You'll be glad to hear, because you probably lost a lot of sleep worrying about this, that Wimbledon had told John McEnroe all is forgotten. If he's a good boy this year, they might take him into their snooty club after all. Which brings to mind the Groucho Marx line, "I wouldn't join any club that would have a guy like me." But there you go.
England's upper crust wishes it were 1882 all over again. Those were the days, Gunga Din. But the fool calendar keeps changing years and first thing you know it's 1982. So the best the Brits can do is pay obeisance to tradition. By tradition, they have asked every Wimbledon champion to join the All England Club, members of which generally have bushy eyebrows and a family crest sewn into their jammies.
Imagine the consternation, then, when a year ago John McEnroe won their precious tennis tournament at Wimbledon. My, my, dear chappies. By pronouncing the linesmen the pits of the universe and behaving as if someone stole his teething ring, McEnroe sent the dear chappies of Wimbledon into whirling paroxysms of propriety. They were real steamed, too.
So to the question, "A mauve-and-green club tie for this wretched urchin from the colonies?", the answer was, "Piffwaddle."
And piffwaddle the answer probably would have remained a decade ago when the Wimbledon bigwigs set the stars in the tennis heavens and ordained the orbital paths of all planets. That was before tennis became a megabucks game; before Wimbledon sold its television rights for $13 million, and long before J. P. McEnroe Jr. showed that Wimbledon needed him as much has he needed it.
With Bjorn Borg taking the year off and four more of the world's top 10 players choosing to skip this fortnight's work, what would Wimbledon be without the urchin from the colonies? The Guinness Stout Classics, per chance?
Small wonder that Wimbledon is ready to forget McEnroe's tantrums of a year ago.
This is a news story, by the way, obtained at a garden party, and so, as any garden party reporter ought to do, we take a minute here to describe the goings-on in the gardens of the Hurlingham Club, where an estimated six miles of bushy eyebrows wiggled in appreciation of women so bold as to wear curtains for dresses.
Looked like curtains to me, but then I wasn't around for the Victorian era when these styles were the rage. One fellow, fresh back from the Alps apparently, wore wool knee-high stockings tucked under his brown corduroy trousers. His suspenders were cute.
Gentlemen resplendent in their whites on this gloriously sunny day were locked in earnest combat not far from the stand selling Pimm's Cups (a sloe gin drink clogged up with slices of lemon, lime and cucumbers).
These gentlemen walked about with large mallets in hand, earnestly pursuing wooden balls painted yellow, orange, blue and black.
After lining up a shot with all the painstaking precision of a Nicklaus at the Open, a gentleman finally swung his mallet between his legs--and tapped a ball a total distance of eight inches. He walked away with a swagger, proud of his feat, and I, a veteran of sports journalism, felt ashamed for not recognizing the genius of this croquet master.
Five croquet pitches, an 18-hole putting course mowed in the two acres of lawn, a lawn bowling pitch and six grass tennis courts competed with a thousand six-foot-tall rose plants for the attention of the garden partyers, most of whom seemed by manner and dress to have been delivered to this moment by time machines, straight from June of 1882.
Had Jack the Ripper strolled through the gardens, he would have been no more out of place than today's breed of tennis player, identifiable for his greed and self-absorption. It is a different world they live in, the difference seldom pointed out better (if unwittingly) by a player who today spoke of a meeting called by Sir Brian Burnett, the chairman of the Wimbledon tournament.
"Sir William somebody came to a players' meeting today," Steve Krulevitz said. "He's up there telling us men to 'go about your job the way the ladies do. Don't keep the customers waiting.' We Americans hear this and say, 'Huh?'
"Then he's saying he won't be seeing much of us the next couple weeks because he's in charge of the Royal Box with about 80 people. And did we know they come all 13 days and they pray at Queen's Club. The Americans look at each other and say, 'Where is this guy coming from?' "
In an effort to bridge this gap between the worlds, Wimbledon has rehired a man fired 33 years ago when he rent the moral fabric of England by giving Gussie Moran a pair of lace panties to wear on Centre Court.
This gets us back to the news about McEnroe, for Wimbledon's hiring is of Ted Tinling, the famous tennis dress designer who has also worked on tours as a go-between with players and sponsors. He speaks both languages. Wimbledon rehired him, in essence, to talk to the McEnroes of 1982.
Here's how it's going so far, as described by Tinling--who, you should know, is a tall chap, 72 this week, with a shaved head, the initial "T" etched in his sunglasses and a diamond stuck in his left earlobe.
"Wimbledon has given a good sign that it wants to communicate with today's player by hiring an elderly freak with a diamond in his ear. I can get across the establishment point of view and initiate a dialogue without alienating young players.
"If I am getting under McEnroe's skin--I read in the paper that he said I don't know my arse from my elbow--I wish he would tell me so himself. I did have surgery on my knee nine days ago, though, and I definitely know where my knee is."
Tinling said he has not spoken to McEnroe, but has talked to the player's father five times this week.
"McEnroe has a clean slate with Wimbledon right now," Tinling said. "The official party line is that he is starting over here. He is a famous player, that's all. No spillover, no carryover. Whatever he does this week will make or break him with the club."
We should not hold our breaths waiting for McEnroe's song of thanks.