Will someone wake me up when Wimbledon’s finished?

The BBC's Wimbledon team.

The BBC’s Wimbledon team.

The next two weeks sort of sums up why I would never want to work full-time on a newspaper sports desk.

It’s the time when I avoid my beloved Radio Five Live and the BBC in general.

Whisper it quietly but I am not the slightest bit interested in Wimbledon, or tennis in general, for that matter.

It just doesn’t do anything for me and, if I was working on a sports desk, I would have to feign interest in tennis and all sorts of other niche sports I couldn’t care less about.

In the build up to Wimbledon we have been assailed by trails on the Beeb which dress it up to be the highlight of the British summer.

There’ll be sunshine, strawberries and cream, celebrity hangers-on, lots of grunting… and Cliff Richard. (The last two are different things, by the way).

But I don’t need to be in the SW19 postcode area or watching people who are to enjoy a punnet of strawberries.

Contrary to what Sue Barker says, strawberries aren’t the preserve of toffs because my mum can get them from Hanley market at a quarter of the price you’ll pay at the All England Club.

Wimbledon is as important to me as, say, the Monaco Grand Prix.

However, I know I’m in a minority because, for the briefest of times, huge numbers of people in the UK will become devotees and experts while I go and bury my head in a good book.

In recent years an old friend of mine has become an avid follower of Formula One and a fan of Team McLaren.

I respect his choice of pastimes, of course, and I’ve said I’d be only too happy to accompany him to a race sometime.

However, the truth is I could never get really excited about a sport where 95 per cent of media coverage is devoted to rule infringements and the winner seems to be dictated by which team has the best car/tyres/engines.

It’s kind of like knowing that the Premier League title will be won by the team wearing the most aerodynamic boots – irrespective of who works hardest or has the most skill.

No, I’m afraid I couldn’t work on a sports desk because huge events as varied as the Six Nations, the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, the World Snooker Championships and even Wimbledon leave me cold.

The same goes for the Tour de France and London Marathon too. While I can appreciate the endeavour in both I just can’t see their merits as spectator sports.

One features a bunch of people you’ve never heard of cycling up and down hills on the continent and the other features even more people you’ve never heard of running/walking around a place most of us try to avoid.

You see, I’ve realised that – in terms of sport – I enjoy watching football and cricket and that’s about it.

Despite the pressure exerted on us to buy into all the hype surrounding Wimbledon, I don’t feel the need to get swept along by a wave of patriotic fervour every time John McEnroe returns to take another chunk of licence fee-payers’ money.

Someone else can have my spot on Henman Hill, Murray Mount or Robson Rise – whatever it’s called this year. Granted, my involvement in tennis was rather short-lived – which probably explains my antipathy.

I had a wooden racquet when I was about 10 and attempted briefly to emulate Bjorn Borg on the sloping road outside my parents’ house.

I have painful memories of gamely chasing after a discoloured Slazenger ball as it rolled inexorably down the bank when I missed my mate’s forehand return.

Tennis is one of those sports that, despite what people tell you, isn’t really encouraged in state education – along with rugby, cricket… I could go on.

Ultimately, I think you really are shaped by the sports you are allowed to play and encouraged to take part in as a child.

For me it was football and only football.

To my horror, they took the cricket nets down at my high school and replaced them with mobile classrooms the year before I arrived.

Thus I spent five years playing footie in all weathers on concrete tennis courts – rarely even on grass – as the full size pitches were deemed to be too big for us.
I never saw a rugby ball and I never picked up an actual tennis racquet.

So forgive me if I don’t get caught up in this week’s hero-worship of the dour Scotsman.

My time will come, weather permitting, on July 10 when Jimmy Anderson takes the new ball against the Aussies at Trent Bridge for the start of The Ashes series.

Who knows, there may even be strawberries…

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel

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