National / Sports / September 16, 2009

On athletic cosmopolitanism

I’ve watched YouTube videos. I’ve read the Wikipedia page four times over. I’ve read about the greatest players of all time. I’ve looked at diagrams, read about the strategy, and even handled some equipment in a sports store. Still, I have no idea what the hell is going on.

Why don’t I understand cricket? It seems so simple. Like baseball, there’s a ball, a pitcher — well, they call him a bowler — and then there’s a batsman. There are wickets, too. And the field is a circle, in all directions. And the fielders are aligned in a sporadic and weird way. There are umpires. See, it’s just a variation of baseball — like arena football is to football, or something.

No, that can’t be. Arena football is stupid, and Mike Ditka is somehow involved, which makes it annoying as well, but it still isn’t confusing. Okay, cricket is like arena football on horseback with random hats and wickets. I think that’s the best I’m going to do.

If you’ve never seen cricket, I wouldn’t recommend the sort of crash course I attempted in my first fortnight over here in London. Having never read about the sport, I thought it clever to just sit down and watch a highlight video and see if I could learn about the game that way — no reading about the rules, just a simple visual tutorial.

Unfortunately, my head was spinning two minutes in. The defensive plays, which were made with bare hands (shall we call them palm gems?), were unbelievable, and the celebrations made Chad Ochocinco look like Jeff Hornacek, but I still had no idea what was going on. Unfortunately, I couldn’t learn anything from the announcers, as all the YouTube videos were set to awful modern rock songs. It felt a little like America; I was comforted.

So I read diagrams, articles, Wikipedia, etc. and still: no understanding. Nothing close.

Please understand. I’m not that American sports fan. I can appreciate a global sports culture. For example, I don’t loathe fútbol. Wait, yes I do. Yes, I definitely don’t like fútbol. I tried, just like with cricket, back in high school. It wasn’t confusing like cricket, but it was definitely boring. Like Landon Donovan interview boring.

I really don’t want to be that American fan. I don’t want to find myself, in a few weeks, wandering through Piccadilly Circus at one in the morning, waving my terrible towel at local Londoners and demanding to know where I can see the Steelers/Chargers game. But here I was, up until 4:30 a.m. Monday morning to watch the most poorly executed football game I think I’ve ever seen. I felt like Rudy Ruettiger watching Notre Dame on a black and white television.

Maybe I am exactly what I don’t want to be. Maybe I’m just reinforcing the stereotype of American sports fans — that our attention spans are too short to enjoy a game that can last three days, or our needs too violent for a game without helmet to helmet collisions. And I guess I’m okay with that. Because I still hate Nascar. And I always will.

Oh, and I’m sorry for underestimating Pablo Sandoval in the spring. That haunted me all summer.

Email Kevin at: kmorris@knox.edu

Kevin Morris


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