foundation of our sports.
The appropriate field for collective interest in sports is on the world stage. In the Olympics, the Americans still do very well each cycle. The U.S. captured 104 medals, 46 gold in the London Summer games last year, winning both counts. Britain managed just 65 medals in third place behind China.
The most rallying moment in the Olympics of the last few years, besides Michael Phelps, was the U.S. men’s hockey team in Vancouver. It was the most watched cable hockey match of all time in the States and the overtime loss to Canada still brought memories of the Miracle on Ice frenzy of 1980. Those moments in Olympic history, like Jesse Owens gold medal in Nazi Germany, do rally the country, but with no drought like Wimbledon.
On the world’s game stage, the U.S. has never won the Soccer Men’s World Cup, but the bitterness in this sport again belongs to England, who won the tournament just once in 1966. Since Britain is the soccer capital of the world, this causes anguish similar to when the U.S. fails to capture gold in basketball. The American’s have finished third one time in the 1930 World Cup, but soccer is not an American identity sport. Perhaps a great team would change the U.S. fan’s relationship with the game, but if no one cares about the drought, is the victory sweet?
America may just have too big of a sports community with too many allegiances to really rally around an event. On local levels, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox had long waits to a championship, while the Chicago Cubs continue to endure the curse of the Goat – they have not one a championship since 1908. Cleveland’s last Championship, despite having three professional teams, was in 1964, when the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship in the pre-Super Bowl era. Cleveland has an embarrassing unlucky streak, from the Drive to the Decision.
While Britain ended its Wimbledon drought, America has now entered its yearly sports drought around the MLB All-Star break. The day after baseball’s stars compete for World Series home field advantage, there is a day without any American major league sports. This is also the time of year where downtrodden baseball fans look ahead to the autumn and dream of the NFL, NBA and NHL. There’s no pining over a collective drought here, just hopes of a championship in a team sport.