Thursday, June 26, 2008

Strawberries And Cream?

As a fledgling tennis fan (not to mean I'm a fan of fledgling tennis - gotta watch those dangling participles), I've been watching coverage of Wimbledon's first four days. Watching it almost to exhaustion, might I add. On DirecTV, they have six additional channels available, so one can watch the action on various courts. It's scary to think that such immersion is made available to hungry tennis fans, and scarier to admit that I've been one of the zealots, fluttering about from channel to channel, like a schizophrenic butterfly zipping from flower to flower. Somewhere out there, I just know there's a classic rock cover band named "Schizophrenic Butterfly". It's a name just like "Acid Reign" or any number of names that are adopted by area high school rockers. With this amount of coverage, it's easy to start seeing tennis courts in bad dreams, and you bet they would be bad dreams. Nevertheless, watching hours of Wimbledon coverage invariably leads to me to noticing peculiarities of the tournament, the "tradition", and jolly old England itself.

First of all, being all grass courts, the baseline area from where the players stand and run the most, is a worn out, brown patch, presumably from too much wear and tear. That's fine and understandable, as most of the courts at the club are used for other events during the warmer months of the calendar year. On one hand, I suppose it's inevitable, but couldn't these days of science miracles solve this? Or couldn't they just spray a green dye over these brown patches just to make the courts look better? Plus, with all that wear and tear over the 3800 years of play at that antiquated place, why haven't the players just worn a trench into the ground there? If they can avoid the trench, they can avoid the brown. There, that's my slogan for my next political campaign when I run for mayor of Schaumburg. Hell, why not, they've got some good eateries out there, plus all the shopping! I'd imbezzle that sales tax revenue like Mayor Quimby. Next point about these brown patches that just annoy the hell out of me... The Centre Court (their spelling) is used once a year - just for the Wimbledon tournament. That's understandable, since they want to keep the court in as pristine a condition as possible for the big matches during the tournament. That being the case, then why are there still brown patches? For Pete's sake, after a year of non-use, can't this magic rye grass actually grow green along that baseline area? Drop some fertilizer and a little water on the area every once in a while. Teeing areas on golf courses are similarly shorn, get tons of traffic, and even the cut rate golf courses know how to keep the area green. Teeth and grass, those folks over there have some learning to do for both. I'm starting to think that they've hired some certified Brown Patch Specialist to pour Clorox and lard all over those areas just to keep it a nice crappy brown. I'm sure the stiff shirts over there would make some type of excuse that the anomalies add to the "character" of the All England Club. Yes, when I see a state of disrepair, I think of character. It's only a matter of time before I have yet another nightmare in which I'm being attacked by ravenous underground brown patch monsters.

Next, there's the stuffiness and rigidity of the whole thing, as if this is some brown-patch-laden, outdoor department of Parliament. Players must wear "mostly white". Mostly? Is there a Royal Judge of All Things Mostly? "Hmmm sorry, ol' chap, that outfit doesn't satisfy our mostness standards. Get most mostish and then we'll let you play on our mostly green courts." Of course, the line judges, staff, and related officials all wear, to an extent, uniforms. The judges have to stand completely stoic, which is understandable during the progress of play, so as not to distract. But these poor bastards stand still, like Buckingham Palace guards, to the bitter end of the play, even when the ball has been ruled "out" and is zipping toward their expressionless faces at 130 miles per hour. Put a hand up, Nigel! Duck out of the way, Quentin! You're probably being paid crappy shillings anyway, so have some self-preservation and protect what's left of your hawkish face. I don't get it. These people would stand still if a live grenade were tossed to them. Lord knows we don't want to break the rules and risk distracting the grenade-throwing player. On another level altogether, spectators aren't allowed to leave or return to their seats until there is a break in the game, such as between sets or when players change sides. That could be a hell of a nightmare if some poor shmuck in the tenth row suddenly gets a potty emergency after a bender of too many fish and/or chips. And who decided this was a friggin' opera all of a sudden? Is there a Wimbledon brig for any offending individuals that cough, sneeze, or break into a seizure? I'm sure cell phones are banned from a ten kilometer radius surrounding the place, Heaven help anybody that forgets to turn theirs off and allows it to ring. Off to the brig with the sneezers. No talking, don't cheer too much, just sit quiet. It's the sporting world's equivalent of study hall.

There's far too much emphasis placed on the whole "strawberries and cream" garbage. This is the signature concession that receives way too much attention during the course of the events. Now I'm as big a fan of strawberries as the next guy. They're juicy, nutritious, and quite a tasty snack. But for a sporting event? With cream? I've never had them with cream, I suppose I'm a bit left of center by preferring them straight up. But now with the cream involved, you need utensils, a cup, it's like those stupid cereal commercials in which people are shown with a bowl and a spoon wherever they go; at work, in the woods, on the train, etc. Too much work. Just sell the damn strawberries and skip the cream. You can serve the strawberries in a little box like french fries (sorry, chips) and it becames a handy, mobile munchable. These folks certainly haven't figured out the secrets of convenient snacking. Worse yet, commentators seem obligated to report the total amounts of strawberries and cream sold, which I'm sure is a far better use of expensive live television broadcast time than, say, I don't reporting the results of the damn tournament. Who cares! I want cream data and strawberry tonnage! Now! Get me the queen.

On a slightly - very slightly - more realistic note, they also sell fish and chips. Ok fine, this is jolly old England, and for once, this could actually be conceived as a good walking snack. I could see myself engorging on this fare, but it makes me wonder if they sell beer at the site. I'll bet they don't, perhaps one of the devoted readers can do the leg work on this and comment back. If they don't sell beer (which is like soda in the U.K.), then I can't quite see the point of having the fish and chips. That kind of thing is pub grub, and pub grub requires pub drinks. Anything else would be like white wine with red meat. Then again, a ban on alcohol sales at this church of a sporting event would reduce the likelihood of wacky hooligans, drunken ruffians, stander-uppers, and sneezers. They'd need a bigger brig anyway.

There are a few things that really could use some modernization for that place. I will grant them a nod for working on installing a retractable roof over the Centre Court, slated for availability in 2009. This was done so that important matches wouldn't be spoiled by the area's inevitable lousy weather. If the stodgy folks at the club can make such strides, why are people, on many courts, still operating the scoreboards by hand? What the hell is this, Wrigley Field? Come on already, my damn grade school gym, which was built some time before Westminster Abbey, had an electronic scoreboard in the late 1960s. Every time I saw one of these dopey scoreboard operators manually swapping and sliding tiles, all I could think of was Gene Rayburn saying "Slide it, Earl!" (This obscure Match Game reference was brought to you by Rice A Roni - the San Francisco treat!) I understand that this plague of Amishness only tainted the ancillary courts (there are nineteen of them in play), but jeez, join the 20th century.
In addition, there's a slightly new feature of pro tennis - the option to challenge a line judge's call and utilize a system called Hawk-Eye. This system uses triangulation and multiple cameras to track exactly where the ball landed, down to an absurd level of precision. It's a nice feature, and comes in handy for overruling a bad call. So I ask, why not just use this damn system all the time and remove the chance of human error in an important match? Of course, we can't mess with tradition, and it would remove the human element from the sport, but I think we have that covered by the humans actually competing in the sport. Who knows, some day, umpires and officials in all sports could theoretically be replaced by such computerized analysis systems. Wouldn't bother me, as long as the call was accurate.

As for the players, I don't know how this Ana Ivanovic could be seeded #1, she looked like an amateur out there. I'm betting she'll get bounced soon. As for the American players, I suppose all our hope will reside with the Williams sisters, be they a bit brash, all the other heavy hitters have been knocked out. Blake was bound to lose, and Roddick just lost, though he's kind of a stubborn jerk anyway. Nice fast serve, though. None of the American players are particularly pleasant. Though Russian born, Maria Sharapova is pretty much an American, she speaks without an accent, is the darling of photographers, she's rather abrasive, and she's also out of the tournament. I was ducking in my tornado position for her post-defeat press conference. There's no requirement to be "nice" in tennis, I suppose (unless Wimbledon imposes one), but she's rather catty, so I've seen.

I'll be cheering for my boy Rafael Nadal, of course. Federer's cool, but I always love to see these two play each other, and hope it happens again in the finals. Federer's deemed unbeatable by many, and I always like supporting the underdog in this case. At press time here, only two rounds have been played. My dark horse would be Hewitt, but I'd assume Federer will do his thing. I have to think that Serena Williams might pull this one off herself. We shall see, and I'm sure I'll be wrong.

And once again, I am SO SICK of these Vonage commercials at this point! They are on every damn channel, during every commercial break, at every time of day. How can these jerks afford the advertising expense??? It's ridiculous. Don't give them a penny, there are other options. Screw them. Sorry, had to stick this in. It's driving me batty.

Cheers from suburban London!


The Vapid Voice said...

Update: I predicted that Ana Ivanovic would get knocked out of the tournament soon, and sure enough, she lost yesterday. I'm good!

The Vapid Voice said...

Update Part Two: My boy Nadal finally did it! And I was close about the Serena Williams prediction, it turned out to be her more manly older sister, Venus. So I suppose I did ok in the prediction department.