I was at work event in, I don’t know, Orlando, or maybe Las Vegas, or maybe Seattle, in the days just after David Beckham had announced that he was signing for the LA Galaxy in MLS. The people I was with didn’t understand that, no, he would not be playing soccer now for the US national team, he woulds continue to play for England just as he’d always done. They were dumbfounded.
During the 2014 World Cup, one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever encountered, tweeted out inquiring why the Portugal-US group stage match hadn’t gone to penalties after ending in a 2-2 draw.
Americans — most Americans — will never get soccer. It will always be this mysterious little sport that pops up on their radars every couple of years and then disappears and they promptly forget everything they know about it. Trying to explain to them the nuts and bolts of how the competitions function — not offsides rules or any nonsense like that, but simply why certain teams are playing who and why — is almost impossible. Every American soccer fan has had this conversation. There’s the national teams. Okay. Got it. Then there’s the club teams. Okay, hanging in there, I think. And each club team plays in several different competitions. Huh? Yeah, there’s the league, and then the cup, and the other cup, and if they are good they get to play in this entirely different league (actually two leagues depending on how good they, and their league, are), and of course their’s World Club Cup which is like the World Cup only for clubs.
At that point their eyes have glazed over and, to them, you have ceased speaking a language that they understand.
And that’s soccer.
Where does even start with cricket?
Okay so there’s the national team, and then there’s club teams in several different leagues and players can play for their national team but also can play for a several clubs in several different leagues. Like, say, a English player can play for the English side, but he can also play for a English club team, an Indian club team, a Bangladeshi club team and an Australian club team. Oh, then there’s the different formats. The test, of course, the one with the white sweaters, and then there’s the one day international, and the twenty20 and this new thing called the 100 or something know one really knows and in England they play for a trophy in each format but in other leagues they only play one format except for club system like Shield Cricket in Australia and internationally there’s the World Cup, and the other World Cup, and the Asia Cup and the Champions Trophy, oh and all the play-in competitions for those cups that sometimes last for years. What were we talking about again? I think I blacked out.
Americans will never get cricket either.
And the problem is two-fold. First of all, there’s the nomenclature with which we are choosing to explain both it and soccer. Americans who know American sport know it well. All the leagues, even the ones they don’t follow very closely, make sense to them. And so when explaining international sports, we tend to use the lexicon of American sports: playoff, division, etc. But the problem there is that international sports are so much more nuanced that once you reach a certain point, you run of out of known words, and that’s when the person you are speaking to starts to look for a different conversation to join.
The second is, simply, access to knowledge about the game on an ongoing basis. If you are exposed to the game — even for just a few minutes a day — that’s usually enough, over a period of time, to give people a decent understanding of what it’s all about.
When it comest to cricket, this is where I want this blog to step in, and hopefully help with both of the above.
This blog has existed for several years, and it never really had strong, focused purpose. I drifted all over the place. World War 1, England, Pakistan, America, wherever my whims dictated, that’s what I would write about. I think the blog has been at its best when I’ve woven my personal narrative into stories about cricket. But that’s a difficult construct to pull off and not one that’s sustainable long term. So while I will still write about all of the above, I hope to move toward a daily — that’s blue sky, it will probably be weekly or monthly considering — posts that talk to Americans and explains to them what is happening in cricket and why it’s cool and why they should care. It’s something I have been wanting to do for a while. I hope to move it, at some point, into an email newsletter, but we will see what happens there. And the goal is also to make it not just fun reading for cricket newbs, but for life long fans of the game, too.
This will start on Jan. 1. It’s not a new year’s resolution, but it’s close.
Because the thing is, I had a pretty good thing going here, back when I was posting almost every weekday. It felt good. I had an audience and fans. And I want that back. And I want to keep writing, and I want to keep writing about cricket, and I want to help more people understand the game and why I — and a billion others — love it so much. I have always felt that American cricket fans have a bit of a duty to help grow the game in this country, and I hope this new focus helps to do that, if even a little.
The tagline of this blog has always been: An American Cricket Blog. And now I think it will finally be living up to that name.
I can’t wait to get started.