Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Watching Wimbledon in America

A couple of years ago, during our first summer in America, Viola and I both talked about our experience of watching Wimbledon here (Wimbledon and How to cope without British TV and Radio: Wimbledon Supplement). On the watching front, things are greatly improved since then. In fact, the coverage is excellent. We can watch the whole of every day's play in glorious high definition, alternating between NBC and ESPN2, even if the latter has an annoying ticker-tape thing that goes across the bottom of the screen the entire time, much of the time with incomprehensible material, in some kind of code, apparently concerning things happening in American sport about which we could not be less interested. The commentary is pretty good. We get a little bit of John McEnroe, but he is being paid more by the BBC, so Patrick McEnroe does much more here. Pam Shriver is great, and provides a bit of continuity for expats used to watching Wimbledon in England -- she was always a major feature of the BBC coverage in the past.

The oddest thing about watching Wimbledon here is being five hours behind. After three years here, this still takes some getting used to. At the moment, I get up and Wimbledon is already on while I am making a pot of tea. It's like it was back in World Cup 2002 (Korea and Japan) when we were watching football with our breakfast. Through the glories of the DVR, though, I have been able to delay watching until later in the day, so that the timing feels a bit more normal, and this has the added advantage of allowing the fast-forwarding of the endless ad-breaks. (People can criticize the BBC all they like, but try watching Wimbledon for a sustained period in the USA and its endless, endless bombarding of adverts, and it leaves you longing for the Beeb).

Of course one also misses the prioritizing of the few British hopes. In the first week we got very little of any of the Brits. But all that changed yesterday, at about 3pm our time, 8pm in England, as Andy Murray began a remarkable comeback in his fourth round match, turning around a two-sets down, 5-4 deficit, to win the third set on a tie-break, and then go on to win in five sets by about 9.30pm in England, 4.30pm here. We found ourselves wondering whether all the programmes on the Beeb had been delayed because of the excitement of Murray doing so well. And I could hardly believe how bright it still was at 9 in the evening. It's pitch dark here by then.

Suddenly, ESPN were all British enthusiasts and Sue Mott in the studio was going crazy. And there was a great moment earlier when Pam Shriver, sitting on Henman hill, interviewed a Scottish fan, while another painted a Scottish flag on her right cheek, with Pam pretending not to notice.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), we watch Murray losing to Nadal in the quarter finals. But at least well be able to watch him losing in high definition.


Anonymous said...

Actually, BBC moved the Murray match from BBC2 to BBC1 (as an American ex-pat in the UK, I still don't know why that is a big deal, but it was made out to be), and yes, the programming was delayed until the end. Great match.

Cb said...

As a Formula 1 fan (dating from our years in the UK) I have been pleased that Speed (cable network) and FOX have been bringing us coverage of the Gran Prix races. BUT this weekend's British Gran Prix, being covered by FOX instead of Speed will NOT be shown live at 8 am EDT, but delayed to 1 pm! Very frustrating. (And it will no doubt be edited and truncated.) At least Wimbledon is live....