Yesterday I watched Arsenal lose 3-1 to Manchester United in the FA Cup. It was a crushing, dispiriting loss and all around not good day. But, I was fine. My perspective has changed. I no longer lose my shit when Arsenal have a terrible afternoon. You can’t fall out of a basement, as they say, and with all that’s happened this summer, I have become numb to their tribulations. I still celebrate the victories with gusto, however, I just don’t mourn their defeats. It’s quite freeing.
On the train home I thought about all those England fans who paid all that money to fly to the Caribbean to watch their team collapse to the West Indies in Bridgetown. They weren’t moaning or mourning — according to Bumble their biggest complaint was the lack of replays on the stadium’s scoreboard — they were drinking beer and laughing in the sun in the Caribbean. Of course, part of their laid back attitude over the loss has to do with the fact that they are in Bridgetown in the sun, drying out after a long and wet and cold English winter. But I wondered if they, too, had suffered the kind of loss that makes sport failures feel not quite so awful. If they, too, have let go of the things that they cannot control, and just allowed themselves to enjoy the weather, despite the fact that their team is chasing down 628.
But maybe that’s overthinking it. I actually think it’s simpler than that, it’s just that being a cricket fan is different. Sure, there will be a great deal of consternation among the England fans on Twitter over the next few days: grumbles about team selection and Stuart Broad and Root’s decision making. But they will also be celebrating the return of the West Indies, and how great that would be for the game they love. And yesterday we watched England fans who had spent thousands of Pounds to fly to the other side of the world to see their team, stand and applaud Dowrich’s century and Holder’s double century. What other sport would you see that in? I mean, the goal that Alexis scored for United yesterday was of the highest possible class, is there a single Arsenal fan in the world who would have applauded the effort? I am guessing not.
It’s a different kind of game, cricket. And there’s really no other team sport you can compare it to. You want your team to win, of course, and it’s fun when they do, but when they lose to a side like the West Indies, who play swashbuckling but somehow still technical cricket, you take it in stride, enjoy the sun on your face, and you applaud the hometown boy’s double century that ground your lot into a fine pulp. Yeah, it’s a different game, one where you spend the majority of your time celebrating, instead of mourning. And if you’re tired of watching your team fail to make a breakthrough, you find a shady spot and have a little nap, safe in the knowledge that you probably won’t miss much, and if you do, no matter what, it’s just cricket, it’ll be fine.