Where Does Strawberries and Cream at Wimbledon Come From?

Dear Sports Fan,

How did the tradition of eating strawberries and cream at Wimbledon originate?

Thanks,
Tina


 

Dear Tina,

According to the BBC Surrey the first time strawberries were paired with cream was in the 1500s at the table of Cardinal Wolsey. Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, but it’s not that old. There has been a tennis tournament since 1877 when “The All England Croquet Club” changed its name to “The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club.” In the late 1800s, according to the New York Times, strawberries signified the beginning of summer. Soon after 1877 (and perhaps in part because of the pairing of tennis with strawberries,) tennis began to be associated with the start of summer as well. It’s unclear when cream was added to the mix. Jeanne Rose, writing for Yahoo claims that cream was “added into the food tradition in 1970.” Digging through the archives of The Daily Telegraph contradicts this opinion, as Martin Smith points out on sportingintelligence.com. He claims that “in 1881, just four years after the inaugural Lawn Tennis Championship, the Telegraph correspondent noted that as the Challenge final was about to begin, ‘the refreshment pavilion emptied directly…for strawberries and cream and even ices, notwithstanding that the heat of the sun was almost intolerable, had no charms for the enthusiastic multitude once the rivals were ordered to be ready’.”

Fuzzy derivation aside, one thing is clear: a lot of strawberries and cream are consumed during Wimbledon. The estimates vary but they seem centered around 60,000 pounds of strawberries and 1,800 gallons of cream (from eatocracy.) This year, in what is either a brilliant marketing ploy or a horrible degradation of tradition or both, Tesco has introduced a “calorific treat of clotted cream, jam, and strawberries” so that people throughout Great Britain can enjoy the traditional Wimbledon snack. We don’t have Tesco in the U.S., but making a little snack of strawberries and cream to eat in front of the television sounds like a great way to enjoy tennis to me!

Thanks for the question,
Ezra

Why Isn't Everyone Tired of Nadal and Federer?

Dear Sports Fan,

Doesn’t anybody ever get tired of watching Federer and Nadal in the finals of every tennis tournament, forever? Is there any reason to even watch Wimbledon now that Andy Roddick is out?

Thanks,
Game, Set, Watch?

— — —

Dear Game, Set, Watch?,

I’m sure that it does get awfully tiring for all the other men’s tennis players, but for sports fans and specifically tennis fans I think it’s something that far from getting tired of, they savor every minute of.

First of all, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s consistency at the top of men’s tennis is really unusual. So what seems like a boring fact of life for the last seven years is a rare anomaly in the context of the last fifty plus years of tennis. And even during the Federer-Nadal years, it may seem like they meet in the finals every tournament, but before this year’s French Open a month ago, they had not played in a final match for over two years!

Tennis fans root for Nadal and Federer to play each other in part because they play with such contrasting styles. Federer is a mix between a magician and a matador. He is a magician not only because he always seems to be pulling winning shots out of his sleeve, but also because he has the slightly smarmy elegance of a magician. Everything he owns is monogrammed with a big RF in an annoying faux-royal font. Federer makes very little fuss on the court. He almost never grunts and he rarely even appears to be sweating. Roger Federer is your older brother who beats you and doesn’t even dignify your efforts by looking like he’s trying hard or cares at all. Federer also had the luck of being profiled by David Foster Wallace in a New York Times Play magazine article that made a lasting impression on the literati; check it out, it is worth reading.

Nadal, on the other hand, is most often compared to a bull. He has even embraced the comparison by adopting a bull logo as his mascot. Nadal is the younger brother. He never, ever, ever, stops trying. He’s a powerful player and his natural talents are defensive. He’s frustrating to play against because no matter how good of a shot you hit, he seems to be able to get to it and return it back to you. Nadal looks more like a cat than a bull. His movements are quick and powerful without being out of control. Every step is aggressive. When the players talk to the chair umpire before the match begins, Nadal bounces up and down on his feet like a boxer.

Would you enjoy Bugs Bunny more if he didn’t always face off against Elmer Fudd? An episodic Star Wars where Luke Skywalker fights against a different bad-guy each hour would surely be less satisfying than his epic contest with Darth Vader. There is something special about watching two people who know that no matter how well they do, to succeed they have to beat the other. The diner scene in Heat expresses this understanding perfectly.

Right now there is a special pathos to the Nadal-Federer rivalry. The normal narrative of the younger player succeeding the older is being challenged. Federer is not diminishing quite as quickly as people expected he would and because of Nadal’s powerful style, there is a fear that his body will break down at any moment. They are two of the best players in history but they are increasingly both vulnerable and mortal.

Enjoy the tennis if you can, I will!

Ezra Fischer

Is There a Good, Cheap Stationary Bike?

Dear Sports Fan,

Is there a good, cheap stationary bike? Do I have to spend a ton for quality?  I just want to ride it 30 minutes a day in my basement.  I’m not trying to beat Lance or anything.

Michelle P


 

Dear Michelle,

Thanks for your question! Since no one on our staff is an expert on exercise equipment we’ve decided to answer you in the form of a dialogue. After all 0 + 0 = at least a little bit more than zero, right?

 

Ezra: A quick Google search reveals a ton of those weird recumbent bicycles which are said to be better for you. Then again, it’s also said that the western style toilet is terrible for you over the long-run, but I don’t see to many people running out to buy holes in the floor to squat over.

Dean Russell Bell: I have great rowing machine recommendations. Now, I don’t know if you have a significant other or not and, if so, how that significant other feels about you having huge lats. But if that would be something they might be interested in, allow me to recommend the Stamina Body Trac Glider. Best thing about it: once you reach the inevitable phase when you stop exercising, it folds up so tight you can disappear it into a corner, where it won’t guilt you ever again.

Ezra: I’m not entirely sure what a lat is… but it doesn’t sound like something you’d want to have huge of. As far as exercise bikes go, the Stamina 5325 is the pick of consumersearch.com for best budget upright. It looks like… an exercise bike to me. In what might be a meaningful omission the more well respected consumerreports.org doesn’t review exercise bikes, instead focusing on elliptical machines and treadmills. There is something comforting and old-school about the exercise bike though — it feels like something you legitimately could just sit on and pedal as you watch some serious television.

Dean Russell Bell: Talking about old-school, if you really want to beat Lance Armstrong you might be better served allocating your money towards some serious EPO and blood doping equipment…

Ezra: Hold it right there Dean! We’ve already had a question about the Tour de France and we’ll be covering it in separate entries starting when the race begins on July 2. Michelle, we apologize for our total lack of useful information on this subject, but we hope we have, at least, been entertaining.

Thanks for the question, Dean Russell Bell and Ezra Fischer

How Does the NBA Draft Work and Why Should I Care?

Dear Sports Fan,

The NBA Draft – How does it work? Why do I care? Are players (like Carmelo Anthony and What’s-His-Name James) that go right from high school involved in draft?

Thanks,
49 Round Pick


 

Dear 49 Round Pick,

Drafts in all sports are an opportunity to level the playing field – the worst teams generally get the higher picks and first dibs on the best young players. In the case of the NBA, the 14 worst teams are in the “lottery,” meaning they get the top 14 picks in the draft – only the order those 14 teams pick in is decided based on an old-school, ping-pong ball lottery.  So while the worst team has the best odds of getting the first pick(they get more ping-pong balls in the bingo cage-thing), it isn’t guaranteed.

Not a big deal, you think – after all, what’s the difference between picking number one or number two or three?  Well, if you’re a team from a smaller market who has a hard time attracting the best players, the draft is a very rare opportunity to get a franchise-altering talent at a price you can afford.  In particularly mediocre draft years, the difference between the best player and the second best player in the draft is barely noticeable – other times, the difference is between a game changer like Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (think Chris Rock) and a wildly overrated underperformer like the forgettable Keith Van Horn (think Dane Cook).

Talking about comedians, if you decide to try to pull the Sports Fan in your life away from watching the NBA draft tonight, you could do worse than start with this clip of Dave Chappelle’s Racial Draft sketch.

Chappelles Show
The Racial Draft
www.comedycentral.com
Buy Chappelle’s Show DVDs Black Comedy True Hollywood Story

How great is the Tiger Woods bit in hind-sight? Back to the NBA draft… High school players used to be allowed in the draft – now, in a nod to the fact that you learn everything you need to know in college your freshman year, you have to be 19 years old, at least one year out of high school and own one suit with at least 4 buttons to be eligible.

There’s also an unofficial rule that there has to be at least one successful white college player in each draft who gets picked in the first round even though pretty much everyone agrees he will not be successful in the NBA due to his lack of “athleticism.”

Back to the draft itself: it’s divided up into rounds, and generally each team has a pick in each round, unless they don’t have picks – for example, if they’ve traded their draft pick (essentially the right to a future player) to another team in return for a tangible, current player. Teams have a limited amount of time to make each pick, which is why team staff do ridiculous amounts of research and know more about the players than they do about their own children. There is real drama in some drafts – last second trades, surprise picks,[1] great rags to riches stories – but for the most part, you have to be a pretty die-hard fan to watch. So don’t feel bad if you can’t get into it.

One side note: immediately following the draft you’ll see the infuriating “Draft report cards” issued by sportswriters, most of whom feel compelled to note how ridiculous it is to judge a team’s draft class before they’ve even played a single game in the league – right before they judge every team’s draft class before they’ve played a single game in the league.

Thanks for the question,
Dean Russell Bell

The NBA Draft – How does it work? Why do I care? Are players (like Carmelo Anthony and Whats-His-Name James) that go right from high school involved in draft?
Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. These usually fall into two categories: GMs who are stupid and pick a mediocre player way too high, or enormously talented players who teams refuse to draft for one reason or another. The latter usually involves marijuana. It’s unclear what drug some of the GMs are on.

How to Cheer-Up a Hockey Fan During the Summer

Dear Sports Skeptics,

Unwelcome Advice:  You didn’t ask for it, but I’m going to give it to you anyway!

The summer can be a difficult time for the hardcore hockey fan in your life. While people around us are talking about baseball/golf/tennis, we are staring longingly at the weather inappropriate jersey in our closet counting down the 95 days until the start of the pre-season. Oh sure, there are a few exciting days in the near future – the NHL draft and free agency day on July 1 – but once those days are over, it is a long summer.

Fret not, I have the perfect solution for you that will cheer up your sports fan and make you the hero of the summer.  Introducing: NHL Players as Kids!  This is a great site for the two of you to look at together.  Even if you don’t know what the player looks like now, you can still enjoy looking at the awkward childhood photos of strangers.  The tumblr will let you search by player name or team name and the best part is that they update daily!

BONUS: Want to impress further impress your spouse/lover/best friend/parent/co-worker with your knowledge of hockey superstition?  Make sure you express your horror at the picture of Nazem Kadri that was posted on June 10th.[1]

Hope you Enjoy,
Lisa Filipek

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Not sure why this is so horrifying?  Ask in the comments or send us an email and we’ll tell you!

How Does Wimbledon Work?

Dear Sports Fan,

How does the Wimbledon tournament work?

Thanks,
Cookie


 

Hi Mom,

If your household is like mine, then your early morning television has been dominated by people wearing white hitting balls at each other on striped green grass since Monday morning when “The Championships, Wimbledon” started. We will probably do a post later on in the tournament about the pretensions of the tournament (the white clothing, the fans, the ball-boys and ball-girls, the phrasing of its name, so for this post, let’s concentrate just on how each match is scored and how it fits into the structure of the tournament.

Wimbledon is a single-elimination tournament, just like the college basketball tournament (March Madness,) except that instead of starting with 64 teams, it begins with 128 players. This is the same for men and women.[1] Basically everyone plays and the person who can win seven times in a row[2] wins the tournament. The organizers of the tournament do stack the deck a little. They give an advantage to the top 32 players in the tournament based on their past performances by assigning a seed to them. The top 32 players are seeded or ranked from 1 to 32. Then the match-ups are created so that no seeded player will play another seeded player in the first two rounds and that if everyone who is ranked higher always wins, when there are four players left, the top seeded player will play the fourth ranked player and the second will play the third. The goal is to give the top two players the best possible chance to play in the final match. For a sport dominated by Europeans, tennis is pretty darn capitalist.

Now you understand the tournament it’s time to understand a match. Sports competitions are generally divided into those that are decided by single games between two competitors or teams (football, boxing, sometimes soccer,) those that are decided by a single competition between lots of people (golf, any kind of racing,) and those that are decided by a series of games (hockey, baseball, basketball, and most games of rock-paper-scissors.) Tennis is weird. I said Wimbledon was a single elimination tournament which it is — but each competition between two players is also sort of a series of games. Actually it’s a series of series’.

I’ll explain — Tennis has four units of scoring — from largest to smallest it’s the match, the set, the game, and the point. To win a match you have to be the first to win 3 sets if you’re a man and 2 sets if you’re a woman. To win a set you have to be the first person to win 6 games, although you have to win by a margin of two games. At Wimbledon a tie-breaking game to 7 points (although this too must be won by a margin of two) is played in every set but the final one (the third for women and the fifth for men.) These deciding sets can basically go on until infinity. To win a a game you have to be the first person to 5 points although in this too, you must win by two. Just to be confusing instead of counting 0-1-2-3-4-5, games are scored love-15-30-40-game. Once the players have 40 in a game and they are tied, this is called deuce. After this, when one player is a point ahead (and because they must win by two, they only need one to win the game,) it is Advantage [Players Name.]

Got it? I bet you do! What’s interesting to me about this is how it combines the features of a single match (it’s a single day event, it can hinge on small factors like weather, sickness, even just someone having a bad day with the one of the most important features of a series, accuracy (because winning requires winning the majority of times even after the score resets to zero you are more likely to get the “correct” winner.)

Thanks for the question,
Ezra Fischer

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Not viewers, competitors… although now that I think of it, it is true regardless of whether YOU are a man or a woman too.
  2. 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2!

Any Chance For a Football-free Year?

Dear Sports Fan,

Can you please explain the NFL Lockout? I’m seriously hoping for a year with no football, and I’d like to better understand how this may occur.

Andrew


 

Dear Andrew,

Last part first — I can imagine several reasons you want a year with no football, but I’m afraid to say the lockout is not the answer.

Think about what happened when the screenwriters went on strike.  Did TV stop? Far from it – instead, producers dialed up three times as many episodes of the Real Housewives of Golddigger County, and everyone without Netflix STILL thanked them for the privilege. Even for the most talented people on TV, it was far from an inspiration: Conan grew a beard, the Colbert Report pronounced the t’s in its title and Jay Leno…well, the writer’s strike had no noticeable impact on the quality of Jay Leno’s show.

Still – much like the writer’s strike, if the lockout isn’t resolved, there’ll be two outcomes, neither of which will improve your quality of life:

  1. Replacement players – the fans in your life are still obsessed with football, but have even MORE to complain about because the quality of play plummets .
  2. No one plays (professional) football – the fans in your life spend week after week bemoaning the lack of pro football. They won’t get over it. They won’t turn to other pursuits. They’ll watch twice as much college football (Yeah – that doesn’t go away) but, like any junkie, they’ll soon find that twice of the stepped-on product won’t feel half as good as the real thing. This is a void in their life that can’t and won’t be filled.

First part last — the lockout is a lot like any dispute between labor and management, except these individual laborers are more famous and admired than their managers. You can disregard the noise and focus on a few key things.

First, management wants what management always wants: the biggest possible piece of the revenue pie. Whether it’s revenue from the rights they sell allowing NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN to broadcast the games, the tickets they sell to those games,  or the $14 stomach-lining-incinerating hot dog that you buy at the game, they want as much as they can get. They’re businessmen, and it’s silly to think they want anything else. Some of them talk about how small their profit margin is, and how expensive it is to build a stadium (even with you, the taxpayer, picking up half the tab), especially in smaller media markets (even though they fought tooth and nail to bring a franchise to said market). But mostly they just want more money, and you can’t really blame them, cause that’s what they do.

The players want a bigger slice of that revenue pie too, and you can’t blame them either. But what they also want – and what puts them at an inherent disadvantage in the revenue fight – is some benefits that acknowledge the physical toll the game takes on them. Whether it’s cutting down on mandatory off-season workouts or guaranteeing better pensions and health benefits for retired NFL players, the players have interests outside a simple revenue split, which gives the owners more chips at the bargaining table.

Still, the players are holding their own in court, and as a result, things seem to be moving towards a solution. And, not to try to shame you, but that’s a good thing all around. Not because crime will go up if there’s no football, which is what Ray Lewis, a perennial All-pro linebacker said – though he does have credibility given his personal off-season experience[1] – but because of the collateral damage a sustained lockout would cause. Cause if you make a living selling hot-dogs, beer and jerseys at football games, you probably don’t have a lot of viable alternatives.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. During the 2000 off-season, Ray Lewis was involved in an altercation involving himself and two of his friends and another group of people in a nightclub. Two of the men from the other group were stabbed to death. Lewis and his friends were less than cooperative with police, though he ultimately agreed to testify against his friends in return for a sentence of probation – his testimony must have been somewhat ineffective, given that they were both acquitted. Lewis eventually reached civil settlements with the families of both victims. Ahem

Why is Golf Etiquette so Funny?

Dear Sports Fan,
Why do golfers take of their hats to shake hands? Why do they wear pants in the insane heat? In other words, why are there so many rules about golf etiquette, and what are they?
Puzzled,
Kat

Dear Kat,
The short story, which is what I am going with here, is that golf is old and steeped in tradition. Many of these traditions started long ago in a much different social atmosphere. Taking your hat off or wearing pants no matter the weather today is not outside the bounds of the social mores across all of society tens of decades ago. For example, women wearing bathing suits that were more akin to a scuba wetsuit than the suits of today was not only accepted in the early 1900’s, but was the standard. It didn’t make sense to be draped in such a heavy garment at the beach in sweltering weather, but the pressure of societal influence was heavier than the physical burden of the outfit.
Another aspect to the discussion is the role that tradition plays in sports. History has always been and continues to be a highly important platform for fans. Considering the past success of your team and the great players that came before are compelling ways to honor your allegiance. Knowing the history is a demonstration of commitment. And whether it is right or not, level of commitment is often the measure of one’s seriousness about their team. To put it simply, tradition is important.
So let’s bring this back to golf and the question at hand. What’s with all the etiquette? Etiquette since the beginning has given golf its character. Things that aren’t absolutely necessary to the game, but add to the overall experience. Knowing the etiquette is a part of learning to play, it demonstrates that you know more than to keep your leading elbow straight and to keep your head down. Most rules are useful, like replacing a divot so the course quality is good for everyone or slower playing groups allowing faster playing groups to play through. And some rules are more about tradition, meant to maintain the strong character of the game and respect its history.
For a list of several standard rules of golf etiquette you can check out Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golf_etiquette.
Thanks for the question,
John DeFilippis

Now that I'm a Dad Should I Try to Like Sports for my Son?

Dear Sports Fan,

I’ve never been a big sports fan, but this is my first Father’s Day and I’ve been feeling like I will be depriving my son if I don’t raise him with sports in his life. What can I do to introduce a little sports to his life?

Thanks,
Kurt


 

Dear Kurt,

Happy Father’s Day and congratulations on being a new father!!

I don’t think you should feel like you have to feign sports fandom for your son. He’s going to have lots of influences during his life and it’s far more important that they be honest than contain sports. That said, there are a few things that you might want to think about doing.

You might want to encourage your child to play sports. Oddly you don’t really have to be a sports fan to enjoy playing sports. So buy some balls and frisbees and sticks and even if your kid is too small to really use them, you can kind of swing him at them. If he seems to take to any of it, encourage him! Participating in team sports from a young age is a wonderful way to build confidence, make friends, and get stronger. It’s also a big lesson on how to deal with success and failure. Your son will definitely learn how to win and how to lose from his parents even if the winning and losing for them is not sports related. Be a good winner and a better loser.

The other piece of sports that a child often picks up from his or her parents is who to root for. If you don’t have any sports allegiances, hopefully you live in a one team region. My parents weren’t fans of any sports teams (except the ones my brother and I were on) when I was growing up and partially as a result[1] of that, I root for a hockey team a thousand miles from where I live, a basketball team from my home state, and don’t have a favorite baseball or football team. If there is a local team in your area, why don’t you buy your kid a hat. If he ends up liking sports than he will have the credibility of a true fan — baby pictures in his team’s uniform!

Hope you have a great day,
Ezra Fischer

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. But mostly because I grew up in Central New Jersey where the allegiances are as twisted as a clover-leaf highway entrance.

What is Being Offside?

Dear Sports Fan,

What is being offside and why does it cause so much screaming in the bar next-door?

Thanks,
Max


 

Dear Max

Offside rules are about time and space. They are about a line, an event and an order. Although they are probably the most misunderstood, most shouted about, most infuriating rules in sports, they are deceptively simple. Offside rules exist in most of the most-watched sports in the world. Offside is the rule in soccer; it has caused more bloodshed than many major border conflicts or minor religions. It is an important part of hockey, can mean the difference between winning and losing in football, and although it is disguised in basketball, it still has major implications. If you understand the role being offside plays in all of these sports, you will understand a lot about the nature of each game.

In every sport, being offside means that a player is in a position he or she shouldn’t be in when a particular event happens. I’ll repeat it: being offside means that a player is in a position he or she shouldn’t be in when a particular event happens. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. You’ve got it! Now all we need to do is fill in the where and the when.

Hockey
Where: If the player is in the offensive zone; the area between the blue line closest to the goal his team is trying to score on and the boards…
When: The puck is moved from outside this area into this area…
HE IS OFFSIDE!

Soccer
Where: If the player is closer to the goal she is trying to score on than fewer than two players of the opposing team…
When: The ball leaves the foot of a player on her team who intends to pass her the ball…
SHE IS OFFSIDE!

Football
Where: If a player on defense[1] moves across the line of scrimmage (an imaginary line across the field of play where the ball is placed before a play starts…)
When: Before the ball is snapped to start the play…
HE IS OFFSIDE (If the player touches another player on the other team, this is called “encroachment” which is much more fun to say than offside.)

Basketball
Where: If a player is on the side of the court that she is trying to defend…
When: When she has the ball for more than eight seconds after her team initially gains possession of it…
SHE IS OFFSIDE (This is called the “eight-second rule.”)

Where: If a player dribbles the ball on the side of the court that he is trying to defend…
When: After his team has had the ball on the side of the court that they are trying to score on…
HE IS OFFSIDE (This is called a “back-court violation.”)

Notice how the way the offside rule is written seems to suggest something about the game? The soccer rule favors the defense in a big way — if a player can’t pass to one of his teammates unless he has at least two defenders between his teammate and the goal, why are we surprised that there isn’t more scoring? The hockey rule also favors the defense, just a little less. Note how the rule makes it so that if a defender can clear the puck from his third of the ice into the middle third, the other team’s offense needs to totally reset by leaving the offensive zone. Basketball, on the other hand, seems to require offense. If a player cannot stay on her side for more than eight seconds, she’s going to be forced to get her team in a position to score, isn’t she?

See how simple the offside rules can be? What other questions do you have?

Thanks,
Ezra Fischer

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Before a play starts, only one offensive player is allowed to move at once. If any of the big guys in a row even flinch, they are called for a “false start” which is more or less an offside rule.