Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Pox -- No, Worse! -- on ESPN

I have been outraged many times before by the contempt American mainstream TV channels have for tennis.

But my disgust with ESPN goes beyond outrage.  In the fifth set of perhaps the most remarkable contest in the history of sport -- all sport, not just tennis -- ESPN relegated its Wimbledon broadcast to a remote backwater of its broadcast empire. 

I subscribe to Comcast's premium sports package in my area, but I can't get ESPN-U (whatever that is) and so missed history being made by John Isner of the United States and Nicolas Mahut of France.

Each player had won two sets in their epic first round match when it was suspended because of darkness on Day One.  On Day Two, they played the longest set in the history of tennis -- and it still isn't over. They had tied at 59-all when play was suspended -- again.

Over two days they were on court for 10 hours.  The fifth set alone lasted 7 hours 6 minutes -- longer than the previous record for a complete match, 6 hours 33 minutes at the French Open.

The two men held serve for 118 consecutive games.  Only a tennis player, I suppose, can appreciate just how remarkable a feat that is. And this took place at Wimbledon, the most prestigious tournament in tennis.

Imagine this: 59 consecutive successful goal-line stands in the Super Bowl.

Or 59 consecutive perfect 1-2-3 innings by a baseball pitcher -- in the World Series.

Or 59 consecutive 3-point field goals made -- in  the championship series of the NBA.

Or 59 consecutive birdies by a golfer -- in the Masters.

Now consider TWO teams or players accomplishing any of the above -- in the same competition.

ESPN deemed the historic Isner-Mahut competition unworthy of being shown on either of its main channels, ESPN or ESPN2, so that it might achieve a respectable fraction of the audience it deserved.

Roger Federer, who owns a considerable piece of tennis history in his own right, said:"I have almost no words anymore watching this. It's beyond anything I've ever seen and could imagine. I don't know how their bodies must feel  . . . This is incredible tennis." 

And this incredible tennis will go on for a third day.  "Nothing like this will ever happen again," Isner said after today's play.  "Ever."

But don't expect to see it on ESPN's main channels.  They'll be broadcasting the movie "Heidi."  Or a taped fishing show. Or something.

1 comment:

  1. Thomas: I can only begin to imagine how very upset you are over missing the world's longest tennis match from how mad I get when the NFL rule switches TV coverage to its second scheduled game of the day while the early one is in its last minutes or worse, sudden death overtime. And that's just a regular Sunday football game, not the world's longest tennis match!