Push-back on this – especially from the Brits – is going to turn me into Sonny Corleone at the tool booth, but I think Wimbledon screwed up.
The scene: After a few short hard-fought hours, Andy Murray sits on the cusp of victory. Marcos Baghdatis is battling the crowd, fatigue, and some very poor play.
Thirty minutes ago, the stiff-collared traditionalists posted an announcement to players, crowd and nearby Londoners – not to mention the entire Twitterverse – that Wimbledon would cease play at 11:00 p.m. The curfew was implemented as part of an agreement with the tournament’s neighbors – who wants to have a bunch of rowdy, drunk, strawberry-and-cream-covered tennis fans passing through your streets at 1:00 a.m.? We all know what a raucous band Lacoste-wearing hooligans can be.
For thirty minutes, Baghdatis has folded like a WSOP rookie and the energized crowd has swing-pushed Murray to the brink of triumph. 11:00 p.m. arrives. Murray is one game from victory and, as Wimbledon’s officials stand by, he pleads with the umpire to allow one more game so he can couch plant on Sunday to watch EURO 2012 – England went out early and Scotland’s loss to Liechtenstein suggests Gaelic accents and Caber tossing are less than appropriate preparation for international futbol events.
In fairness I had to look up the term ethnic nepotism (def) in group favoritism for people of the same ethnicity within a multi-ethnic society. The point here is Wimbledon made a crass judgment that should piss off the rest of the world’s players. Oh sure, I can imagine those Brits huddling in their green and purple offices shaking like Parkinson’s victims at the thought of calling the match at 5-1 in the 4th set, with Murray serving and four points from victory. I can picture them on the cliff’s edge of “What do we do?” when faced with tradition vs. riot, the fingers on cell phone buttons to Buckingham palace wondering if the Queen will deign a five-minute reprieve so the sacred son can throw down a few aces in the quest for national salvation. But ultimately, someone unzipped and found a pair of Wimbledon balls and let the match continue.
But what if Murray had been broken? What if Baghdatis had decided to leave his Greek tragedy to become a modern day Leonidas – go see the movie The 300 and you’ll appreciate the obscure reference. What then? Would Wimbledon’s officials have shut down the Cypriot’s momentum immediately and told the players to stop? Would the neighbors have begun launching pints onto the stadium roof or thrown on their long white pants and taken up arms in the form of Slazenger torches to village-march upon the illuminated monstrosity?
I’ll admit, I’m not a big “rules” guy, but there is no place for favoritism in professional sports. Sure, I’m aware of the Romanian Davis Cup escapade, circa 1972, and the deference home teams receive when it comes to lunch buffets and clean locker rooms. But as pro players can attest, momentum plays a role in our sport. A point here or a point there can break a player or ignite a surge. Wimbledon chose to let Murray benefit from that momentum, and in turn, prevented the Cypriot from finding it. I’m calling a fault.
Having said all this, I’m glad I got to see the end of that match.
EURO 2012–FORZA ITALIA!
Craig’s blog can be found at http://bewareofdogmadotnet.wordpress.com/