In an attempt to sell magazines and presumably stir interest in this year’s Wimbledon Championships, Vanity Fair asked Pippa Middleton, younger sister of Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, future Queen of the Motherland, to pen a tournament preview.
I’m certain it isn’t in good taste for a non-royal subject such as myself, heir to not even a folding chair, to describe as “mindless drivel” the writings of Miss Middleton. Nor would I imagine young Pippa cares greatly about her page views. But this “snapshot” seems like a fair microcosm of her magazine piece: “I also love the Wimbledon pigeons. The live television coverage occasionally zooms in on these familiar tennis mascots as they roost and lark about during match play. It would be a shame if Rufus (The Hawk) did his job too well and scared them all off.”
That should stir the masses.
If only Rufus was a top seed on the men’s side, there might actually be some interest in this fortnight. (That means 14 days. I’m just trying out some good English to see how it fits. Not well.)
Individual sports, at least on television and in the general world of media consumption, are only as big as their signature events. Football: Super Bowl. Baseball: World Series. Golf: Masters.
Tennis has Wimbledon. The sport and the event need personality transplants. Wimbledon is far removed from appointment television.
I didn’t play a ton of tennis growing up. But Arthur Ashe was a hero of mine, the 1980 John McEnroe-Bjorn Borg match remains one of the greatest sports events I’ve ever witnessed, and men’s tennis was healthy in the 1970s and ’80s because of its personalities: McEnroe, Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, etc.
If tennis had any more of an identity crisis now, it would be heavyweight boxing.
The Sports Media Watch website compiled a list of the 50 most-watched events of 2012. The NFL and summer Olympics dominated. If the NFL and Olympics were excluded, the top 50 included mostly college football and basketball, baseball and the NBA. But it also included the Kentucky Derby, three NASCAR events (Daytona, Phoenix and Talladega) and golf’s Masters and U.S. Open.
No Wimbledon. No tennis. Anywhere.
The highest tennis ratings: an Olympic singles match between Andy Murray and Roger Federer (5.5). The same men’s singles final at Wimbledon on ESPN drew a 3.1.
“Ratings are not what they used to be. There aren’t a lot of American players doing well on the men’s side, and Venus and Serena (Williams) aren’t drawing like they were in the early 2000s,” said Sports Media Watch’s “Paulsen,” who prefers to use only his screen name in interviews.
“A lot of the men, like Federer and (Rafael) Nadal play great tennis, but the personalities aren’t there. (Goran) Ivanisevic was more colorful, but we’re going back 11, 12 years.”
So start break-dancing, Rufus. We need a show.