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When YouTube first launched, before it was purchased by Google, it was not the cricket fans paradise that it is today. Good, quality cricket highlight videos were few and far between.

One of the first videos to receive traction was a recap of the famous “underarm incident” in the final of the 1981 World Series Cup between Australia and New Zealand.

When I discovered this video, I must have watched 25 times over a month-long period, mostly because it was one of the few quality videos at the time that showed actual in-match action, but also because it is a lovely time-capsule of early 80s cricket, and that’s why I continue to watch it at least every six weeks or so.

The open collared kits, the chest hair, the bacchanalian scenes in the crowd. It is a marvelous snippet of a cricketing time long since past, never to be seen again.

At the end of the video, the legendary cricket commentator, Richie Benaud, gives a scathing account of the incident, calling it the most disgraceful thing he had ever seen on a cricket ground – a profound statement from a man who has either played in or covered over 500 Test matches.

It’s a common sense and articulate and grounded review of what was a truly disgraceful moment for cricket.

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Yesterday, over on Twitter, this happened:

No, Mr. Benaud, the honor is all mine. Truly. Thank you for reading. I was both honored and humbled to learn that you had read my post, and enjoyed it enough to pass it on with such kind words.

**UPDATE** Someone on Twitter mentioned this might very well be a parody Richie Benaud account. And, I guess, it might be. The account has 23,000 followers, which is high for a parody account but low for a commentator/player with the stature of Mr. Benaud. If anyone has any information either way, that would be great.

I am a little embarrassed, and I wish I would have thought about the parody aspect before writing this post, but I just assumed with the number of followers, and with the traffic it drove to the post, that it was real. But when it comes to the Internet, you can never really be sure about anything.

And while I am still holding out hope that it is actually Richie Benaud’s account, at the end of the day, a person I don’t know read my work and passed it on, and that still makes me feel great, just as it does when anyone praises the work I do on this silly little blog.  Whether you have a Test cap, work for Channel Nine, or whatever, does not matter to me. Whoever you are, whatever you do: thank you, thank you, thank you for reading.

With all honestly, this is exactly how I felt last Sunday night/Monday morning, long before the Tweet in question:

Screenshot from this post: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/making_things – the image links there, too.

This update makes the last paragraph of this post obsolete, but I am going to leave it there anyway.

**UPDATE #2**

I think this just muddies the waters.

**UPDATE #3**

It’s a parody. I will have my internet credentials on your desk by the end of the day.

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And while I am it, thank you ALL for reading and commenting and retweeting and for your kind words. This has been an amazing, and cathartic, week.

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Pope, Cricketer, Song

*1903*

Pope:

St. Pius X

4 August 1903 – 20 August 1914: "Encouraged and expanded reception of Holy Communion, and combatted Modernistic theology. Most recent pope to be canonized."

Reign: 4 August 1903 – 20 August 1914. “Encouraged and expanded reception of Holy Communion, and combatted Modernistic theology. Most recent pope to be canonized.”

Cricketer:

C. B. Fry

England, Hampshire, Sussex. 26 Tests, 1,223 Test Runs. Represented England in both football and cricket; made an FA Cup Final appearance with Southampton, and once equaled the world record for the long jump.

Song:

George Enescu premiered his Romanian Rhapsody in Bucharest; February 23rd, 1903.

*1914*

Pope:

Benedict XV

pope2Reign: 3 September 1914– 22 January 1922. “Credited for intervening for peace during World War I. Remembered by Pope Benedict XVI as ‘prophet of peace’.”

Cricketer:

Jack Hobbs

England, Surrey. 61 Tests, 5,410 Test runs. “Known as ‘The Master’, Hobbs is regarded by critics as one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket. He is the leading run-scorer and century-maker in first-class cricket, with 61,760 runs and 199 centuries.”

Song:

The Lena Guilbert Ford (words) and Ivor Novello (music) song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” was published on October 14th, 1914.

*1922*

Pope:

Pius XI

pope3

Reign: 6 February 1922 – 10 February 1939. “Signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy, establishing the Vatican City as a sovereign state.”

Cricketer:

Jack Hobbs (see above)

Song:

“Three O’clock in the Morning” spent eight weeks at number one in 1922.

*1939*

Pope:

Pius XII

pope4Reign: 2 March 1939 – 9 October 1958. “Invoked papal infallibility in encyclical Munificentissimus Deus.”

Cricketer:

Don Bradman

cricketer4Australia, New South Wales, South Australia. 52 Tests, 6,996 Test runs. Career Test average: 99.94. The greatest Test batsman of all time.

Song:

Judy Garland’s Somewhere over the Rainbow: Written for the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” and Judy Garland’s signature song. Won an Oscar.

*1958*

Pope:

Pope John XXIII

pope5Reign: 28 October 1958 – 3 June 1963. “Opened Second Vatican Council; sometimes called ‘Good Pope John’.”

Cricketer:

Garry Sobers

cricketer5West Indies, Barbados, South Australia, Nottinghamshire. 93 Test, 8032 Test runs, 235 Test wickets. One of the greatest all-rounders of all time. Once scored 365 not out.

Song:

The Kingston Trio recorded “Tom Dooley” in 1958 and hit #1 on the Billboard charts the same year.

*1963*

Pope:

Paul VI

pope6Reign: 21 June 1963 – 6 August 1978. “The last pope to be crowned with the Papal Tiara. First pope to travel to the United States. Concluded Second Vatican Council.”

Cricketer:

Fred Trueman

File:Fred Trueman 02.jpg

England, Yorkshire, Derbyshire. 67 Tests, 307 Test wickets. Prime Minister Harold Wilson once described him as the “greatest living Yorkshireman.”

Song:

Bob Dylan released “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” in May of 1963.

*1978*

Pope:

John Paul I

File:Albino Luciani, 1969 (3).jpg

Reign: 26 August 1978 – 28 September 1978. “First pope to use ‘the First’ in regnal name. First pope with two names, for his two immediate predecessors.”

Cricketer:

Sir Viv Richards

File:Vivian richards crop.jpg

West Indies, Glamorgan, Queensland, Somerset, Leeward Islands, Combined, Islands. 121 Tests, 8,540 Test runs. 187 ODIs, 6,721 ODI runs. Widely considered the greatest ODI batsman of all time, and named one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the century in 2000.

Song:

Kraftwerk released “The Man-Machine” in May of 1978.

*1978*

Pope:

John Paul II

File:JohannesPaul2-portrait.jpg

Reign: 16 October 1978 – 2 April 2005. “First Polish pope and first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Canonized more saints than all predecessors. Traveled extensively. Third longest known reign after Pius IX and St Peter. Recently beatified by Pope Benedict XVI.”

Cricketer:

See above

Song:

Bruce Springsteen released “Darkness on the Edge of Town” on June the 2nd, 1978.

*2005*

Pope:

Benedict XVI

File:Benedykt XVI (2010-10-17) 4.jpg

Reign: 9 April 2005 – 28 February 2013. “Oldest to become pope since Pope Clement XII in 1730. Elevated the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position. First pope to renounce the Papacy on his own initiative since Pope Celestine V in 1294,retaining regnal name with title of pope emeritus.” Also, best hat.

Cricketer:

Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff

England, Lancashire, Chennai Super Kings. 79 Tests, 3845 Test runs, 226 Test wickets. Set England alight, and promptly retired.

Song:

The National released “Alligator” on April the 12th, 2005.

*2013*

Pope:

Francis I

File:Card. Jorge Bergoglio SJ, 2008 - nº2.jpg

Reign: 13 March 2013 – Present. “First pope born outside Europe since St. Gregory III and first from the Americas. First Pope from the Southern Hemisphere. First Jesuit pope. First to use a new and non-composed regnal name since Lando (913–914).

Cricketer:

TBD. (But probably going to be a South African).

Song:

Cloud Cult released “1x1x1” on the 5th of March, 2013.

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Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_popes
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisden_Leading_Cricketer_in_the_World

Cricketers are those awarded the Wisden Leading Cricket in the World honor – announced retroactively in 2007 for the years 1900-2002.

Songs were my choice.

Papal bios are quoted from the link above.

***All images are from Wikipedia Commons and link back to original***

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It’s been a really hard year

“Después”

after chopping off all the arms that reached out to me;
after boarding up all the windows and doors;

after filling all the pits with poisoned water;
after building my house on the rock of no,
inaccessible to flattery and fear;

after cutting off my tongue and eating it;
after hurling handfuls of silence
and monosyllable of scorn at my loves;

after forgetting my name;
and the name of my birthplace;
and the name of my race;

after judging and sentencing myself
to perpetual waiting,
and perpetual loneliness, I heard
against the stones of my dungeon of syllogisms,

the humid, tender, insistent
onset of spring.

-Octavio Paz

My Dad and Me and Sachin

In my last blog, I mentioned how I didn’t have the same connections to cricket that others have. Kolkata 2001 does not remind me of moving to America, for instance.

Well, this is my attempt at fixing that, without causing too many ripples in the space-time continuum.

*

Sometime after the India vs Australia series, most cricket fans, be they casual or serious, Indian or otherwise, fully expect Sachin Tendulkar to retire from Test cricket.

24 years, 196 Tests, 15,746 runs, 51 centuries, and God only knows how many balls faced.

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Sachin made his Test debut on November 15th, 1989, as a 16 year old. It was against Pakistan in Karachi. He scored 15 off of 28 balls before being bowled by Waqar Younis.

Six weeks before he did so, on a sunny Autumn morning in Minneapolis, minutes after finishing the Twin Cities Marathon, my dad died of a massive heart attack. He was 40 years old.

I was 13.

I loved my dad. He was my best friend. To say it was a massive blow would be a profound understatement.

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This is the story of Sachin, me, and my dad.

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Those first few weeks are a blur. I remember making bargains, I remember not crying very much, and I remember a very general sense of holy shit everything is changing.

As Sachin prepared for his Test debut, we had a funeral in Minneapolis, and another one in Cincinnati a few days later. None of it was easy for any of us.

Halloween was hard, Thanksgiving was harder, and it’s almost as if Christmas didn’t even exist that year, because I remember nothing about it.

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The following summer, Sachin hit his maiden Test century. 119 not out against England at Old Trafford, helping his country save the match.

That summer we drove to Chicago to spend time with my Uncle, and then later in the summer, probably around the time Sachin was walking to the crease in Manchester, we drove to Cincinnati to spend time with my dad’s extended family.

Life was for the most part getting back to normal. When you are young however you don’t understand how complicated grief is. It’s a not a straight road through a dark tunnel; it’s a dimly lit maze of caverns that you never truly emerge from, no matter how you try, no matter how many years pass.

Michael Ian Black did a piece for This American Life a few years back about the death of his father that summed everything up for me:

“Rather than feeling the loss of my father subside over the years, I feel it more acutely as time goes on. I want a dad. I want my dad. I still feel that way, 28 years later. Meanwhile, I hurdle through life like a running back, my arm forever outstretched to keep people from getting too close.”

That’s it, that’s all of it. But when you are 14 going on 15 and alive and healthy, you don’t see it that way. You see grief as a disease and death as something that you get over, and move on from.

And as Sachin was scoring freely against England, that’s what I was thinking, my head pressed against the glass of the passenger window in my mom’s station wagon as we rumbled back home through midwestern summer fields: everything was going to be okay, we were going to move on, it was going to be fine.

I had no idea what was I getting myself into.

And I would bet that Sachin really didn’t either.

Our journeys had just begun. His would take him to the absolute height of sporting success; mine to the depths of the aforementioned dimly lit maze.

*

On the first of February, 1992, Sachin hit a sublime 114 in Perth against a venerable Aussie attack. He was coming into his own. He was becoming not just a great batsman, but an icon.

That February I would turn 16, which in the United States means the license to drive, which in turn of course means freedom. I remember that late spring for a certain group of friends that I have lost touch with, and high school hockey tournaments, and again: moving on. It’s not as if I was forgetting my dad, it was more (way more, in fact) that I simply was not ready to even start mourning.

Oh sure, I was sad; I wore black sweaters and listened to The Smiths but so did a million other people. I was high school sad. I was not mourning.

*

October, 1996. Seven years on.

Sachin is made India’s captain. He leads them to victory in a one-off match against Australia in Delhi, and then a series win over South Africa.

I was living in a tiny studio apartment in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood of Minneapolis, and I was attending classes at the University of Minnesota. That fall two of my best friends in the world transferred back to the U and I think I was finally finding my feet, socially. I also was still going to my classes at that point, and studying, and turning in my papers on time.

All of that would change soon enough.

But I also was beginning to understand that in a lot of ways, my mind was still suck in October of 1989. I was immature. I was relationship illiterate. I was spending entirely too much time alone. I pushed people away that would have been great for me, and I smothered those that were terrible to me. In a lot of ways, looking back, things were really starting to fall apart.

Sachin was only 24. He was India’s captain. He had 10 Test tons. He was a millionaire. He was married.

And while he ascended, I circled the drain, despite all that I had going for me, socially and academically.

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Ahmedabad. October the 29th. 1999. Sachin’s first double century. A 217 against New Zealand.

The very next day, I would meet my future wife.

I was living at the time in an even smaller studio apartment in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis after a failed experiment in a house with roommates and several failed relationships. I was still enrolled at the U, though it was more ceremonial than anything. I was yet again spending an extraordinary amount of time alone, and I was painfully aware that I really needed to deal with my dad. I needed to finally mourn.

I would watch Field of Dreams just to cry, I would think about him constantly, I would talk to him as I walked between classes. I missed him so much. I thought if he was around, things would be better. I would have a center of gravity, and all of the things that were spiraling out of control would not even exist.

When I met my wife, though, the day after Sachin raised his bat to the adoring fans on the terraces of the Sardar Patel Stadium, I knew I had found a kindred spirit, as she had lost her mother at a very young age. I knew right then and there that everything was going to be okay. Not wine and roses all day, every day, of course, but when it came to my inability to properly mourn because of the walls and layers I had spent years building, the hard times were ending.

And I was right. About two months later, for the first time ever, I cried about my dad. I mean really cried. My wife-to-be, like the most patient angel on earth, held me in her arms while I cried for what felt like hours. It was the most intimate I had ever been with another person, and I mean that sincerely.

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On the 31st of March, 2001, Sachin surpassed 10,000 ODI runs. A phenomenal achievement.

India was entering a period of tremendous growth. They were breaking out of their shell and were getting a seat at the international table. The “aughts” would be the Decade of India, and Sachin with his 10,000 ODI runs and his 25 Test centuries and his 30 ODI centuries would be their talisman.

Two weeks after ODI run number 10,000, my dad’s father passed away.

We drove down for the funeral. I could feel the links to a time when my dad was alive slowly slipping away.

A week later, my dad’s mother died of a broken heart. Broken once when my dad died, broken again when her husband died.

The next summer my uncles sold the house my dad had grown up in; the new owners tore it down and built a new one.

Having moved around so much, my grandparent’s house in Cincinnati that they had built after my grandfather returned from World War Two, the house that they had raised four children in, was the closest thing I would ever have to an ancestral home. And it was gone.

And with it, so much of what linked me to my dad.

*

In Sachin’s 99th Test appearance, on August the 23rd, 2002, he surpassed the great Don Bradman’s record of 29 Test centuries with a 193 against England at Headingley.

Three weeks earlier, in a once-in-a-generation thunderstorm, my wife and I were married.

We had a picture of my dad on display in the reception room.

He was never far from my thoughts.

We paid for the wedding with the inheritance we received from my grandparents; they had written my brother, sister, and me into their will after my dad had died.

*

On March 16th, 2005, Sachin scored his 10,000th Test run. He was 31 years old. I was 29, going on 30, and my clock was ticking.

I still missed my dad. I missed him more than anything. But the loss of him at such a young age was a constant reminder that I could very well die young, too. I was going to turn 30. He had died at 40. I had ten years. 3,500 days. These thoughts would rule my brain then and now. Sachin had 10,000 Test runs, I had an expiration date.

Then again, so did he.

*

After what surely must have felt like the longest 14 months of his entire life, on March 16th, 2012, Sachin scored his 100th international century.

It was the end of a very difficult time for the player, and the sense of relief he must have felt we will never be able to fully understand. It was a pure moment, the kind we only ever get in sports:

It was the culmination of a lifetime of effort from a very special player. And the TV announcer was right: we will never seen anything like it ever again.

As I watched this, my life was once again on the rocks, and I once again kept thinking to myself: if only my dad had lived, everything would be different, better. I still struggled with missing him, I still talked to him on long bike rides, wishing he was there. Despite my decades of effort at getting over him, I was still very much in mourning; I would never get my culmination, my pure moment.

Sachin was aging, he had reached pinnacles in cricket that no one ever will see again, and I was still stuck in October of 1989. My grief refused to age, refused to ebb; simply refused.

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And, finally, despite the fact that there is one last chapter he has yet to write, on December 23rd, 2012, Sachin retired from one day cricket. He left us all wondering, of course, why just retire from one format, but in metaphor, and in the context of this post, it works.

I will never fully forget my dad, I will never fully be over him. But certain facets of my grief have recently retired. I can tell people I meet that my dad died when they ask what he does for a living. I can watch films where sons bury their fathers without completely losing it. I can let people in. I can foresee a future past the age of 40.

But yet, despite that, the pain still lingers, and it will continue to linger. Long after Sachin retires from Tests, I will still mourn my dad. The wound opened in 1989 will never fully close.

*

It was interesting allowing myself to plot my grief along Sachin’s career timeline. The day is coming however when he will will have to fully retire and his own wound will open up and his life will have the giant hole in it.

It’s almost as if our two timelines were reversed. In the fall of 1989, my world ended while his was just opening up before him.

In a few weeks, his world will end, all that he knows will go away, just as my wounds are finally starting to heal.

Here’s to you, Sachin. A remarkable career that spanned an entire grief cycle for me.

And here’s to you, dad. I still miss you so much.

My mom, dad, sister, and me outside my grandparent's house. August of 1977. Sachin would have been five.
My mom, dad, sister, and me outside my grandparent’s house. August of 1977. Sachin would have been four.

Timeline

As I have mentioned several times here,  I moved around a lot as a kid.

Recently, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I have reconnected with some people I attended middle school (grades six and seven, ages 10 and 11) with in Howell, Michigan about a million years ago.

In creeping through their photos, I have on several occasions come across  albums of high school era pictures scanned in and reposted: groups of friends together sitting on the hood of a brand new used car, cheap ill-gotten beers in hand, bad 90s small town fashion, bad 90s small town everything.

I look at those pictures, and I am filled with melancholy: that was my alternate timeline, to borrow a phrase from Doctor Who. I was supposed to be in those pictures, too, but I wasn’t, and I never will be, because my dad picked up and moved the family to Minnesota the year before high school. From small town to suburb. I should have had Dazed and Confused, instead I got Pump Up the Volume.

This is my roundabout way of saying that often, when reading about the cricket that happened between my birth and the year I discovered the game, I feel a similar sense of loss and disconnectedness. When Sachin retired from ODIs, I felt a tinge of jealousy of those that have strong memories of Sachin in his youth, of the format in its youth, of the whole of India in its youth (relatively), memories that connected them to certain times and places and events in their own lives. I read those posts and think to myself: that should have been me. I should have been enjoying the 2005 Ashes, but instead I was smoking cigarettes and buying a house; I should have been watching the Kolkata Test in 2001, but I wasn’t; I should have been watching Sachin’s Test debut, but instead I was moving from Michigan to Minnesota.

Cricket’s history is my alternate timeline. And reading about one’s alternate timelines, and we all have them, always fills us with melancholy.

Which is why I am so very thankful when performances like what we saw last night happen, because it allows me to be a part of cricket history, to look back 10 years from now and not mourn an alternate timeline, but instead look back and say I was there, I saw Cheteshwar Pujara’s 206 at Hyderabad against Australia in the late winter of 2013. I saw the rebirth of Indian Test cricket. I saw the second coming of Rahul Dravid.

I was there. I saw it.

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