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

The Nationals are above .500? Who cares?

Dear Sports Fan,
What does it mean that the Nationals hit .500? Everyone seems pretty excited about it. And, who cares anyway? They all play a bizillion games and then the Yankees win the World Series 8 times outta 10.
Thanks,
Kat

Dear Kat,
There are two things to understand about baseball in regard to your question. First, baseball is a long season and things can change for a team over the weeks and months that can give a fan hope where there wasn’t before. And the second is that it’s all relative. Qualitatively, baseball has teams that usually don’t have much of a chance to win the World Series and teams that usually do have a chance to win. For example (sticking to the past decade for reference), in the usually-a-chance category are teams like the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Phillies. In the usually-no-chance category are teams like the Kansas City Royals, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Washington Nationals. Going into the season, fans of these teams all want to believe their team will be good and might win, however, fans of the former can reasonably expect a winning record and to have a shot at making the playoffs while fans of the latter know that deep down they will eventually reach the point of “there is always next year.”
The Nationals have an interesting history, as they were the Montreal Expos before moving to Washington in 2005 and becoming the Nationals. For a timeline of important events check out the link below. Their history, in a nutshell, is that the  Montreal/Washington franchise, while having occasional success over the years, has not traditionally been a consistently winning team. Focusing on recent history, over the past five years the Nationals have finished below .500 every year and at times been considered the worst team in baseball. The significance of .500 is not really any different than any other sport – the team either has a winning record or a losing record and .500 is the marker in between. For struggling teams, the .500 mark is encouraging because it represents the point at which a losing team can, with one more win, cross over to become a winning team. Obviously, being one game over .500 does not mean great things for a team in itself, but for fans, the mentality shifts a bit as your team is showing signs of hope and a chance for a positive season. In the case of the Nationals, because the team has had so many seasons below .500 (and well below, I might add), fans are excited to watch a team with a winning record. It may also be the case that the Nationals are showing signs of improvement.

In summary, we have a traditionally low expectation team in the Nationals, playing well, relatively speaking, and giving their fans something to cheer about. They probably won’t win their division, make the playoffs, or win the World Series. But over the long summer, Nationals fans can enjoy being a winning team, at least for now, and hang on to the notion of “what if” for a little longer.

Thanks for the question,
John

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

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!

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

A Riot in Vancouver? What is Wrong with you People?

Dear Sports Fan,
Why did the Vancouver fans riot? What is wrong with you people?
Paul

Dear Paul,
There’s an answer specific to this situation and a more general answer – the specific answer deserves a few hundred words of its own, and it has to do with the fact that Canada brings nothing to the table other than hockey, and no one feels this more acutely than Canadians themselves – so when something doesn’t go their way on the ice they load up on the LaBatt Blue, and watch out.

The general answer has to do with the nature of live sports. Going to a live sporting event is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have. There are very few times in life you’ll be surrounded by tens of thousands of people all of whom share one common desire (in this case, for your team to win)– and when you think about the other times that happens, you realize how uplifting it can be. Concerts, political rallies – being around that many people who are all riding the same emotional roller-coaster at the same exact time can be an incredibly uplifting[1] and fun experience. The exhilaration is literally contagious, especially if you win – and even if you lose, the feeling of having taken a journey with 20,000 people is not something we experience every day.

But that same sense of exhilaration has a flip-side – once emotions start to turn, the negative feelings can be just as contagious and just as strong. It never infects the whole crowd – that’s why you see hundreds of people rioting after games, even though tens of thousands of people were actually there  – but all it takes is a few belligerent people (either violently angry at the loss, or violently happy at a win –these people are clearly not the picture of mental health, nor are they typical of fans) doing something stupid, a few people watching and getting ideas and no one trying to stop them, and soon enough couches are on fire and police are wondering how many rubber bullets it takes to bring down a rowdy West Virginian who weighs 285 pounds and is approximately 75% alcohol by volume.

Oh yeah. That’s the other thing: it’s safe to say the average blood alcohol level of a post-game rioter is exponentially higher than the level that would kill an ordinary person. They’re the same people who drink a fifth by themselves at home, then go outside and light stuff on fire in their backyard. Here, they just happen to be doing it in the middle of the street.

The bottom line: the pros of going to a live sporting event far outweigh the cons. Riots happen once in a blue moon, and nothing helps you appreciate your sports fan’s seemingly irrational exuberance like getting caught up in the communal euphoria of a live sporting event.[2]

Sincerely,
Dean Russell Bell

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Using the word “uplifting” twice in three lines? who am I, Oprah?
  2. This does not apply to soccer games in Europe. If you are choosing a first live sporting event to attend, don’t start with European soccer – build to it, but don’t start with it. It is the double black diamond of sporting events, complete with moguls, ice, a completely vertical drop and 9-year olds rocketing down the trail around you wrapped in Kevlar jackets, titanium helmets and their own sense of invincibility. If you like taking your life into your own hands – and if you enjoy a smattering of racism (depending on where you go) – by all means, rock out with the hooligans. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and start on the bunny slope: baseball or basketball.

Why the fuss over Lance Armstrong?

Dear Sports Fan,

I thought Lance Armstrong was just the guy who rode a bike married Sheryl Crowe. Why is the U.S. Government investigating him for stuff that happened a decade ago?

Thanks,
Saoirse

— — —

 

Dear Saoirse,

Cycling is very much a niche – read, rich, white and primarily European people – sport.  The only time Americans become interested, as with most international sports, is when an American dominates the field.  Lance Armstrong dominated cycling for years and won the Tour de France something like forty years in a row.

As it turns out, even professional cyclists don’t find it particularly easy to ride a bike 125 miles a day through a mountain range in crippling heat. So they look for every advantage they can find. Stunning fact number one: some of them probably cheat. Stunning fact number two: most of them get away with it, because of stunning fact number three: the powers that be can’t keep up with doping technology.

Now, lots of people in the sport were (are?) doing it – but Lance Armstrong won a lot, got famous and married Sheryl Crowe, so he’s all over the feds’ radar. His urine is probably the most studied liquid in history, and it’s always come back clean.….but now his former teammates are telling 60 Minutes (and, one assumes, the Feds)  that he not only took the illegal drugs, he trafficked them and basically dealt them too.

Sincerely,
Dean Russell Bell