The First Breakfast

I’m sitting here behind the computer on a Tuesday morning coordinating a few things. On my left, I have ESPN on, and they have a Venus Williams match on from Wimbledon, against some Russian lady I don’t know who goes “Whoop!” every time she serves. As I typed this article, Williams won her match and moved into the semifinal round of the ladies tournament.

I’m old enough (46 years old on September 6th) to remember a time when Wimbledon wasn’t aired live in the United States at all, but tape delayed. This was done mainly for two reasons, one being that there was a five hour time difference between the eastern US and the UK. Secondly, ESPN didn’t start up until September of 1979, so if you wanted to see sports, you saw them when the networks wanted you to see them. Very few events were carried “live via satellite” from other parts of the world because it was a relatively new technology, and probably had a bit of a price tag to it in terms of cost.

The seven year old version of myself was probably expecting to see an array of cartoons on the Saturday morning of July 7th, 1979. Instead, my Dad told me that we’d be watching the men’s championship match of Wimbledon starting at 9:00 that morning on Channel 8, our NBC station here in Tampa Bay. Bjorn Borg, the reigning king of tennis from Sweden, outlasted Roscoe Tanner in five sets to take his fourth straight title that day.

I sure I asked my Dad why they were planning so early, and that he explained to me the whole thing about time zones, which probably lit a few cartoonized light bulbs in my head. Funny what you learn when you learn other things.


Conflict Of Interest At Wimbledon?

Yesterday, I watched the men’s final of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, with Andy Murray once again reigning supreme as he did in 2013. This time, Milos Raonic of Canada was the victim in straight but tough sets, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6.

In the pre-match coverage, ESPN made note of the fact that John McEnroe was a “grass court consultant” of the Canadian player as well as a match commentator. While he didn’t commentate on Raonic’s semifinal win over Roger Federer, he did sit in the ESPN booth and gave analysis in the Murray-Raonic final.

Don’t get me wrong. As an at least 75% Irish-American, I admired McEnroe as a player. He often argued with the stuffy “old boy network” that ran tennis back in the 1980’s, famously commenting on a call that didn’t go his way in 1981 at Wimbledon: “You cannot be serious!

McEnroe’s done well in his post playing days as a commentator, and has called several Grand Slam matches over the years for US networks and others worldwide. But all that time, he’s never been in the position (that I can remember) where he was both a commentator and a consultant for a player he’s commentating on.

ESPN didn’t have a problem with McEnroe serving both masters, but I think they blundered in doing so. With all the coverage and commentators they had on the payroll, I think the best thing to have done was to have John’s brother Patrick McEnroe serve as the sole analyst to Chris Fowler, or bring another analyst in to supplement the pair.

John Madden was a great NFL coach, but he was never a coach and a commentator at the same time. I don’t think it’s the best ethics to let experts also serve as coaches or consultants. Somewhere, Howard Cosell turns again in his grave.

The Magnificent Murray

Andy Murray, the 2013 Wimbledon men's champion.

Andy Murray, the 2013 Wimbledon men’s champion.

I think we can safely say that British tennis star Andy Murray had a good weekend.

It is always nice to see a long streak end in the world of sports. A couple of decades ago, it was the New York Rangers winning a Stanley Cup to end a 54-year drought. A similar drought took placed on the lawns of the prestigious Wimbledon tennis tournament play every late June to early July just outside of London. No man had won a Wimbledon tournament on his own since Fred Perry in 1936.

And now, that streak is over, as Murray defeated the always dangerous Novak Djokovic of Serbia in three very long straight sets.

Even though I am of Irish ancestry, I’m pretty sure that moment will go down as an “instant classic” for the people of the United Kingdom.

Well done, Mr. Murray. Well done.

The Green Cathedral

It was my dad who introduced me to this thing called Wimbledon back when I was seven years old.  He got up one Saturday morning in July of 1979, turned on the local NBC station, Channel 8 (WFLA)  and watched something being called “Breakfast At Wimbledon.”  He was interested in the men’s final, being aired for the first time live back to the United States from England.  An upstart pro named Roscoe Tanner was facing the reigning ice man of the grass courts, Bjorn Borg.  Borg won the match in five sets, but Tanner was highly praised for giving the best player in the world such a hard battle.

So here I sit at a computer on June 30, 2012, watching a different looking Wimbledon, or at least it appears as such on TV.  NBC gave up the televised rights to Wimbledon last night, and now the Tour De France has replaced it on their schedule.  The Peacock was given to airing a lot of Wimbledon on their schedule, which meant you would see a great deal of it on tape-delay.  You could listen to Radio Wimbledon or follow a given match on the Internet and get the result you’re interested in long before NBC got around to airing it prior to the Saturday and Sunday finals.  It wasn’t how the biggest tennis tournament in the world should be handled.

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