Ball Boys, Four-Tuples and Frankenberry (Wimbledon)
We get to the centre of tennis' oldest living tournament.

Dan Van Oss Complete Columns, Events and Holidays, Sports Leave a Comment

Wimbledon is one of tennis’ four prestigious Grand Slam tournaments, and arguably the most famous, although I’ve never heard anyone actually really argue about it. The annual tennis tournament is held each year at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (Official Motto: “I Say, Jeffries, Fetch Me My Snobbery Jacket, There’s A Good Chap”) in London. Officially named (apparently by Yoda) “The Championships, Wimbledon”, it is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, having been held in London since 1877 (Official Motto: “We’re The Year That Invented The Stapler!”). Wimbledon occurs during mid-summer, which, for you Americans in the south, is right after NASCAR starts, and for those in the north, just after the last NHL hockey fight ends with the awarding of the Stanley Cup, unless you count the after-awards fight in the locker room.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”asterisk”]You might also like “Yeah, Baby! It’s March Madness!”[/feature_headline]

12,244 gallons of tennis

Wimbledon is the only major tennis tournament still played on grass, which I feel obliged to quickly point out to you excited Colorado tennis fans who were just about to buy a ticket to London does not mean “pot”.
Wimbledon is the only major tennis tournament still played on grass, which I feel obliged to quickly point out to you excited Colorado tennis fans who were just about to buy a ticket to London does not mean “pot”. The use of grass may also explain why the 128 players chosen for the tournament are “seeded”, but this is probably just an attempt to wring a really lame joke out of that last sentence. The tournament offers competition in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, unmixed singles, re-mixed triples, shaken and not stirred four-tuples, and the occasional duodecuple resulting from a spontaneous family brawl over on center court. The penultimate matches take place on “Centre Court”, which, for us backwards Americans, translates as “center court”. This court is only used for tennis the two weeks a year that the tournament takes place, while the rest of the year it is used for grass-themed parties, close-crop lawn-mowing demonstrations, and tiny games of football. The initial capacity of Centre Court in the 1880’s is not known, but historians speculate it was about 12,244 gallons. Today, the famous court has a capacity of 15,000 people, along with video scoreboards, a retractable roof, and tiny, inconspicuous lasers for “motivating” lazy ball boys. The south end of the court houses the Royal Box, from which members of the Royal Family can appear to be interested in the matches while getting their photos taken. Players traditionally bow or curtsey when the Queen is present in the box, but when she is not, they pretty much ignore it.

At least there’s always Frankenberry

Ball boys and girls play a crucial part in keeping the flow of the game smooth and humorous, as they scurry after each finished ball like hunched over rodents chasing a cheeto. Ball boys were originally provided by a company called Goldings (No Longer Used Motto: “Don’t Come Bawlin’ If Your Ball Boy Isn’t Ballin’, Boy!”), who built them from spare parts left over from street orphans. Since 1969 ball boys and girls have been supplied by local schools, who use the threat of potentially getting hit by a 140 mph serve as a method of maintaining discipline. Each ball boy or girl receives between £120-£180 (approximately 2,433 tuppence or 15 half-farthings, minus comeuppance) per day, which is probably more than some of the Latvian players make all year. All players are required to wear white during the tournament, which is a drag for the players that like to eat BBQ ribs and red Kool-Aid betweens sets, but rules are rules. The most famous Wimbledon tradition involves food, with spectators traditionally enjoying bowls of strawberries and cream from their posh box seats, while cheap ticket holders have to settle for small bowls of Frankenberry with some skim milk.

So, as you watch this years’ exciting Wimbledon matches on TV, or at least two seconds of it you’ll see while surfing past it to get to a M*A*S*H rerun, remember to enjoy it as a prime example of quaint British tradition, even with the snobbery jackets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *