Sunday, June 26, 2005

Tennis, anyone?

I'm used to not having anything good on TV on a Saturday or Sunday morning, this is nothing new. But we're now in the middle of that British pinnacle of sports (or something) they call Wimbledon. On my vast scale of sports I like to watch on TV, tennis typically rates just above soccer and auto racing on the bottom of the list. But seeing as it was the only thing on TV other than infomercials (which I usually enjoy... but I'd watched all of these 50 times before), I watched. I'm a sucker to watch huge upsets, regardless of the sport, so seeing Serena Williams lose to a lowly ranked player whose name escapes me was certainly exciting. I guess it isn't the fact that it's uninteresting... I mean, most people would say it's more exciting to watch than golf, but I enjoy watching golf usually.

Regardless of the reason, what's up with the scoring in tennis? Instead of counting points like 1,2,3, nononono that would be WAY too simple. We'll count points as 15,30,40. Sure... that makes sense?!!? Then to top it off, it's not zero, it's "love". OK people... c'mon, is this ridiculousness necessary? Well, a little research into the history of tennis scoring shows that nobody really knows for certain where this scoring system came from (all the more reason to keep it around, eh?). Closest references say that back in medieval times, where tennis was supposedly conceived, 60 was considered a good number. Since the game is essentially to four points, it would be described as 15,30,45,60, with 60 being a win. Somewhere along the line the 60 became unnecessary (since you win at 60 anyway, who cares)... and the 45 got abbreviated to just 40 (why not?). There's even more debate around where the term "Love" as zero comes from. The one that seems most plausible to me is that it was derived from the French word "l'oeuf" meaning egg, the universally accepted symbol for zero. I can see exactly how this could have happened in unceremonious fashion. Picture if you will ye olde tennis court in the middle of the 11th century, two French monks are playing this new and exciting game called tennis. The first monk makes the point, "ha ha! That makes 15 for me, and you have the big l'oeuf." It's a huge inside joke among those monks, who use the term l'oeuf so much that it basically becomes part of the game. Somewhere along the line, those English speaking monks come along for the great tournament. Of course they must announce the score before each serve, so he says "15-zero". The French monk goes "Nonono... it is 15-l'oeuf! hoh hoh hoh!" Momentarily confused, the English monk concedes, and in his finest British accent, "Right-o. 15-Love." And thus it began.

Either way, I guess the sport has some redeeming merits, regardless of its ridiculous scoring. It's worthy enough to watch when there's nothing else on.

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