Just tell me, is nothing sacred anymore?
So, I'm walking around the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon the other day, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you know, inhaling all the atmosphere and what not, when I decide the moment is upon me.Strawberries And Cream. Strawberries 'N Cream. Just as there is nothing more American than Apple Pie, there is nothing more Wimbledon than Strawberries And Cream.
So, I stroll up to the stand to place my order:
"Would you like low-fat yogurt?"
"Pardon," I said, disbelieving.
"Would you like low-fat yogurt instead of cream?"
There is a pivotal point in every man's life when he chooses either to scream at the top of his lungs at the sad state of affairs of his world or merely to shrivel up and go quietly back into his shell.
"No, thank you," I replied, shriveling.
Wimbledon is not about Strawberries and Cream.
Wimbledon is a special place, a place of magnificent tradition in a time when tradition is not politically correct. It is a place of devoted tennis fans, many of whom seem to understand the values of a backhand slice on the grass versus topspin on hardcourts; fans who, in an ironic twist, seem to possess the healthy perspective of sport that the Wimbledon lords have not managed to digest.
Perhaps the true beauty in Wimbledon lies in the people who come to the courts, to the people who line up overnight, pitching tents, eating by candlelight, waiting out in the rain sometimes for the prospect of getting one of the up to 2,000 tickets made available daily.
These are the people whose counterparts you might find at a Washington Redskins football game, dressed up like hogs and oinking at the moon. The truth is, the British get a bum rap for being civilized, but there is a lesson to be learned in their civility.
Mind you, we're merely talking tennis here, not soccer. No, the British are not civilized where soccer is concerned, as evidenced by the rioting that followed England's loss to Germany in the European Soccer championships on Wednesday.
But, really, the soccer fans of England have only served to accentuate the unique aspect of the Wimbledon fans. For example, on the second day of the tournament, Britain's own Tim Henman pulled off a dramatic, five-set, Centre Court upset of defending French Open champ and No. 5 seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
As the fifth set wound down, as the match stretched beyond three hours, as every point seemed dramatic, the fans cheered loudy - but with a restraint that seemed to demonstrate an understanding of sport's place in society; rarely would anybody jump out of their seat to cheer a point.
So often we're told that sports are an escape from society, that they're a chance for us to run wild with our emotions, to get out of our reality. But more often these days, that escapism becomes an excuse to make sports matter more than they should.
Perhaps then, the greatest tradition at Wimbledon is not the grass or the Duke and Duchess of Kent. And it's certainly not Strawberries and low-fat yogurt.
Perhaps the greatest tradition is simply in the people.