Jonathan Trott

I felt like I should write something about Jonathan Trott.

George Dobell summed everything up perfectly on Cricinfo – and so really we should all just give the man his privacy and turn to other matters.

But I still wanted to post. To say that I was thankful to be living in a world where a professional athlete can publicly admit to a mental illness, walk it away from it all, and not suffer the slings and arrows of an ignorant populace. That we live in a world where he does not have to feign a phantom physical injury. That we live in a world where, for the most part, everyone around him – fans, media, fellow players, board members – offer their full and public support.

I looked far and wide for criticism of Trott’s decision from a creditable source – and found none. The worst I found was people blaming the Aussies’ sledging – but I think that is more a matter of ignorance about the cause of mental illness, rather than out and out cruelty.

I was blown away by how the whole situation was handled by everyone involved. And I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to World Cricket – and my sincere best wishes to Jonathan Trott.

Unfortunately, however, Trott – and others who have admitted to stress related illnesses and sought help – are the exception to the rule. More often than not, the stigmas surrounding anxiety and depression related illnesses keep people from admitting they are suffering – sometimes with dire consequences.

Trott is a millionaire. And can afford to walk away from his profession until he is healthy enough to return. Most average Joes do not have that luxury. Furthermore, while we can all agree that athletes are under immense amounts of pressure to perform, that does not make it okay for us to forgive their lack of mental fortitude more easily than, say, the mental frailties of someone who picks up trash for a living, or an unemployed teenager, or soldier returning from active duty.

And more: Trott was surrounded by doctors, team psychiatrists, handlers, agents, coaches – people watching his diet, his caloric intake, and consistently monitoring all his vitals such as blood pressure and heart rate and body weight. Any change physically was surely noticed and reported. And he was, thankfully, given plenty of support in his decision to return home. Unfortunately, outside of sport, all too often people with mental illness suffer in silence, or slip through the cracks, or worse.

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I say all of this not to blame Jonathan Trott for being a professional athlete. Nor do I say it to imply that his illness is not as serious because of the fact that he plays cricket for a living. Nor do I mean to infer that his decision to walk away was not a brave one Рfor it was. I say it because we, as a society, have a long way to go toward properly recognizing and treating the mental illnesses of all our citizens. There is a very large and powerful stigma in western society still to this day Рdespite how far we have come. Over 38,000 Americans committed suicide in 2010 Рthe equivalent of 100 fully loaded jumbo jets crashing and killing all aboard Рand a similarly high number will continue to die every single year until that stigma is gone and programs are in place that help everyone who is sick get the help they need.

The silver lining of the Jonathan Trott situation is that it is forcing people to discuss, read about, and learn about mental illness without there first being a horrible tragedy. These discussions and educations will help erode said stigma – and they might very well save lives.

What I am trying to say is that let us never forget that we as a society have a long way to go toward properly treating mental illness – decisions like Trott’s will help – but there are still many mountains left to climb. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great resource if you are looking for ways to help. In the meantime, listen to your friends, your loved ones, and encourage them to get help if they need it.

Get well soon, Jonathan. You have reminded us all how frail the human soul can be – even among the strongest of us – and your legacy will be one of bravery and of trail blazing.

May you continue to find peace.

May we all.

Book II: End of Act I

I don’t watch a great deal of scripted television.

Oh, I will do a Hulu here and there, maybe a Netflix, but honestly I find most TV programs boring, predictable, and not nearly as good and/or intelligent as most people say (hope?) they are.

I do, however, watch a great deal of sport. And love it because no matter how confident and educated we are in our predictions, the games still have to be played, and the outcome is always in doubt until they are.

There are no “spoiler alerts” in athletic contests. And that’s why I love them. Pure human drama. Unpredictable. Unscripted. Real.

And far more cerebral than most non-sports people think.

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If last week someone had told me, for instance, that the Ashes would be heading to Adelaide with Australia up 1-0 over England, I would told them they were crazy. And so would have most sane cricket followers – including a great many in Australia. But that is why we play the games and don’t rely just on computers spitting out formulas and outcomes.

But if last week someone had told me that not only would Australia win at Brisbane, but it would be an all out clobbering, I would have told them they were crazy AND I probably would have called the police and reported a delusional madman on the loose.

Not really but you know what I mean.

Australia looked cool, stylish, talented. They had swagger and panache. And England meanwhile looked lost.

Confused.

Old.

And now we have a series on our hands, which is such fantastic news. I cannot wait to see what Adelaide brings us. And then Perth. Melbourne. Sydney. A competitive five Test series played during prime time hours here in the States.

Spoiler free.

Merry Christmas.

See everyone at the Oval.

Book II: Act I, Scene II

I spent the last 24 hours and change at my nonprofit’s camp facility in Willow River, Minn. and therefore missed all of yesterday’s play.

But that’s all right:

willow river

It was an inspiring and transformative time – to say the least.

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And speaking of transformative: England’s collapse yesterday at the hand’s transformed the first match of the Ashes – and with it the entire series.

I am no fan of Australia – but I want them to win this Test. I want them to win it for all of us neutrals out there, and I want them to win it for cricket itself – because an Australian win means a competitive Ashes series, and a competitive Ashes series isn’t just good for Cricket Australia, it is good for Test cricket and for the game overall.

Lots riding on this one, fellas – don’t blow it.

More tomorrow.

Book II: Act I, Scene I

The curtain rises on Brisbane, and another Ashes series begins.

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All the talk on social media yesterday was the Aussie’s disdain for Stuart Broad. He’s a “smug pommie cheat” and so on.

Unfortunately for Australia, they learned a very hard lesson last night: never give “bulletin board material” to an opposition player as good as Broad.

And, yes, he is that good – he has been taking wickets at the highest level for more than five years now – and firing him up – waking the sleeping lion as it were – was simply a terrible idea. And yesterday as I watched “Barbie” rip – and I mean RIP – through the Australian top order – taking five wickets a long the way – I just sat there shaking my head and thinking: let sleeping dogs lie next time, eh?

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Australia, for their part, ended the day honors even in my mind. 273/8 is not ideal, but it also isn’t all that bad considering they were 153/6 at tea. Haddin’s calm 78 off of 132 pulled them out of the fire and, honestly, is my favorite kind of innings in cricket. The grizzled veteran comes in, sets up shop with his team on the ropes, and bats on and on and on.

The bad news here for Australia is the kind of innings we saw from Haddin is few and far between. On most days, the bottom order collapses all out for 200 and that’s that. This does not bode well for the Aussies for the rest of the series.

Until tomorrow.

 

Grounded

Right. So the Tendulkar era has ended. Cricket will never be the same, that is for certain, but how exactly it will change has yet to be determined.

Cricket, the game, changes swiftly and easily, but it also adheres tightly to its traditions – traditions like the Ashes.

And so it is fitting that as the sport bravely enters a world that no longer contains Sachin, that its most traditional series starts up almost immediately. It is almost as if the game is telling us, look, it’s cool, the game has gone through monumental, geological changes over the last 140 years – pandemics, world wars, natural disaster – but the Ashes is still here. And it will continue to be here no matter what. It can weather SRT’s retirement.

The game changes quickly, but it is grounded in its traditions. Today, more so than ever, it is nice to be reminded of that.

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I will be writing daily recaps of the series, just as I did with the series this past summer, but I also wanted to pen a quick and dirty prediction:

England 3, Australia 0.

See everyone on, Twitter.

The Thin Yellow Line

I have been sick. Like really sick. Down and out and down again. That kind of sick where no matter how much you might want to get up and get moving…it is just…not…happening.

Because of this, I have been home from work during the day. And yesterday while I was home I caught a story on NPR’s All Things Considered that talked about the sports graphic company Sports Vision.

These are the guys best known for the now infamous “yellow line” used during tv coverage of American football games. In a lot of ways, the yellow line changed sports on television forever, for it opened the floodgates from broadcasters just showing the score graphic to games on TV being more graphic than live action.

The reporter credits them for changing it for the good. But with the exception of the yellow line, I think the graphic overdose has ruined sports on TV. No one liked Madden’s telestrater, and just making the graphics more professional does not make them any less annoying.

Sure, showing the score is handy, I guess, but anything more than that seems like overkill and ends up taking away from the overall viewing experience. It breaks down the fourth wall, to put it a different way.

And cricket commits the sin of graphical overkill more so than any sport.

In the short time I have followed the game, I have seen every graphical gimmick imaginable – often with hilarious results. And while, for the most part, said gimmicks are only really used between deliveries, it still takes away from the overall enjoyment. Even the score being on the screen the entire time seems useless for a game that moves as slowly as cricket does. Just show the scorecard between overs. That’s really all we need.

Lots of people complain about cricket commentary teams – that they talk far too much. And while they do, I can say that I have learned a great deal from them.

However, I can also say that I have not learned a single thing about the intricacies and strategies involved in cricket from an onscreen in-game graphic.

If sports broadcasters really want to recreate the experience of watching a game live in person, then they should use less graphics, not more. And if recreating the live experience is not their end game – if it is instead creating an all new sports experience – an experience that simply cannot be replicated outside of ones living room – then I am not sure that is a good road for sports broadcasting to go down. I think making the in home experience so vastly different than the live experience is going to be a negative for sport overall.

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Bringing this all back home: cricket, more so than any other sport Рsimply due to how long the game is and how international it has become Рrelies on television coverage to give cricket followers their fix. The games are often on weekdays, and more so than not ones team is playing on the other side of the world. And so the at-home experience for cricket needs to be pleasant, to be informative, and to be, well, an experience. 

But I think they are going about it the wrong way. Take away the graphics, the announcers, and just let the game breath. That’s my two cents.

I could not find a decent cricket video to explain what I mean, but this highlight video of Arsenal v Wigan from last season proves my point for me:

That right there is how sports should be viewed at home.

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I guess what I trying to say is: I hope Sports Vision goes out of business and takes their yellow line and their glowing puck and their fighting robots along with them.

And confidential to the company’s CEO, Hank Adams: using the phrase “man cave” in the first sentence of your interview completely negates what is to follow. For a couple reasons:

1) It is a stupid term. Just say “den” for crying out loud.
2) As a commenter on the article points out, it is more than just vaguely sexist.