So, even though I complain all the time about the hushed, pretentious way that the television networks present their "marquee" sports programming like The Masters ("a tradition unlike any other") or Wimbledon ("The Championships...Wimbledon"), I've got to admit that sometimes these programs, almost in spite of themselves, have a certain appealing, irresistible warmth.
Case in point: While Wimbledon (which I've made a habit of watching every morning the last couple weeks before I go in to work) was going through one of it's classic rain delays this morning, the network had to kill some time. Their solution: have Dick Enberg and Bud Collins basically sit at a desk and just tell stories for half an hour or so.
Collins, though well known for his ostentatious attire (see above), is also a much-loved and loquacious storyteller. Enberg, though not in my opinion as strong of an announcer as he once was, remains a relentlessly cheerful personality and a great ambassador for tennis.
Anyway, as Collins was telling a long story about some mixed-doubles tournament that he saw back in 1959, a few things occurred to me:
1. Thank god for rain delays at Wimbledon: a sporting event that prominently features a couple of genial old men telling mildly ribald stories is, I must admit, most certainly my kind of tournament.
2. It's moments like that which make it no wonder only about 9% of Americans still give a hoot about Wimbledon.
3. Part of the fun of being a tennis fan is feeling like you're a part of the very clubby exclusivity that a place like Wimbledon cultivates.
The fact is, Wimbledon does make me pretty sentimental. Not only did I play tennis virtually every day as a kid with my brother and my good friends James and Chris, I have surprisingly distinct memories of watching Wimbledon every summer at my Grandparent's Traverse City home. It seemed like every July for years two things we're guaranteed: 1. My brother and I would go up to Traverse City for the annual Cherry Festival and 2. Pete Sampras would annihilate everyone at Wimbledon. Good times. Is there anything, by the way, more likely to make you shamelessly sentimental than the Julys of your childhood?