The dream of the 1890s

Yesterday, I eulogized Test cricket.

Today I do the opposite.


In Minneapolis yesterday morning, it was around eight degrees Fahrenheit (minus thirteen Celsius) with a light wind out of the southwest. I woke up at 6:30am, walked the dog, fed the dog, dressed in layer after layer of wool, left my car in the driveway, and rode my fixed gear bicycle the six and a half miles to the office – just as I do every other day.

It was a perfect morning for a ride. The cold temperatures kept away the slush, and the sun made it feel warm, even though it wasn’t.

The ride took me about 35 minutes, but I don’t go very fast.

If I drive, it takes me about 10 minutes.

15 if I stop for coffee.

When I worked at my old job, I would ride about three times a week, despite the fact that it was a 40 mile round trip, and would eat up about three hours of my day – while driving would eat up only about 45 minutes. It was, however, utterly and completely worth it.

And the thing is: I am not alone. Not in the slightest. In my city, and it cities across the globe, people are choosing their bikes over their cars, despite the fact that is a vastly slower form of transportation.

Even Lebron James is getting in on the act.

And the bicycle is just one small facet of a growing trend: People are interested in slowing everything down a bit.

This video, while an attempt at humor, sums it up perfectly:

Everywhere I look, not just in Portland, people are forgoing modern conventions and seeking out, well, the 1890s. A time and place where the 20th century with all of its disease and war and soot never happened.

And this makes think: maybe Test cricket’s day has finally come.

The game has been fighting against time and progress since its birth. But now with muttonchops and slow food and yoga and backyard chicken coops and homebrewing…maybe the world is finally ready to accept this anachronistic, five day long, slow moving, slow turning, slow building, bat and ball sport.

Wright Thompson talked about this in his long form piece for ESPN. And I agreed in my rebuttal post.

But my post was almost a year ago, and the trend has only increased over the last 12 months.

Every one I know makes beer at home and seeks out local shops and products. They are rejecting the modern conventions of NOW NOW NOW and FAST FAST FAST. And while this has yet to translate to entertainment or sport, it would follow that sooner or later, if the trend continues, people are going to seek a sport that exists, as Mr. Thompson put it, “outside the tyranny of money and time.”

Of course, the people who are involved in the trend are a small minority – mostly Generation Xers who aren’t sure if they belong in the massive generation that came before them (the boomers) or the even more massive generation that came after them (the millenials) – and the corporate machine that drives popular culture is probably going to win this war in the long run, but that does not change the fact that people want to grow their own food, brew their own beer, make their own bread, and ride their bicycles to the store. And these same people, I feel, would truly embrace the gift that is Test cricket.

Again, to quote Wright Thompson (ignoramus that he is, he gets it): “When (Mike) Marqusee describes the pleasure of attending a Test match, he lingers on the way he’s able to think. In the white spaces. I think about the silence at Lord’s, and I understand. Test cricket is different from the rest of the world because it was designed to be.”

Of all the sports in the world today, none of them fit into this mold, this trend, more so than Test cricket. They are all so frenetic, so corporate, so LOUD, so fast. And by “they” I mean the other formats in cricket, as well.

Test cricket however, and first class county cricket, deliver what the world is aching for: no pop music, no floodlights, no pumped in crowd noise; just 22 men in white, on a field of green, absent from time itself. A sport to contemplate and enjoy without constant bombardment on your senses.

It is an anachronism surely; but so are bicycles.

Plus you get to bring your own beer into the ground.

And the players wear sweaters.

All due respect to Portland, the dream of the 1890s is alive and well on cricket grounds the world over.


2 Replies to “The dream of the 1890s”

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