Sunday, October 15, 2006


Whether it’s a book, a film, a record, a promising sportsman or a rising politician, hype has become more important than the product or what an individual may be able to deliver.
Without it, you’ve got no chance in today’s competitive world. But often there may be little or no substance behind the marketing, packaging and PR. At best the performance can be disappointing.
Take Andy Murray, the 19-year-old Scottish tennis player who for over a year now has been hailed as the great British Grand Slam hope — ‘the real deal,’ according to the hype.
At Murray’s age, Rafael Nadal was the French Open champion. Boris Becker was 17 when, as an unseeded outsider, he won Wimbledon for the first time in 1985. Maria Sharapova was also 17 when she took Wimbledon ladies title in 2004. So was Maureen Connolly when she first triumphed at Wimbledon in 1952.
To date Murray has not only failed to win either a Grand Slam or a major title but has fallen at the first hurdle ten times this year — with nine first round defeats and, given a bye to the second round, getting knocked out by the big-hitting Czech Jiri Novak at the Japan Open earlier this month.
Despite the £500,000 fee paid by the Lawn Tennis Association to top coach Brad Gilbert, Murray continues to loll around like a rebellious teenager and still can’t seem to control his fiery temperament on court.
Seventeen-year-old Michelle Wei, the supposed girl golfing wonder from Hawaii hyped as a female Tiger Woods and self-styled match for the men, has failed to make an impact since she turned professional and ended 7 over par in one major tournament this summer.
Wayne Rooney, hyped as his generation’s gift to the beautiful game, has become better known for his height-of-bling home, off the field exploits and snazzy girl friend, Coleen McLoughlin, than his achievements on the football pitch.
There is a long line of ‘brilliant’ literary and pop music wonders and products which have promised to change your life and make you rich and/or happier that have simply disappeared.
But, way ahead of all comers, in a premier league on his own, the king of the hype without any sign of substance is the current Conservative leader, David Cameron — a man who not only has no policies but has the PR man’s (which he is) gall to try to make his excuses for this failure sound like a virtue.
As media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has observed about Cameron: ‘He’s charming, he’s very bright and he behaves as if he doesn’t believe in anything other than trying to construct what will be the right public image.’
No wonder so many Conservatives are still wondering what he’s about — or if they’ve somehow lost the plot.
Hype is all part of the smoke and mirrors world of celebrity, image and selling. There is nothing wrong with it if it fulfils what it promises.
But it fails so often that people have become cynical and are getting sick of it. Which means there is hope for at least one man — Andy Murray’s sullen fellow Scot, Gordon Brown.
Brown is no leader and struggles with the whole business of image which he obviously detests. But he does have substance. And in a changing public mood it might be his redemption.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2006. All Rights Reserved