June is almost ending and that can mean one thing on the English calendar.
The start of its 2 weeks of summer.
Well, that, and the beginning of Wimbledon on Sunday, June 29th.
And I love me some Wimbledon.
I didn’t really grow up in a tennis family, but we always had NBC’s Breakfast at Wimbledon on TV. When I was a kid, this was the era of John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert (Lloyd), and a whole host of other exciting players that I could happily rattle off ad nauseum. I am not going to say it was a halcyon time because each sports era has its own greatness, but I can’t complain about what I had.
The coverage on NBC was fun because it was headed up by Dick Enberg and Bud Collins. Enberg, one the most genial and elite play-by-play men in the business, is still working as one of the San Diego Padres’ broadcasters, even though he more than deserves retirement. Collins, the tennis expert, was…well.. quite the color commentator. At least, his pants are colorful. He used to talk about his fictitious “Uncle Studley” all the time and this gadabout called Fingers Fortescue. You wondered what he was smoking, but he also knew and still knows his tennis. They made quite a team and brought a liveliness that contrasted with the formality that the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club maintained and still maintains.
Stemming from watching such quality tennis, Older Brother #1 and I created our own tournament…Bimbledon. It involved tennis rackets, a volleyball net, and a shuttlecock. This was pure power badminton. It seemed the goal was to make the other sibling run around like an idiot, and if said sibling managed to fall backwards into a bush or into the swing set, all the better. Trying to injure my brother was a great way to spend a summer afternoon.
The Boffin had a different experience. Of course, he grew up watching Wimbledon, but the fortunate lad has actually been there. Lucky. He used to live very close to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club when he lived in Collier’s Wood. And he was able to get in to see some fine tennis and soak up the atmosphere, even though he wasn’t and still isn’t a toff (member of the upper class).
One advantage of England in the summertime is that the days are longer. Remember, it is at the same latitude as Newfoundland, so the sun does not set until about 10pm. That means you can get reduced priced tickets after 5pm. Considering that there are usually rain delays or extended matches that need to be squeezed in, there is usually some sort of tennis going on well into the evening that the general public can still enjoy. Imagine catching a bit of Wimbledon live after work is over. Nice.
The Boffin also got to take advantage of a People’s Sunday. Traditionally, there is no play on the middle Sunday of the tournament, but rain forced play on Sunday during the years 1991, 1997, and 2004. Reduced priced tickets were offered to the public on a first-come, first-served basis at the gate, and the Boffin and his late wife took full advantage, including watching a Michael Chang match on Centre Court. The Boffin holds so many fond memories of just being able to pop in and soak it all up.
Now when talking about Wimbledon, we have to talk about Andy Murray. Andy Murray became the hero of the U.K. when he won Olympic gold in the 2012 London games and followed it up in 2013 by taking the men’s singles championship. Apparently, according to the media, no Briton had ever taken the Wimbledon championship since Fred Perry did it in 1936, and Virginia Wade’s victory in 1977 didn’t count because she didn’t have a penis. You would think the British sports press would be satisfied now that Murray crossed that “t” and dotted that “i”. Of course, not.
Now, I am sure the average British person would just be happy if Murray just played out his career in whatever capacity he can. He has nothing to prove to anyone else anymore. However, since the sports press has to justify its existence, it has to fill up its pages with bogus ways of putting more pressure on Murray to win Wimbledon again. You read articles like this and that. Even the BBC is getting in on the act with this video. England still expects, Mr. Murray, even though you are Scottish.
Whatever happens, I am going to enjoy it because it is Wimbledon, and the sports press can’t do anything to take that pleasure away from me. And I’m pulling for Serena. I’ll also root for Andy, but I just want him to do the best he can. No pressure. I just wish my brother lived close by for a rematch.