I've been watching Wimbledon. Loving Wimbledon. A fortnight of fun viewing. That makes me a hypocrite. Here's why.
Except for Wimbledon, I watch almost no tennis, barely keep up with who's hot and who's not, pay scant attention to the rankings or the gossip, although it was impossible to miss the delicious pre-tournament dishing between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. Sure, I'll usually watch the U.S. Open, but only the finals.
For me, the U.S. Open doesn't offer the daily atmospheric elegance, glitz and buzz (and, it should be added, the bombastic buffoonery of so-called royalty) of Wimbledon. I probably feel that way because I've never been to England, and Wimbledon seems so cultured and rarefied and steeped in history, whereas I grew up in Queens and know that, for better or worse, there is no prim and proper pomp there. In fact it could be a stand-in for Gertrude Stein's Oakland — no there there, U.S. Open or no U.S. Open.
I also love Wimbledon for a reason that deserves mention despite its obviousness. It's the grand stage for some of the most splendid athletes and truly gifted champions on the planet. Two of them, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the latter of whom might be the best ever, suffered stunning early eliminations last week, the mighty humbled by lowly ranked virtual unknowns. On the women's side, No. 3-ranked Sharapova lost to an opponent ranked 131st.
Because tennis celebrates not the pack mentality of team identity but glorious individualism, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis and Michelle Larcher de Brito instantly became famous names in the sport. At least until they were defeated, at which time they became trivia answers. Still.
Why is my enjoyment and celebration of Wimbledon proof of being a hypocrite?
Because I do follow baseball, football and basketball. Closely. Very closely. Nerd-like. And when it's World Series or Super Bowl or NBA Finals time and a friend or acquaintance who's less than a nerd-like fan wants to idly chat about the big game or big series but barely knows the difference between the penalty box and the on-deck circle or a shootout from a shutout or a third-and-1 from a three-on-one, well, I have little patience. I tend to be, well, snobbish.
I mean, come on. If you're interested in the World Series merely because it's the World Series, without the requisite credentials in baseball history and statistical knowledge of every player, including the third-string catcher and the left-handed relief specialist, don't waste my time. Same idea goes for the Super Bowl and NBA Finals. But I love Wimbledon and want to talk about Wimbledon without knowing all that much about tennis. I confess. I'm a hypocrite.
I watched the Stanley Cup final. And when Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 of Game 6 Monday night and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 and won the Cup, I was ecstatic, electrified. And I have zero allegiance to the Blackhawks. None. If the Bruins had held on and forced a Game 7, I would have loved that, too. It's all good.
I was immersed in the action because the Stanley Cup is hockey's grand stage, and it's riveting unscripted drama, athletes as performing artists competing for their sport's biggest prize. The competition is crazy-intense, the speed and skill jaw-dropping, spectacular.
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