Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tennis: Kind of Offensive

I can't say I actually hate tennis. I've watched various championships on and off over the years, including a lot of this year's Wimbledon, and one has to admire the skill, art, and athleticism of professional tennis players.

However, I am always creeped out by the environment in which they play. First off, you can't really have much fun playing tennis unless you have someone else chasing errant balls for you. Although, I suppose you could bring a bucket of balls if you aren't too concerned with stepping on one during a game.

At the professional level, of course, there is a small army of ball/towel kids waiting hand and foot on the players. I wouldn't be at all surprised if tennis ball kids do their job for free (and the thrill of being on the same court as tennis greats). But, jeez, the manner they have to exhibit is just so demeaning. When they have a ball, they hold it up as high as possible and only bounce it to the player when bidden. "Here, sir, I have a ball for you, sir, may I please bounce it to you? Pick me oh please pick me sir!"

On the baseline, a player might condescend to holding out his racket, upon which the ball kid carefully places three balls, standing at attention until dismissed or until said player finishes wiping his brow. The players don't even acknowledge their existence. "One doesn't break concentration to notice the help."

For a sport of gentlemen and ladies, it sure has a lot of refs. I think tennis holds an all-sport high for the ratio of umpires and linesmen to players. It's got to be nearly a dozen people, each carefully watching one line for the all-important in/out decisions. Most team sports have 2-3 referees watching 10-30 players and the court boundaries.

I suppose polo tops tennis for sheer snoot value, but I can't think of any other sport that expends so much resource for so few participants.

And don't get me started on tennis scoring...


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