My workplace has blocked all access to sporting channels. There was a time when I could bring up the IBM scoreboard and take a peek in between clients but even that is no longer allowed. So during the day I become dependent on Google for score information. But Google only gives you three matches and sometimes switches over to another match without letting you know how the one you were tracking has ended. On my lunch hour I would convince my co-workers to put the TV on tennis. But the TV in the lunch-room is so old that it is impossible to read the scores. It’s been torture going to work these past two weeks.
So when I get home, I check the TV to see where tennis is being replayed. For the first week of Wimbledon there was no problem – the Tennis Channel in particular offered a generous heaping of replayed matches. By week two, things became a little tighter as I became more reliant on ESPN.
On Thursday evening I noted that ESPN had advertised a show called “The Complete Wimbledon”. I couldn’t wait. I had seen a little bit of Sharapova vs. Lisicki – some odd random moments when I snuck into the lunch-room on the pretext of needing water. But I had seen none of Kvitova vs. Azarenka. I settled down in front of the TV at 7:58pm. I was about to be treated to 120 minutes of tennis! I was not going to miss a ball.
Because this was a 2-hour show, I figured that we would be treated to Sharapova vs. Lisicki for one hour and Kvitova vs. Azarenka for the second half of the show. It was not to be. At 8:00pm, Cliff Drysdale, Mary Jo Fernandez, and Lindsay Davenport started blabbing about this and that. I didn’t pay attention. At 8:02pm we began to see some of the match between Kvitova and Azarenka. By 8:04pm, coverage of that match was over. For the remaining 116 minutes, we were treated to an entire replay of the match between Sharapova and Lisicki.
“The Complete Wimbledon” turned out to be minus Petra Kvitova.
I was stunned and upset. What a f**king travesty! Did none of these talking heads have any clout to influence the decision-making at ESPN? Or was the assumption that a Sharapova victory in the finals was so absolutely guaranteed that there was no point in getting to know this Czech upstart who would be trying to give Maria a bad hair day?
I don’t know what the thinking was that went into this programming decision, but I do know that while I was indifferent regarding a Sharapova victory throughout this tournament, by Thursday night I really wanted her to lose. I wanted Kvitova to deliver on the promise she showed at Wimbledon last year and spoil the plans of the Sharapova Corporation.
Because have no doubt that this programming decision had everything to do with the fact that Maria Sharapova represents a huge corporation. My anger was not at Sharapova personally – she was only another tennis player trying to win her matches. My anger was at the reach and influence of the Big Money invested in her. And those powers-that-be clearly decided that Petra Kvitova was not deserving of equal respect.
In particular I became irritated with the way Mary Jo seemed excessively emotionally invested in a positive Sharapova outcome. You’d swear Sharapova is American and that she can play for Davis Cup. The Williams sisters have never attracted this kind of emotional partisanship from Mary Jo. But she was salivating over the expectation of a Sharapova victory.
Thanks to ESPN3.com, I managed to eventually see the match between Kvitova and Azarenka. Because of a let-down by Kvitova in the second set, Azarenka finally made some forays into the match. But this match was all about Kvitova.
It was wonderful to see how much she has improved in one short year. It was great to watch a woman tennis player who doesn’t shriek as she plays, but who lets out a delightful victory yelp when she knows she has hit a good shot. As I watched her dismantle Azarenka in the third set, I found myself becoming confident that she could do the same to Maria in the finals. And she did. “The Complete Wimbledon” may have disrespectfully overlooked her, but there’s nothing like having the last laugh, is there?