I’m not a big fan of tennis on TV … apart from women’s tennis, which I would consider buying a 3D TV to watch.
I don’t have anything against tennis in itself – I don’t think much about it one way or the other. What I actually hate is all the hype and coverage around something which is (when you get down to it) really really trivial.
The slow-motion replays. The 3D-reconstruction of ball trajectories. The endless statistics. And the banal pundits who are paid a huge amount of money to spend all day talking about … nothing.
Have you ever watched a Wimbledon tennis match and wondered where all the time goes? It lasts all day! And then it overruns, forcing overworked TV-schedulers to cancel their hard-hitting documentaries and replace them with repeats of “My Family” as filler.
Armed with stopwatch, pen, paper, and an unwavering belief that people want the benefit of my opinion, I have done a time-and-motion survey of a recent televised game. I have identified the key activities performed by the tennis stars of today, listed in order of time-spent:
- Having pointless interviews with tennis has-beens, using phrases like “one hundred and ten percent”, “upping my game”, “taking it to the next level”, “need to get the ball over the net” and “only managing a semi”.
- Staring at the ground, bouncing a ball and presumably verifying that gravity still works.
- Extracting shorts from buttcrack.
- Staring at own racket, and picking at it just to check that a naughty pixie hasn’t switched it for a banjo.
- Walking away from the changing rooms.
- Walking towards the changing rooms.
- Drinking juice.
- Draping towel over knees to annoy the pervs with the cameras.
- Catching a number of identical tennis balls from a ball-boy, examining them with the kind of detail that would make CSI proud, then arbitrarily choosing one and discarding the others for same ball-boy to fetch like a retarded collie.
- Signing autographs.
- Endorsing razors in adverts.
- Actually playing tennis.
From this we can see that the amount of time actually playing tennis is a very small part of the “Wimbledon Experience”. Or to put it another way: “Wimbledon Fortnight” could be whittled down to “Wimbledon Afternoon” if everyone just stopped fannying about.
I remember being forced to play it in school, and can attest that it is entirely possible for two-dozen teenagers to get a game of tennis into a one-hour lesson when properly encouraged by an insane and very vocal Welsh PE teacher to “just bloody hit it, Simpkins!”.
It seems that the producers of televised tennis programmes have noticed this startlingly large amount of non-action time, and so try to jazz it up a bit by rolling out their super action-replay slomo cameras to recall the best bits. You know – just in case you missed the dullness the first time around, they can play it again for you at quarter-speed, from ten different viewpoints. That’s the best bits of pants-out-of-buttcracks, juice-drinking or racket-plucking. Those slow-mo punching-the-air-and-pulling-faces clips really make you experience the victory feeling, and don’t make you think about constipation at all. Oh, dearie me no.
It seems clear that these replays exist to gloss-over the unremitting banality of what is happening right now. Next time you see a slow-motion replay, consider this: they’re showing you that last forehand in slow motion to disguise the fact that otherwise you’d be watching two beflannelled halfwits adjusting their scrotums.
Does anyone else think that the amount of camera technology at these matches is rather creepy? Every single movement of the players is recorded in HD so that it can be analysed and pondered by MacEnroe and those other clowns. To spend hours discussing a grown man’s possible groin-strain problem and how he “grips his handle” and “gives a firm backhand” sounds like the dialogue of a bad gay porn movie. It won’t be long before the players will suffer complete camera coverage from the moment they enter the stadium … or possibly even before. Tennis commentary in the near future will go something like this:
“And here’s Nadal entering centre court now. Bit of a spring in his step there. What do you think about that John?”
“Well Boris, our hi-def ‘BogCam’ and 3D computer reconstruction of Rafa’s last ‘delivery’ in the changing room toilet reveals the evidence of a serious breakfast in the hotel. We’re talking fried eggs and black pudding, topped-off with eight bowls of Muesli. Our experts think they may also have spotted some sweetcorn. In the changing rooms we used to call that a double-flusher - and as we know, to deliver that kind of power from the baseline without a warmup or his trainer on standby is a very risky strategy. It may very well affect his game today. What do you think, Sue?”
“Yes, absolutely. But Nadal is playing the long-game here: he’s thinking ahead. A good bowel evacuation this early on – whilst being a strain now - will pay dividends later. His shorts will fit more loosely, leading to much less restricted inter-buttock action.”
“That’s true. We don’t want any more games to be interrupted by players sharting into their whites – this isn’t the French Open, after all. And we can certainly anticipate some world-class pants-to-buttcrack action during this match. Fortunately our rectal-cameraman is already covered in Vaseline and ready to give the best possible angles to our viewers at home.”
“Well, that’s great. Otherwise we might not have anything to talk about for the next twelve hours. Oh, I see the camera-crew are panning around the crowd trying to find the Totty Of The Day. Is that Rafa’s girlfriend?”
“Yes, John, I think it is. And we can see here our footage from last night in their hotel room, thanks to our infra-red cameras. It gives us a great insight into how she helps Rafa deal with pre-game nerves. Do you think that’s a big help?”
“Yes, well of course, Rafa has said before that he wouldn’t be able to play the fine tennis he does without the support of his family … and his girlfriend has certainly held-up her end!”
“… of the bargain?”
“Yes, and that too. Our team of hotel comentators inform us that she was in the shower for nearly an hour this morning – presumably trying to wash the shame away.”
“But surely that is the kind of dedication to sordid and depraved activity – not to mention her very flexible spine – that we are always very proud to see here at Wimbledon?”
“Absolutely. And it was good to see the ball-girl entering into the spirit of the occasion, too. And the groundskeeper. And the goat.”
If you’re not a tennis fan but are forced to watch, I encourage you to make a drinking game out of it. The rules are simple: when the coverage starts, drink a gallon of imitation vodka. Then, instead of having to watch it you can spend the time in A&E having your stomach pumped.
If you have no vodka to hand, then go for plan B: sit there shouting “Come on Tim!” regardless of whoever is playing. That normally gets me banished to my garage after about ten minutes.