Thursday, October 05, 2017

COLUMN: Cricket

I am not a big sports guy. This may come as a shock to those of you who look at my picture and naturally assume that I'm a buff jock.

In this world, there are those who play sports, there are those who watch other people play sports, and there are those who were too busy DJing the post-game dance to even worry about what the game even WAS. When it comes to athletics, I have always been, and shall always be, woefully inept. For me, gym class was little more than legalized child abuse and a daily opportunity to get picked last for any team.

Occasionally, though, sports can be fun to watch, especially if you have no clue what's going on.

Last Saturday, my friends and I were heading out on a much-needed aimless joyride when we stumbled across something I'd never seen before in the Quad Cities: a cricket match. There, in the fields of Jacob Park in East Moline, a handful of guys stood around gleefully cricketing away. None of us had seen a live cricket match before, so we decided to pull in and spectate for a bit. After watching for fifteen minutes, we still had NO clue what was happening.

Cricket is somewhat of a distant cousin to baseball, in that both sports involve batters trying to hit balls that are pitched their way. Instead of a diamond, cricket is played on an oval field with defensemen surrounding the batter on nearly all sides. There's a whole lot of standing around and not doing much. In other words, cricket might just be a sport I could handle.

When I got home later that night, I researched cricket to figure out the rules. It turns out this simple-looking game is a bit more complex than it appears, and comes with its own incomprehensible vocabulary -- such as this, from Wikipedia: "The ball can be bowled so that it bounces on the pitch, is a yorker, or a full toss. A no ball or a wide does not count towards the six balls in the over." Oh, I completely understand now, thanks.

Wikipedia also informs that when it comes to determining whether or not a batter is out, "even though the wicket may have been put down, or the ball caught, the batsman is not actually dismissed until the fielding team appeal to the umpires for a decision, traditionally using the phrase 'How's that' or 'Howzat.'" I was now more than ever convinced that cricket could just be MY sport. I might not make a good ball catcher or a good wicket put-down-er, but I'm pretty sure I could make an exceptional Howzat-man, should any team need my services.

I honestly DID want to learn more about cricket, but had no idea where to turn. Then I had an epiphany. Unfortunately, it may have been a slightly racist epiphany. At the end of my block is a gas station that I frequent daily, and over the years I've become friendly with the Indian family that runs the place. Cricket is HUGE in India, and I had a feeling those guys knew everything about the sport. But would it be an uncool stereotype to just assume so?

Thankfully I'm friendly enough with them to risk it. So yep, yesterday I started a gas station conversation with the phrase, "I apologize if I'm making a bad stereotype here..." which ALWAYS means "I'm definitely making a bad stereotype here," but thankfully my inquiry was met with a smile.

"Sorry, dude," my friend said. "I'm not very sporty," which is probably why we're friends. But he DID know everything about the rules of cricket, and told me all about how it's played. I now know about wickets and outs and yorkers and a really interesting game that's been around since the 16th century.

Even more convinced that I'd finally found a sport I could get along with, I got home that night and decided to check out some cricket videos on Youtube. This wasn't a good decision. Well, for ME, it might have been the BEST decision. As it turns out, right next to all the "How-To-Cricket" videos were dozens of videos with titles like "HORRIBLE CRICKET INJURY!" and my personal favorite, "TOP TEN CRICKET DEATHS ON THE PITCH," inferring that some cricket deaths on the pitch are just not awesome enough to make a top ten list. Whoa.

I'd like to say that I was respectful and classy enough to skip the shock-and-awe videos and focus only on the educational videos. Nope. Instead, I sat there for a half hour watching the sport of cricket maim people. I saw teeth fly out of mouths in slow motion. I saw groins that will never be the same. I saw an Australian pro take a cricket ball to the neck so hard he never got up again.

Over the years, I've learned a few simple Laws of Shane. An important one: If it's possible for something to injure me, it most likely will. Cricket seems fun, but so does keeping all my teeth in my mouth. I've seen all the safety equipment you should be wearing to play cricket, but I didn't see much padding going on at Jacob Park.

Before I discover my inner jock, I want to watch a few more matches. When it comes to cricket, I might make a better spectator than player. If you're an area cricketeer and you're playing soon, shoot me an e-mail and maybe I'll come check it out. Howzat?

No comments: