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


I’m bored of the Olympics already. How about you?

NEWSFLASH: Contrary to what you may have been told, not everyone is obsessed with Olympics.

Despite what Lord Coe would have you believe, we aren’t all sitting at home wearing skin-tight, Team GB branded lycra outfits and waiting for the opening ceremony.

Some of us can live without tickets to the eagerly-anticipated Uruguay versus Outer Mongolia badminton clash.

Simply put, I reckon there are quite a few people like me – for whom – London 2012 can come and go. Really.

I won’t be sitting glued to the telly in 10 days’ time and assessing whether our opening show was better than the one in Beijing.

I can live without watching BBC presenters run out of adjectives again like they did during the Diamond Jubilee Thames pageant.

And don’t get me started on those ridiculous, one-eyed mascots – Wenlock and Mandeville – which are enough to frighten small children.

If truth be told I struggled to feign interest when the defective, fiery cheese-grater (sorry – I mean Olympic Torch) came to the Potteries.

It’s not that I don’t wish Team GB well. It’s not that I don’t want local heroes like pole vaulter Steven Lewis or rower Anna Watkins to be on the podium.

It is simply that I’m not that interested in the vast majority of sports served up by this overblown, over-hyped and over-commercialised behemoth.

This is sacrilege, of course and I will doubtless be roundly condemned in The Sentinel’s newsroom.

You see, I work in the media and thus I am obliged to get excited about any event involving more than half a dozen people, animals or vehicles. But I simply can’t stand the hypocrisy.

Maybe it’s my age but I can’t be doing with people becoming instant disciples of sports that they have never shown an interest in until five minutes before. Unless you are a child, of course.

I have friends who are hugely excited because they entered the lottery for tickets for London 2012 and managed to get a couple of passes for the first round of the weightlifting.

“It’s all about being able to say you were there,” they croon. “It’s about being part of a huge global sporting event. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Oh come on. It’s actually about sweating like a stuck pig on rammed tube trains and queuing for hours to watch eastern European athletes you’ve never heard of do stuff you’ve never tried in sports you’ll never understand and then wittering on about the ‘incredible atmosphere’.

For all that the Olympics is supposed to unite people through sport it’s actually a pretty bizarre and, I would argue, divisive event.

There are so many popular sports which aren’t even represented at the Olympics and a number of very odd, niche ones which are.

Let’s examine some of the sports on offer, shall we?

Beach volleyball: Do me a favour. We all know why lots of blokes will be watching this and it won’t be to enthuse about the Rally Point System.

Diving: This can’t be a sport, can it? Discuss.

Handball: I honestly had to look this one up and I’m still none the wiser.

Synchronised swimming: See diving. More a concept for entrants on a Simon Cowell talent show than a sport, surely.

Trampoline: Fun to watch the kids do at Rhyl. Beyond that I can’t see the point.

Wrestling (Greco-Roman or Freestyle): Can’t be taken seriously as Kendo Nagasaki, once of this parish, has now retired.

You see what I mean? The remainder of the offerings are niche at best – take canoeing, cycling, equestrian and fencing – hardly mass participation sports are they?

And when the Olympics does try to go mainstream we end up with some unique fudges.

For example, all but three of Team GB’s footballers have to be under the age of 23. Random or what? No wonder the governing bodies of world football sneer at the tournament.

Granted, the 100-metres final may pique your interest and you may enter the office sweepstake on the number of drug cheats caught out but, beyond the athletics, let’s not pretend most of us care. Especially if you live north of the Watford Gap.

As for it being an Olympics for the whole country I take my hat off to the organisers for doing their best to peddle that myth.

But I would suggest the only tangible legacy for the UK from this multi-billion pound extravaganza – funded during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression – will be new housing and sports facilities for a deprived area of London.

A small number of pottery firms may have made a few quid but I can’t see Northwood Stadium benefiting too much or see London 2012 inspiring a generation of youngsters in the Potteries to take up rhythmic gymnastics.

If this all sounds incredibly cynical then I make no apologies because the Olympics itself is a cynical, money-making enterprise.

Coming, as it does, hard on the heels of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Euro 2012 football tournament (I enjoyed both) I just don’t think I have it in me to get excited about something which may as well be taking place on the other side of the world.

There may be too much football, cricket and rugby on the TV but you can always switch it off – just like I do when Wimbledrone and that awful John McEnroe person put in their annual appearance.

If the Olympics is your bag then I hope you have an absolute ball and thrive on every minute of it.

But if, like most of us, you’re not the slightest bit interested, then you’ll do your best to avoid this London-centric bonanza of weirdness.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel