The Rant: Why Wimbledon is for people who don't like sport

This cosy tennis love-in represents the most annoying two weeks of the TV year

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Another fortnight, another run through one of summer’s most bizarre traditions. Wimbledon on the BBC.

As a TV sport obsessive capable of knocking off hours of even the most dubious sporting action, from Copa America group games to last week's British Speedway championships from Peterborough (a personal lowpoint), Wimbledon should be marked up in my calendar with a red felt tip; a true crown jewel for the armchair fan, offering wall to wall TV coverage, local interest and a sport that's hard to match in its combination of skill and athleticism.

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So why is the whole thing so damn irritating? 

The short answer is that the TV coverage is pitched at people who know nothing about sport. It's now little more than a series of clichés to be ticked off a BBC production clipboard.

There’s the inevitable human interest report from the queue where some tragic husband from Somerset has been forced to effectively sleep rough so his tennis-obsessed wife can catch Novak Djokovic humiliating some unknown in straight sets on Centre. Poor bastard.

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There’s Sue Barker, the poor man’s Clare Balding, who’ll be waiting in the wings at the end of big matches in a fuschia coloured trouser suit, like an embarrassing mum picking up her kids from sports day.

Is she going to ask the losing player a tricky question about why he lost two consecutive service games in the final set? Or will she just hold her head to one side, smile and say “Ahhhh, bad luck.” 

There's that shot of the city skyline which the producer is always cutting to, panning from The London Eye to Wimbledon Park before the camera rests on the "majestic sight" of Centre Court.

There’s John Inverdale asking John McEnroe just “what is it that makes Wimbledon so special?”. Jesus, not again. Are we Brits so insecure that we need constant approval from foreigners that our tournament is the most 'special'?

There's a plethora of middle-aged pundits from Becker to Castle with giant heads and even bigger hair who fit the housewives' eye candy role, because this, after all, is the target market. 

For two weeks, people who wouldn’t recognise Leo Messi if he was staying in the spare room, suddenly start spouting off about the Maran Cilic's first service percentage. 

When your Mum starts saying "Too good" at the sight of a clean winner, you know this sport's no longer for you.

Will these same conspicuous and annoyingly shouty tennis 'fans' be watching Cilic when he gets kicked out of the Swiss Masters in November? It's not clear they know that tennis exists outside of June/July in SW19.

Its status now sits somewhere between Shakespeare in the Park, Last Night At The Proms and The Chelsea Flower Show.

The sport bit is still there, but it's now buried deep it's closer to a scripted sideshow designed to be enjoyed in between finger sandwiches and half bottles of champagne.

A nice distraction between the real reason for going – doing slow hand claps when the angry-looking Argentinian starts arguing with the umpire. And wolf-whistling when he takes his shirt off in between sets.

Look how we laugh when a pigeon hops merrily onto centre.

Look how we gasp when a rally of more than 12 shots ends with a drop shot that hits the net. But wait… he’s got it. Amazing. And now the one with the headband who we don't know the name of or even where's he from has responded with an instinctive lob volley… but it’s just out! Marvellous stuff.

“Unbelievable” Andrew Castle will splutter when the applause has subsided, as the camera pans out to the high-pitched squealing from Murray Mount or whatever they're calling it this year. “Quite unbelievable.”

I couldn't agree more.

Disagree? Tell us why in the comments below.


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