Unless you follow the “minor sports” closely, you may not be aware that we are passing through international sports’ greatest season: that stretch of time that runs from the middle of May until the end of July. During this short, approximately sixty- day period at the beginning of summer, four of the world’s greatest sporting events take place: The French Open, the world’s greatest clay court tournament; The Championships Wimbledon (best known simply as “Wimbledon”), the greatest grass court tennis tournament in the world and one of the four “Majors” in tennis (the other three are the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens); The Open, better known in the U.S. as “The British Open”, the four day golf tournament that is one of golf’s four majors– The Masters, the U.S. Open and the PGA, are golf’s other three but maybe the British Open is the most prestigious since the tournament is staged in the country where golf was invented; and the Tour De France , the world’s greatest bike race and, depending on enforcement standards of the officials, the world’s greatest mobile chemical testing ground, allegedly.
In America, this time of the year—before the major league baseball playoffs and the start of the college and pro football season—is sometimes looked on as the doldrums of sports, but a little bit of perspective would reveal that during this short period of time, four world class events in sports are contested and decided, and, even better, the coverage for all is superb. The French and Wimbledon are both two-week tournaments and you can arguably see more matches with better viewpoints by watching it on TV, where the tournaments are broadcast both during the day and at night in prime time. The British Open golf tournament is only four days long, but the coverage is always spectacular and even if the courses don’t look much like what the PGA tour typically plays on (they are links courses and require a different style of play), the traditions of that particular tournament are very, very special, and this year will be even more special because it’s going to be played at Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland and the field has some terrific contenders: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson(what a show he put on in 2016).
The Tour de France is another of the great French endurance events—it ranks up there with the French Open (played on clay), which is, to some extent, endurance tennis; the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s greatest sports car endurance race; and the legendary, fearsome, Vendēe Globe, (staged once every four years) which is a simple enough challenge: once around the globe, solo, non-stop, without assistance. Did I mention it was a sailing race?
Everyone of these events is a test of athleticism, intelligence, courage, and drive. Those are among the many reasons we watch as the world’s greatest go at it for a shot at immortality. Wimbledon is fourteen days of tennis on treacherous, fast, grass courts. The British Open is four days of golf on treacherous, windy, often rainy, links golf courses. The Tour De France? That’s 21 stages of racing over 23 days on a course that ambles through the mountains and valleys and plains of primarily France (but other countries get in on the act as well), covering some 2200 miles. On a bike. In competition. Against the clock.
The French love for endurance and extreme endurance races is worthy of further coverage, but for today, the statement that the French do endurance racing in more different forms and competitions than anyone else will have to suffice.
The point of this post is simple: the part of the year that you thought might be bereft of great sports events to watch is actually one of the very best times of the year, if you’re paying attention (and modern technology, streaming, and apps make it oh-so-simple to stay tuned in). There’s a lot of coverage, the production quality is great, and it’s all very compelling. Like most things in life, all that is required to appreciate the season is a slight change in attitude (and channels).
To get you in the mood, here’s a ClickPak of resources, background, articles, and videos on Sports Greatest Season.
Wimbledon (source: Wimbledon.com)
A collection of videos from the Wimbledon Championships
Wimbledon in Print (source: NY Times)
Collection of articles from The Times on Wimbledon
The British Open
A documentary on the British Open
The Tour De France (source: The Telegraph)
Great text guide to the Tour de France
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