Sunday, August 1, 2010

Just Don't Call it Rounders

"Swinging Away: How Cricket and Baseball Connect" is a new exhibition at Marylebone Cricket club, celebrating the similarities and differences between cricket and baseball. The exhbition is being jointly hosted with the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (where it will move next April).


In celebration of this exhibiton of the Pond summer sports, we revisit one of Mike's earlier posts on his own blog, in which he shares  his first impressions of cricket.

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10 July, 2007

Global warming my ass! It's the 6th of July, I'm sitting in the sun watching my first game of cricket (how very English) and the only thing I can think is, "I wish I brought my scarf and gloves." At least the rain, which has been constant since the middle of May, has stopped long enough to keep this from being a thoroughly miserable experience.


And quite an experience it is; I'm surrounded by cricket aficionados and have learned more about cricket in the past hour than in the previous 52 years. The two main truths this belated enlightenment has enabled me to comprehend are these: cricket is nothing like baseball, and what I'm watching really isn't cricket.

Let's start with the easy one: American's tend to think of cricket as British baseball because it's their national sport and involves a bat, but that's as far as it goes (and even that's a stretch, as anyone who has seen a cricket bat will attest to). For you Americans--and the substantial number of Brits who couldn't give a toss about cricket--allow me to throw out a few confusing facts:

-- In cricket, one person bats but two people run

-- They don't actually have to run when the ball is hit

-- They can run if the ball isn't hit

-- The ball isn't pitched, it's bowled

-- A strike means the ball has been hit, not missed

-- The object is not to strike out the batter but to knock a few bits of wood off of some sticks

So, as you can see, cricket resembles baseball in the same way that a squirrel resembles rat; four paws and a tail doesn't always guarantee you'll be hand-fed in the park. And that being said, what I'm watching now is to real cricket what Arena Football is to the NFL.

Real cricket games take, literally, days. The "20/20" game currently taking place is, sad to say, another American-influenced perversion of the traditional British way of life. It's fast-paced, exciting and devoid of all the stodgy trappings and strategic nuances that makes cricket such an acquired taste. Real cricket, I am told, involves picnicking on the lawn on a summer's day, drinking Pimms, reading the newspaper and chatting with your friends while the cricket goes on pointlessly in the background.

Here, it is almost like watching an American baseball game, except it's more exciting. The pitching and batting -- excuse me, bowling and striking -- is practically non-stop and anytime anything remotely interesting happens, rock music blares from the speakers and everyone cheers. All we need is a Wurlitzer playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and I'd feel right at home.

Another disappointment is, these games don't feature players wearing the traditional whites. Instead, they have home and away colors, like an American football team, and merchandising is playing a larger role. It's sad, and oddly enough, I am actually feeling a tug of nostalgia for a game I have never seen and a tradition I have never experienced; maybe it's the beer.

One has to hope that at least somewhere in Britain the staid conservatism will continue ... hold on, here comes a Mexican wave ... now, where was I? Oh yes, conservative values, being true to the English way of life, and all that.

What's this? Cheerleaders! They are having cheerleaders out on the field during half time. Actually, they look more like color-coordinated pack of bewildered teenagers, and there's only four of them. How are they supposed to make a pyramid? Good God, they're dancing with a guy dressed up as a Shark to a Scissors Sister's song. It's like they're trying to pretend to be Americans but can't quite figure out how.

Now I am depressed. In the States, these girls would be laughed off the field; here, everyone just seems to be ignoring them, the way they would politely ignore a guest at a dinner party who is making a spectacle of himself.

Cheerleaders in Britain? That's just not cricket.

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7 comments:

  1. Baseball. I have been to a couple of games and absolutely loved it. I loved the atmosphere. But the bottom line- it really is just a game of posh rounders. Sorry

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  2. At Wrigley Field in Chicago there's nowt posh about baseball!

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  3. I'm remembering the line from West Wing where President Bartlet says, "Whenever someone starts to explain the rules of cricket to me, I want to hit him over the head with a teapot." (Not that I feel that way! It's just a good line.)

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  4. Someone just referred me to your blogs... this one is a wonderful concept - both side of the issue... I like it! I'll be back. :)

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  5. I adore cricket. Mike - get yourself to a Lord's test match (St.John's Wood) especially when we are playing the Aussies.

    Grab a good spot. Ideally go with a MCC member so you can sit in one of the posh seats. Take your picnic hamper with you...some champagne...listen to the Radio 4 commentary on Long Wave. A bunch of newspapers also comes in handy. With luck it'll be a glorious summer day. After Botham and Flintoff there's bound to be an up and coming all rounder...be there when they start hitting sixes all over the ground.

    Bliss.

    Paradise.

    :)

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  6. The nostalgia when it comes to cricket fascinates me, and I’m not surprised you picked up on it despite it being your first experience of the sport.

    I’m remarkably positive when it comes to the future of the game. As India becomes a global power, I think we’ll see the game’s global stature grow and certainly more money will sweep into the game (already happening). Also, with the interest in Australia and England with the test form of the game I don’t for one moment see that being as moribund as some nay-sayers have suggested. And yet, despite it all, there’s often a whiff of wistful decay to the game, a nostalgia for a past that never really existed. I guess, in that sense, baseball occupies a similar role in the US’s psyche – a game that has been loved by a large number of recent arrivals to the country yet also inspires a navel-gazing for a sepia-tinged past from the Ken Burns of the world.

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  7. With a husband as a long time cricket player and watcher, we have had many baseball vs cricket discussions. I am really surprised to hear there is an exhibit relating and comparing the two. Each have their own special atmosphere and I have to admit I enjoy them both, that is if it is a pleasant day.

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