Friday, June 26, 2009

Roland Garros Fans or Wimbledon Fans: Which are better?

Many people this week, both players and commentators alike, have been making the point that Wimbledon is the most prestigious tournament of all four Grand-Slams.  While it may not lend any more credibility to the debate, Wimbledon's official website makes the same claim.  

All four Slams are so divine in my opinion, and divinity is something that you can't quantify, so why try?  Isn't it pompous to regard your own event more highly than other events that are worth equal points in the rankings?  Let the players and fans decide, but please, by all means, avoid placing your own tournament on a pedestal in your own website.  It's tacky at best. 

Which brings me to my next point, about something equally as unquantifiable - the fans.  

I've come to the conclusion, after the first five days of Wimbledon, that the British fans are flat-out better than the French fans.  I know what you're thinking.  You're saying what kind of a nut ball compares fans, right?  Fans are just there to root for their favorite players and buy tickets and merchandise so the show can be paid for, right?  

But there truly is a nuance to being a fan, and in my opinion, the Wimbledon fans get it, and the Roland Garros fans do not.  

Take for instance Sunday May 31 at Roland Garros.  Why the heck were the French fans so eager to get behind Robin Soderling as he pulled the upset of the millennium against Rafael Nadal?  As John McEnroe later said, "they're cheering for Soderling in the 4th set tiebreaker? A guy that doesn't even get cheered for in Sweden?"  

While I won't go so far as to take away the French fans right to do whatever the heck they want and root for whomever the heck they want to root for, I just have to admit that I'll never understand their reaction to that match.  It was strange.  Fatalistic.  And it made me wonder about just what it is that makes the French fans tick.  

Why do they insist on heckling the female ladies whenever they question a line call?  Why do they shout and whistle at any player who is showing frustration out on the court?  Do they really frown upon this behavior?  Are they morally opposed to tossing a racquet in frustration? And, if they are morally opposed to that, wouldn't it make sense that they'd be morally opposed to infuriating hard working tennis players by unnecessarily heckling them at times when they are seriously stressed?  

Okay, enough.  I'm not writing this to rip the French fans - I merely had a few things to get off my chest after watching Rafael Nadal - the heart and soul of the French Open for four years running - be sent off to a smattering of jeers and cheers for Robin Soderling.  The guy deserved a thirty minute standing ovation after that match, and the fact that he got nothing from the French fans is a travesty.  

Somehow I feel that if an upset of that magnitude would have taken place on Wimbledon's Centre Court there'd have been an entirely different reaction.  Why?  Because the English fans get it.  

Decorum is second nature in Great Britain, and this has a lot to do with it.  But there is also a certain empathy that is detectable in the reactions of the collective British fan.  It is apparent that they respect the game of tennis immensely.  They are silently reverent when a player is riddled and becomes frustrated out on the court.  When a player argues a line call, they may giggle or sigh, but they most certainly do not whistle and cat-call like the French love to do.  

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking I'm bashing the French.  I'm here to tell you that I'm not.  Ask the players.  Ask anyone who attended the French Open.  This is how they behave at Roland Garros.  

Thankfully, it's not how they behave at Wimbledon.  One tournament with a rude and insensitive fan base out of four Grand-Slam's is enough.  I'm all for diversity,  and I wouldn't dare deny the French fans their right to indulge themselves in any fashion that they see fit.

They paid good Euros for those tickets, and they are running a world-class event in Paris.  And while I don't necessarily care for the behavior of the French fans, I will admit that their enthusiasm and boisterous banter makes the event a truly unique and memorable one.  They've got great energy and Roland Garros is electric - it's just got too much negative energy for me.  

In my opinion the fans at Roland Garros should turn on their televisions and watch some of Wimbledon - There's a lot to learn from the British fans, and the Roland Garros fans, in my opinion, should take heed.  


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