New Balls Please…..

So, the very epitome of Englishness is once more upon us, I speak of course of Wimbledon and the lawn tennis competition where gifted athletes battle it out in the gladiatorial arena that is the 12 courts that comprise one of the worlds greatest sporting events. To be honest I can usually take it or leave it, if I am perfectly honest, although this year has been obviously different as I have been away on long term sick leave having had 15 doses of chemotherapy to keep me occupied. What I did not really realise I suppose is the individual stories of each of the elite players that have been allowed to grace the stage. Including one young lady who was repeatedly stabbed by a nut job stalker, she takes the view that every day is a bonus, and I certainly relate to that.

The renowned champions like Roger Federer and Rafa Nedal seem to have been around for decades and indeed they have with the unflappable Swiss watch that is Roger celebrating his 21st year at Wimbledon. He has as they say, been there, done it and always maintained an air of civilised decency from a man who speaks 4 languages fluently. In stark contrast to his maturity and longevity is the remarkable young lady from the USA nicknamed Coco. She is just 15 years old and has beaten the legend Serena Williams in her first match, and been adopted as the darling of Henman hill, and all the courts where people pay to watch.

What I almost enjoy watching as much as the tennis, is the almost robotic behaviour of the small army of watchers and ball persons who seemingly go unnoticed while all eyes are on the players in white. It never fails to amuse me how these guys magically appear as if unnoticed assume the obligatory position to then watch the ball like a hawk to see if it actually goes out over their designated white line. They have to bend from the hip with the arms resting on the top of the knees, they do not move, nor do they blink. There job is to shout out loud as soon as they think that the ball was out (to quote John McEnroe back in the day). This requires two skills, one expert eyesight, and two a very healthy pair of lungs, to bellow out loud immediately upon witnessing an impediment. All marginally ironic really as in truth they have long since been made redundant as technology has replaced them with a slow motion camera replay of every single shot called Hawkeye that clearly shows if the ball was in or out.

However, on the basis of who really cares, this Terracotta Army of officials are still allowed to play, and get involved, irrespective of their usefulness. And this to me is a very English thing, that is what we do because that is what we have always done, and besides it gives these folk a sense of purpose and belonging. Indeed I cannot help wondering if there is some sort of club that you join when your time is finished, where you can meet others and recreate your former glories, by staring at a chalk line for hours on end waiting for that moment of glory where you squeal like a stuck piggy as a yellow tennis ball bounces on the white chalk line specially created, for the occasion.

Interestingly enough I discovered yesterday while listening to the Steve Wright show on radio 2 ( shortly before DJ Silly boy starts playing his here comes the weekend big bangers just Jockin no g) who announced in the factoid portion of the show that the grass at Wimbledon is cut everyday to a uniform length, after a chap was bitten by a snake in grass that was 2 inches thick on one of the courts at Wimbledon. Honestly, you can not make it up, firstly there are virtually no snakes left in the UK. Secondly how the hell did it end up on a court in Wimbledon, but there you have it, strange but true. So, we will watch with interest to see just who will triumph, and walk away as the champion of Wimbledon, and then we will all do exactly the same next year. Where no doubt newer balls will be presented.

Written by Austin Birks

July 5, 2019

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