Monday 16 July 2018

Clash of the sporting titans - The World Cup or Wimbledon?

With two major tournaments under way, Guy Kelly asks which will win your household's attention this week

Will it be the World Cup or Wimbledon for you this week?
Will it be the World Cup or Wimbledon for you this week?

Guy Kelly

If you're being entirely honest with yourself, you never thought you'd have to face this decision, did you? Two weeks ago, when the World Cup rumbled back into life, you predicted that without Ireland to follow, we'd be looking at a drab tournament, and come July, you'd be able to turn your full attention to the immaculate green lawns of SW19.

This week, however, the picture is a little different. With the 141st Wimbledon championships officially underway, not only is the World Cup providing enough nightly drama to make EastEnders look like Grand Designs, but it's turning out to be one of the greatest tournaments we've ever seen.

Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker

For casual television viewers, the result is a veritable sporting Sophie's Choice. Almost every day for the next fortnight, you will have to choose a W: Wimbledon or the World Cup. So which one will win the battle in your living room?

Hosts with the most

When committing to more than two hours of television in one go, there needs to be a steady, comforting hand on the tiller to guide you through the duller moments. In Sue Barker and Gary Lineker, Wimbledon and the World Cup are blessed with two of the most reliable and experienced presenters on the box.

Barker will be cheerful and inoffensive in a single-colour trouser suit; Lineker will be dry, with a questionable goatee and shirts one size too small.

Sue Barker
Sue Barker

Barker will have able, vaguely articulate assistants in Boris Becker (he could do with the work, by the sounds of it), Martina Navratilova and 'Tiger' Tim Henman, plus Clare Balding ready for evening duty.

Lineker, on the other hand, has Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Lee Dixon insisting that "at the end of the day, the boys went out there and played for 90 minutes". That would mean an easy victory for Wimbledon, but then you remember the clincher: John Inverdale has been invited back. We'll call it a draw.

Score: 1-1

Half-time snacks

Strawberries and cream
Strawberries and cream

Watching Wimbledon on TV, you can almost taste the atmosphere - which may have something to do with the commentators mentioning strawberries and cream, Pimm's or champagne every third minute.

At home, it seems only fair to try and recreate that with your own spread. Yes, Pimm's is sickly sweet and involves half an hour's fruit chopping before forgetting that the lemonade has to go in first to avoid 70pc froth, but for a fortnight a year, you might as well pretend to like it. Given the nature of the event, scones, cucumber sandwiches and Scotch eggs are also welcome. But how does the football compare? Well, if you want to be authentic, you'll be drinking gallons of Budweiser, the Official Beer of the FIFA World Cup™, and presumably some stodgy Russian fare. Off the stroganoff? Perhaps a share bag of Walkers (Tayto more like) in Lineker's honour. Either way, it's an ace for Wimbledon.

Score 2-1

Off-field action

So far in the World Cup, there's been plenty to watch away from the pitch. Aside from the WAGs, we've seen German fans' facepaint run with salty tears of disappointment, and the ever-erratic Diego Maradona - morphing more and more into a late-period Elvis Presley with every cutaway shot - indulging in all sorts up in his executive suite. But nothing can rival Wimbledon for non-sporting drama. As any experienced SW19-watcher knows, there are always two games in play: tennis and star-spotting. Is that David Beckham flirting with Miranda Hart? Does Bradley Cooper ever leave? Does Roger Federer now have as many sets of twins as he does Grand Slams? And has Cliff forgiven the BBC enough to return this year? Crowd shots at Wimbledon enliven even the dullest tie break and this year - whisper it - we might even see Meghan Markle make her debut in the Royal Box. A victory for the tennis.

Score 3-1

Vocal support

You can make a racquet in tennis, but not a racket. In well over a century of Wimbledon Championships, the tournament has produced precisely one chant, and it goes like this: "COME ON, *insert first name of player*!!!"

The trouble is, no amount of gusto can make names like Tim, Andy or Roger exciting - they sound like 1950s adventure book characters - and the umpire tends to silence the crowd before anything more substantial than a slow clap gets going. The female players (and Rafael Nadal, oddly) often have an audible quality to them, but grunting can't be classed as a chant, and shouldn't be replicated in the living room.

The World Cup has it, then. France sing 'Allez Les Bleus', the Brazilians start a mini carnival in the stands and Iceland has the thunder clap. A tap-in for the football.

Score 3-2

Conversation points

Everybody understands football, by and large, and while absolutely nothing happens for long periods, it is still a game watched in near silence (besides aforementioned chanting). Try to start a conversation about anything other than a minor plot point between the whistles and you could be sent from the room.

Not so during tennis, which is a game designed for those with short attention spans. Some matches may last hours, but a set lasts about 30 minutes. The players sit down for some orange squash and half a banana every few games. Cameramen have time for close-ups on terrified pigeons and wide shots of the Shard in the distance. Rain halts play.

It's in these breaks that viewers can have a chat, discuss Nadal's wedgie, critique Serena Williams' outfit, chop even more Pimm's fruit and nip to the loo. Wimbledon - and by extension, tennis - is kind to its viewers. For better or worse, football only cares about itself. It's a tight call, but we'll give it to the more giving sport. Hmm, looks like a tie... Perhaps just record one and watch the other.

Final score 3-3

Irish Independent

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