Football is thriving, just not in the US 

Are you ready for some football? They have it here, in the papers 365 days a year — here meaning all of Great Britain, football meaning soccer. But there’s no lockout, so at least stories have substance.

Yes, Wimbledon, the All England Lawn Tennis Championships, is in full flower — and full of strawberries and cream, priced at $4 for a small bowl anywhere on the grounds.

Serena Williams on Thursday, despite being forced to play among the common folk out on Court 2, aka Graveyard of Champions, overcame Simona Halep of Romania, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Novak Djokovic, No. 2 in the men’s ranking and seeding, also won.

Indeed, this is the grand sporting month in the United Kingdom, with Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix, the Henley Regatta up the River Thames and then the 151st Open Championship at Royal St. Georges down on the Channel.

Still, nothing else matters as much as soccer, football or “footy,” an activity full of passion, legal gambling — the pools, dear boy — and, just to keep the ladies interested, scandal.

In America, everything is a season. The NFL tops the standings in opinion polls and television rankings, but baseball is not to be underestimated, especially in San Francisco, where the Giants pack them in. The NHL and NBA were everywhere the past few weeks, and in Tuscaloosa or Lexington, the college games take precedent.

Djokovic, incidentally, is on a two-match win streak, his remarkable stretch of 43 victories in succession having been stopped by Roger Federer a month ago at the French Open. Serena also has won two in a row.

In the U.K., for certain it’s always soccer. “I’d love to be a soccer PR man,” said a gentleman named Harvey Greene, who is a football PR man for the Miami Dolphins. “It’s in papers 365 days a year. Even when nothing happens.”

However, plenty has been happening. Andre Villas-Boas left Portugal to become manager (coach) at Chelsea, one of the Premier League’s Big Four, along with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

The Sun, the tabloid with the Page 3 Girl (a young woman in nothing but her own skin), Thursday ran three pages on Villas-Boas. “Inside the football brain of Chelsea’s new boss,” was one headline.

The season doesn’t start until August. It can’t come soon enough for Ryan Giggs, OBE, of Man U — perhaps the most decorated player ever in England and BBC’s Sportsman of the Year.

An eight-year affair with Giggs’ brother’s wife hit the headlines three weeks ago and now other women have been mentioned. Tiger Woods of the pitch, as they’re referring to it. Great disillusionment. Great gossip.

The Sun had Giggs on the front page 11 consecutive days. He’s been chased off by Villas-Boas, who according to one critic better win the Champions League — the competition between winners throughout Europe — or “you’ll have to find a new job.”

Maybe he could figure out how to get the NFL back on the pitch, er, the field.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

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