Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the states, or as they call it in the rest of the world: Thursday. Anyway. Everyone has the day off and we all go to see family and eat turkey (veggie burger for me) and drink beer and watch football. It’s nice. It’s something that Americans have done right with regard to holidays. It’s Christmas without all the nonsense stress of gift giving. It’s always been my favorite holiday — despite its rather unfortunate and not-so-tenuous connections to the mass slaughter of Native Americans by Europeans, but we will save that debate for another day.
My family has its own Thanksgiving traditions, just like every family does. We all meet at our mother’s — it’s small group, just seven or eight of us, depending — and we have some beer and wine and hang out in the kitchen and then we eat around 4 p.m. (which is late for some people) and the meal is very traditional and rarely changes: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, broccoli casserole, green beans with almonds, cranberries from a can, rolls and pumpkin pie. Then we do the dishes and clean up the entire kitchen and then we usually play a game and then everyone goes home. The whole shebang takes about six hours.
Yesterday was different, though, harder. For there was an empty chair, a chair that many people — myself included — thought would never be empty. Everything else was the same, but one person was missing. And in that sense, the traditions of the day didn’t comfort, as one would assume they would, but instead added to the hurt, the darkness of the day. Furthermore, I knew that that someone who was missing was somewhere else, that the traditions she had had were no longer available to her, that she was instead somewhere else starting new traditions.
It was not a good day.
And in that vein is why I am okay with the evolving nature of things. Traditions are made to be broken and sometimes that breaking is positive, it allows us to see the world as anew, changing, fresh. That life is not the past nor is it the future, it is the present.
People ask me a lot what it will take for cricket to work in America. I have thought about the question a great deal over the years, as have many of you, I’m sure. The short answer that I have finally settled on is: Time. Not the length of the matches, mind you, for Americans have zero problem watching a four day golf tournament or a six hour tennis final. The ODI was been around since 1971 — 47 years, nearly a half century — and hasn’t made a dent on the sport in America except giving ex-pats something to do on Saturdays. The T20 has been around since 2003 — 15 years, oof, that makes me feel old — and same deal. And if anyone thinks the ill-fated 100 is going to change anything, they are sadly mistakenly.
No, I don’t mean time as in the length of matches, but in the time of day. The when, not the what or the how long.
I subscribed to Willow again for the third time earlier this summer and have watched a grand total of maybe two hours of cricket. Why? Because the matches are on in the middle of the night. Even the Australian and New Zealand summers which have kicked off don’t solve the problem completely. Yes, you get a little prime time cricket, but it’s just the first session or two of Test matches and then you are past everyone’s bed time. ODIs start at midnight, U.S. time, T20s as late as 3 a.m.
For cricket to work in America: this is the tradition that needs to be broken: the when of matches. This is why I am in favor of the day-night test. But you’ll need to go a step further than that: have night-night tests, or move IPL matches to the morning in India so they are on during the evening in America. It would be a sea change that the sport — any sport, really — has never seen. But it would work. I think. Americans are thirsty for sport, for entertainment, for new. and cricket ticks all those boxes.
People will disagree, of course, and say that the sport has to start at the youth level. And, fine, I see that point, but if the kids that are exposed to cricket still can’t watch it when they are older and have expendable income, then you are still nowhere.
No, for cricket to work, you need to change the when. Not the how or the why or the what. The when. That’s the tradition you need to not break, but shatter, for cricket to work in America.
If, of course, that’s something you want.
Traditions are made to be broken, but they are also how we mark time, and how we find sameness in an ever-changing world. They are comfort, despite the pain they can occasionally bring, Yeah, Americans might not ever tune in to a test that starts at midnight, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s worth the loss to have the tradition. In that spirit, while yesterday was hard, it was also comforting to know that despite all the change of the last year, some things hadn’t changed. And I think I am okay with that. Because there is such a thing as too much change. And when you reach that point, you need to ask yourself: will everything we change be worth it?
That’s not the question you want to ask in hindsight.
For now, let’s keep the turkey and the late dinner time and the Trivial Pursuit, and let’s also keep those long shadows creeping over Lord’s as the late afternoon of a test becomes early evening and the game is still in doubt.
Change is good. Traditions can be better.