Simply put, I’ve never been a fan of sports. Unless I’m on the court or field, the outcome of any game seems meaningless to me. So when it comes to touring those places that hold almost a religious significance to the common bar regular, my eyes will only flicker at unique architecture or any other feature that is equally off point.
A journey just short an-hour south of Kensington, London one can find the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club – a holy land for tennis enthusiasts. For those of us who are unfamiliar with the club, it is more widely referred to as Wimbledon. Every year, the world’s top tennis athletes gather to compete in The Championships, attracting tens-of-thousands of tennis fans, partygoers, and revered guests, as well as millions of TV viewers worldwide.
Using the directions provided by London’s Underground could easily confuse a person traveling to the club. The reason being that Wimbledon Station is not where the clubs located. A smart phone or any other way to access the web is an easy remedy to that issue though. It is Southfields Station where you jump off the Underground, and from there are able to take a bus to finish the journey, or walk the mile or so left.
I walked. To my right was suburbia and my left a healthy green golf course. After fifteen minutes strolling though the peaceful neighborhood I arrived at the club. At which there is only one café, and that’s where the tour group I was meeting waited for the last person to arrive; me.
A few students on the tour grew starry eyed at every mention of an athlete’s name or glimpse of the famous courts. As I said earlier though, such relics are meaningless to me. While touring the club I was more caught by how regimented every damn blade of grass behaves on those courts, as well as a hawk shaped kite that keeps London’s flying rat population off the courts (a.k.a. pigeons).
The experience was not completely lost on me. Touring through the courts, private club rooms, media areas, and such, I felt that I was able to fabricate a pretty accurate impression of what The Championships feel like once tens of thousands of tennis fans, from Royal families to royal failures, pour into the club. And that impression was of the atmosphere being more similar to an outdoor concert than a sporting event.
Coming from the US, I imagine tail-gaiting when watching sports. At the All England Club though, the atmosphere encouraged class and more refined behavior. Granted, lawn tennis is an elite sport – so naturally the club should come across as so. And it did very, very well.
The rolling hill above Court #2, on which a colossal sized TV is set to cover the matches, could easily be the landscape for any picnic lover’s erotic dreams. At where, during The Championships, attendees are encouraged to bring along their own food and drink, relax, and enjoy an afternoon with friends and fans. Additionally, we were told that too often seats are found empty by the courts because their ticket holders are off mingling with the crowds.
It was an enjoyable time getting the “behind the scenes” tour of the All England Club. However, naturally, I would have preferred to attend The Championships. To wait in the famous Queue for one of the six thousand day-of tickets, or drink wine and nibble cheese on the hill is an experience I’d wiling fake some enthusiasm for the sport to have.