They look like a row of old cosplayers, squinting through the late-afternoon sun at a guy who resembles a Tennessean. They fan their folded faces and nap, chins tucked into their blood-red coats as their countryman swats away at uncanny forehands.
They’ve come from the Chelsea Retirement Home to watch Andy Murray (the Scottish lad who is a ringer for Townes Van Zandt) win his first Wimbledon. It’s a crew of old British Army whose applause, considering their aged hands, must sound more like wind chimes than polite All England Club cheers.
Murray is prone to snarling into his racquet at himself. Self-deprecation and loneliness also being the trademarks of Van Zandt, the bard of Smyrna, Tennessee. The Redcoats rise slowly from their courtside box seats and cheer on Murray. It is a somnolent rallying cry, but all of Old Blighty is once again pulling for Murray to win in London.
But all you can think of are these ancient soldiers, like extras in a Pirates of the Caribbean, slumped into their seats like soggy pillows. The black tri-corner hats, the gold chevrons. You fantasize they have muskets and cavalry swords. You forget Murray is scowling and muttering his way through a semifinal gut-check. After all, it is the day after the Fourth of July and, as an American, you are still caught up in the Revolutionary War.
Rarely are Redcoats a sympathetic symbol in America. Capt. Jack Sparrow notwithstanding, even Scotland’s Great Scott gave them a bad name in Rob Roy. But it’s just too cute to ignore – as Murray, a son of Glasgow, regains his Smoky Mountains charm (the crooked teeth, the protruding Adam’s apple) and lays waste to another challenge to his throne atop Gentlemen’s Singles.
Why don’t we have something like these Chelsea Pensioners in America? Oh, we forgot: our veterans are considered “grabbers of entitlements.” Our bad. We mostly honor our veterans in movies and at stadiums and ballparks. Our real-life war heroes are pushed into Walmarts (for employment) and liquor stores (for enjoyment).
But we’re not here to discuss history or politics today. We’re here to watch and see if Murray can withstand the crushing volleys of his opponents and finally hoist that Wimbledon trophy. It would be nice to see the pensioners truly have something to clap about, to weep over, and perhaps launch into an old sea shanty (they’re not sailors, but we don’t care) or “Roll Out the Barrel.”
Causes Sean Jackson Supports
PFLAG, Amnesty International, AA, Catholic Social Services