Seaweed and Indiana sawgrass

“Pale Green Things” is the closing track to the Mountain Goats’ classic record The Sunset Tree. The album tells the story of the band leader’s youth spent with an abusive step father. In the closing track, he tells the story of when he learned of his step father’s death, but instead of remembering all the abuse and cruelty, he instead remembers a rare moment of tenderness shared between the two, a trip to a race track on a Saturday morning, driving with the windows down, parking by the paddock, his stepfather already old, already sick, leaning on a fence in the dawn with a stopwatch and a racing form.

It’s probably one of the saddest songs ever written.

When we lose, when we are faced with loss, we remember not the horror or the fear or the dread or even the boredom, we remember quiet moments when everything seemed okay, and those moments cover over everything else. It’s almost a defense mechanism, designed to protect us from the darkest places in times of grief.

Right now we are all facing loss, and our brains are all performing these mental gymnastics. We remember not the grind of daily life before the virus, but instead the joy of going to the office, seeing friends, attending family get togethers that in reality were something you dreaded. We look through our rose colored glasses back on a world now gone and see only happiness and contentment, when in reality life before this was equally as difficult at times. Just in a different way. I think, in the end, this might be a good thing.

I have often heard that the best season of Saturday Night Live is the first season you were allowed to stay up and watch it. I don’t like the NHL, but I will watch the Stanley Cup Finals if the two teams involved existed when I was young. We are constantly reaching back to a time before the now, a remembrance of things past, in order to feel grounded in our now — our sad, hard now. We do this all the time. We did it all the time. Even before this all started. Our lives are a series of consequences, a series of left turns or right turns that bring us to where we are right now. In some ways, that is a miracle. All the little moments of decision — sometimes our choices, sometimes choices outside our influence — lead us without fail, without stumble, to this moment, right now, sitting in the sun on the porch of my apartment, writing this on my laptop.

But there is another side to that coin. A sad side. A hard side. A side that more or less, I think, defines us as humans. A side that mourns that which never was, because we turned left, or right, one random Tuesday morning. We mourn all that has passed in reality, and all that has passed that could have been, that never can be now, that is lost, but also never was to begin with. And with that, we also grieve for the future that could have been, if the present were somehow different.

When we look back, we grieve, because when we look back, all we see is hope. Hope that a stepdad might be slowly cooling from the monster he was. Hope for a future that never turned out the way we would have wanted. Hope for a childhood not marred by loss, for a life not marred by loss.

Right now all we have is loss. A loss of concerts and trips already cancelled, a loss of friends and loved ones. A loss of a future that makes sense, that feels certain, and in that lack of certainty we are also grieving for all that was to be, which is now gone. And that last one wraps of up everything together in a grim, sad box: we mourn for the now, we mourn for the before, and we mourn for a limitless future, unbound by consequence, unbound by decision, more so than it ever was before. We are stuck, not making any turns, right or left, and so all that could have been — not some, but all — is gone.

When my father died, I mourned for years not what I had lost, but what I had potentially lost. I mourned for being an adult and not having a relationship with my dad. For not having him there to help me, guide me, mentor me. And when I do think back on the 13 years I did have with him — while I do, now, think of the hard times, for the first 20 years without him I did not — I thought of those days gone by in the backyard, learning to throw a baseball on a summer’s morning in middle of nowhere Ohio, lost in the haze and mist of Reagan’s America.

And when my stepfather dies, a man whom I have never liked or gotten along with, I will think not of the abuse, or the anger, or the cruelty, but of a cross country meet of mine that he attended when I was in high school. He came alone, without my mother, and brought his ancient camera bag, and took pictures. It was a sunny fall day, warm for September, life stretched out endlessly both of us. I was young. But so was he. Now we are all old. all dying, and already starting to grief those which we haven’t even lost yet.

On the drive to the hospital with the neighbor from next door on the morning my father died, I looked out the window and realized that everything I saw would make me sad if he died. And I was right. I was grieving in advance, even before he died. And that is what we are doing now, in so many ways, grieving all that is lost, even the things that are still here.

A month ago I was looking out my kitchen window into the alley behind the bakery next door. The world was on fire. People were dying in the hallways of Rome hospitals. A rabbit ran through the alley, lost in the late afternoon shadow cast by the buildings. But when it entered a low sunbeam let in through the cracks, it paused, it sat, I saw it breathing, closing its eyes, bathing in the light, the heat. A moment of quiet, of peace, in a world gone mad with grief and anxiety. It sat there for five, maybe six, seconds, and then it moved on, through the alley, under the fence, slipping away into the wild of a backyard. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Two days later I was at the grocery store. People were panicking. The stay at home order was coming. They were loading up carts full of beans and flour and soup and dry pasta. Myself included. There was a woman in front of me in line, with the saddest eyes I have ever seen, and she was just buying a pint of ice cream and a small, potted succulent. I think about her all the time. I hope she is doing okay.

These are the two moments getting me through this. They both crack my heart open in ways I cannot fully understand, but in a way that I cannot help but take solace in. They were life, regular life, and I am clinging to them. Small moments, made large, in a time of grief, of madness, like a trip to the race track on a Saturday morning, pre-dawn, or a cross country meeting on a sunny autumn windless early evening.

If you are reading this, you, like me, are probably grieving the loss of cricket, and more than likely the loss of all sport, even more so after the announcement this week that professional cricket won’t return to England until at least July 1, and even that is a bit overly optimistic in all likelihood. We are grieving all that should have been, all that should be now, and all that was to come. But we are also grieving the past, what we had, and now feels lost. Moments that could have turned out differently, if only the ball had bounced just a little bit higher, creating a future never realized, which became a past never experienced.

But we are also grieving a lived reality. A reality where there was cricket, and cold beer, and warm grass. Those days when you settle in and the cricket is on, and there is so much more to come. I think about mornings here in the states when England are playing a Test match. The first ball, barring any rain, is at 5am on my watch. I have always been an early riser, so this doesn’t bother me. I wake up and make coffee and put the match on and watch the cricket until the lunch break, before showering and heading to the office, where I listen to the game on headphones. I love every minute of a Test match, but those first two hours, when it’s still morning in England, and the ground is quiet, and the day is full of limitless potential, those are my favorite minutes.

I miss that. I miss it so much. Even though England would be a month away from their first Test match of the summer, if this was just a regular summer. And I worry on top of all that missing that it might not ever come back. And so I miss the cricket that hasn’t even been lost yet.

But, looking back, I also miss the tedium. Those long spells when nothing much at all would happen. At the time, I will admit, I would grow a little bored, a little sleepy, especially if the games were in Asia or Australia and it was the middle of the night here. Stretches of 24 overs that see 15 runs. Dot ball, after dot ball, after dot ball, the heat and the haze beating down onto an empty, quiet, stadium, the shouts of the players echoing around the ground. At the time, I was bored, but right now, that sounds like paradise.

And maybe that’s the gift of all of this. It is forcing us to mourn for things that will, someday, come back; forcing us to mourn for what was lost that we never expected to lose, thereby giving everything in our lives — all the stress, all the sadness, all the tedium — a rose colored glow.

We are all rabbits in sunbeams, and we are here forever.


My sister called at three a.m.
Just last December.
She told me how you’d died at last, at last
And that morning at the race track was the one thing I remembered.

Wisden and the coronavirus

The 9/11 terrorist attacks were 19 years ago. I was 25 years old, working at a toy company in downtown Minneapolis. Cricket not even a glint in my eye. I saw the towers fall from a bar on the ground floor of my office building which had opened up early so people could watch the TVs. It was surreal. All I could think about was how everything was going to change forever. I was, of course, sadly, right.

A few days after the attacks, a friend and I were emailing. Her reaction has stuck with me: she said she couldn’t stop thinking about all of the stuff in the buildings. Desks and chairs and paper and briefcases and knick knacks and phones and filing cabinets and on and on the list would go. Acres of everything. Now dust, rubble, particles in the lungs of first responders. She said she couldn’t stop thinking about all of that stuff, and how odd it was that it was all just … gone.


My copy of the 2020 Wisden Almanack arrived last week. I am ashamed to admit that it’s my first ever copy of the venerable bible of cricket. I always just assumed that they wouldn’t bother shipping to the states, so I never even tried to order one. But as I had nothing better to do a couple weeks back, I went on the Bloomsbury website and ordered it and paid my ten quid for international shipping — a steal of a deal when you think about it — and a few days later, there it was.

It is, as you know, an impressive volume. Heavy enough to press tofu with, despite it’s thin pages, and packed to the gunwales with all things cricket in 2019. Scores and match recaps and essays and “best of” lists, from England to the rest of the world. 1,500+ pages of cricket. It’s a reminder of how much cricket there is in a given year. Not just the men’s international game but the women’s game and domestic cricket and backyard cricket and it’s an almost endless parade of the sport.

And this is just one year. There are 156 more volumes just like it. The game is an army of locomotives, steaming through the years, a ceaseless cavalcade of overs, and deliveries, and fours, and sixes, and dot balls, and singles, and catches at first slip, second slip, boundary rope, silly point.

Until. All of a sudden. It wasn’t there. All of it. All at once. A screeching halt to what just a few weeks ago felt endless. And here we still are, in all of this silence. And it’s not just cricket. It’s all sport. And it’s restaurants and airports and shopping malls and dentist offices and so much more. All of it gone quiet. The world has settled down, taken a deep breath, and gone silent.

Like my friend who couldn’t stop thinking about all of that stuff in the World Trade Center, I can’t stop thinking about all of that cricket, cricket now gone dark. I read this year’s Wisden and try to imagine a world — a world I currently reside in — without all that I am reading about. And I cannot. I read and try to imagine what next year’s volume will look like, and I cannot. How could so much just … stop? It doesn’t seem possible. But it has. 2020 has already lost almost one full quarter’s worth of cricket, and if it loses less than three quarters I will be shocked, which means next year’s book will contain that much fewer cricket. 75%. Vanished. Just like that. Poof. Gone forever. Never to return.

It’s surreal. And even if it does someday come back, the moments we lost never will. I am typing this out on my porch in the afternoon sun. It feels like a normal day. Traffic is lighter on the street out front but nothing I would have noticed if not for everything that’s going on. The 2020 Wisden is on the table next to me. I keep glancing to the cover. Jos Buttler knocking the bails off in the long shadows at Lord’s that afternoon last summer that feels like a million years ago now. What if we lost that moment instead? What if we had lost all of the 2019 cricket? Gone, vanished from the earth, like it never happened, because it never did, the book on my table suddenly fiction. That’s what is happening right now, to all of us, to all of those moments, in cricket, in life, everyone, everywhere, everything. All of life gone quiet, stopped, a brick wall ceasing all forward motion.

I can’t stop thinking about all of those overs, all those singles, all those wickets, that will just never exist. It’s only in picturing such things that we can start to understand the level of loss we are experiencing. We add up the desks and papers and cabinets, we think of the overs and wickets and games, and they pile up, until we are overwhelmed. I look at the 2020 Wisden and I see all that we have lost in these fires that continue to burn, all over the world. It’s a constant, sad reminder of all that this virus has wrought.

In the same book, of course, exists hope, tangible hope. 157 volumes. It has been published uninterrupted since 1864, a year before the American Civil War ended, before Lincoln was shot. The Almanack has survived a pandemic before, just like cricket has, and two World Wars, and those towers coming down 19 years ago that changed the world forever. Next year’s Almanack will look different, everything this time next year will look different. But there will be cricket. And there will be an Almanack. On that we can all rest confidently assured. We have been here before, we will be here again, and we always come back swinging.

There were will be a 2021 edition of the Almanack. It will feel lighter, emptier, but unlike the desks and cabinets in those towers, the game will return, and with it the words that surround it. We will all breath new life into those things that we lost, and watch them return, in a shower of sparks and awe and joy. The moments we lost are gone, and we won’t get them back, but we have yet to lose everything, and one day soon the shadows will be long again in London on some distant afternoon and the bails will come off and a new moment will be born. That moment, and countless more, will fill countless pages someday again soon. Cricket is a series of overs, of deliveries, of matches, all defining natural pauses in the game, this pause is just a little longer than we are used to. I am reminded of this every I time I look at the spine of this year’s Wisden: 157th edition.

I just can’t stop thinking about all of that stuff. All those moments. Now dust, now sadness, now ether. Just echoes until even the echoes are gone. Never to return. 1,500 pages worth of cricket vanished from the earth.

Are eSports the future of sport?

I have never played a cricket video game. It’s not from a particular aversion to video games as a whole. I enjoy video games, especially in these weird times, as they are one of the few things that truly allows me to turn my brain completely off. (Video games and sleep being the two things that accomplish that goal.) I also don’t tend to avoid sports video games, I have played FIFA for hours just like everyone else has. Though nowadays I only own a Wii U, which isn’t really conducive to licensed sports games.

But I have never played a cricket video game. Again, not from lack of desire or out of some sort of intellectual snobbery. It’s just that most cricket games are not licensed to play on North American systems, so they are simply not available for me, at least without a lot of effort and money. And, from what I have read over the years, cricket games are simply not great. The sport, for the outsider, looks to be the perfect set up for a good video game, but they are just too many nuances. All those things that make the game great are also the things that keep it from porting well onto a modern gaming engine.

Which is a bummer. Because I see people getting their baseball and soccer fixes via video games, and that’s just something not available to me right now. I would love to fire up a (probably flawed) cricket video game and spend a few hours with my mind shut off. But instead like most I am relegated to old highlights and replays of matches. Which is fine. But even though I don’t always know the outcome of the replays I am watching, it is still not the same as a live match. Nothing really takes the place of live cricket. I would take a boring live match over an exciting replay any day of the week and twice on Sundays, as they say.

Like a lot of sports right now, however, cricket is pivoting and looking for just about any way to make a little money in these bizarre times. And so they have married the two things above — video games and live cricket — and are now bringing us full video game matches, with the teams piloted by cricketers.

Willow TV’s “eCricket” tournament kicks off tonight, and The Cricketer Magazine’s “Quarantine Cup” is up and running now. (The Willow tourney is sponsored by Betway, which means people are able to bet on these matches, I would guess, which is bonkers). I watched a match of the latter tournament on Friday afternoon, and I have to admit, I was entertained. It was fun. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, but it was pleasant, and the commentary was “live” and was both informative — nice trivia and stats on the players on each squad — but also tongue-in-cheek, which I appreciated. I mean, it’s video games, you can’t take it too seriously. Anyway, it was cricket, more or less, and it was fine. I will probably watch another.

I am not sure how I feel about it though.

For now, of course, it’s a marriage of convenience. There literally can’t be live cricket right now without people getting sick.  And it might be months and months before it can safely return, and it might not ever return to what it was before, at least not until a vaccine is ready. And so cricket is doing what it needs to do to bridge that gap for the fans, and these “eTournaments” are simply one of the only options right now.

But, it worries me. I know the normal we once knew will never return, and that we will have to get used to a new normal (which we will, and it will be fine), but what if — and this is a big what if — cricket boards and sponsors and franchises realize that people will tune in no matter what, whether it’s a super expensive live match requiring 22 players, support staff, coaches, and a big fancy million dollar stadium, or two people playing a cricket video game in their living rooms and then streaming the match to Willow or Sky. They would save billions, and make billions more.

You scoff, but tell me one time when owners or cricket boards chose the game over the dollar. Just one time. I can’t think of one. This is late stage capitalism, folks, money gets what money wants.

The slow shift from live sports to eSports has been a fear of mine for a long time. Yeah, you suck the humanity and personality and nuance from the games, but they are still games. People will still watch (see above) and gamble (see above) and pay for streaming services (Willow is still taking their money from my account each month). And now with the virus it feels like we have fast forwarded to what before the virus was a nightmare decades in the future. Not now. Not next month. But after a long, slow move from live sports to video games, so slow we barely even know it’s happening until it’s done. Kind of, in some ways, similar to what’s already happening to cricket, as we mourn the quiet and protracted death of first class cricket, its throat pinned under T20’s heavy boot.

Like everything in the entire world, live sport will need to adjust to this new normal. And that adjustment might very well mean the death of live sport under the heavy boot of safe, inexpensive eSport.

You are shaking your head right now. I am being another Chicken Little you are saying to yourself, or maybe even out loud depending on how many people you are self isolating with. And you are right. The virus is not the end of the world. We will not be left with a hell scape dystopian husk of a planet when this thing finally burns through us. Restaurants will come back. Schools and beaches will reopen. We will see family again, we will hug family again. We will travel again, board planes and see the world. We will mourn the dead and life will go on. Different, but still a world with smiles and laughter and friends on patios overlooking rivers in distant cities.

But. Large crowds? They might not come back. It might just not be worth it. Concerts could go away forever, moving to live streams from artists’ living rooms. And sports. Sports might not come back, at least how we knew them. We might not ever rise as one again with 50,000 of our closest friends, as the home team completes a fight back from the brink. Sports will come back, but the games might be behind closed doors, I think we can probably all agree with that sad consequence, at least for the foreseeable future. And closed door games are one step closer to the terrifying scenario described above: two people who never held a cricket bat in their hands, maneuvering pixels around, as we cheer and bet and spend.

I am being a bit of a pessimist, I know that. Though I think it’s important to remember that when the games do come back, we need to cherish them. Show up for live games. Hold this game we love as close as we can. And go out and play it. Keep the tradition alive, the simple tradition of a game played by humans — broken, sad, flawed, beautiful humans. When this over, when this is all over, and we are moving away into the new normal — a new normal that no one can foresee in detail right now — we need to make sure that the replacements we turned to in this time do not become part of that new normal. And that’s true not just for cricket, but for so many other things. So much will have to change after the virus, and some things will have to go away forever, but not everything, and we need to make sure we keep the things that fall into the second group from slipping into the first, which, sadly, might be the default setting for most of what exists.

There’s a famous anecdote about the O.J. Simpson trial, which took over day time TV in the mid-90s, preempting all the soap operas that used to populate those time slots. And when the TV schedule returned to normal, the soap opera viewers didn’t come back. They had gotten used to not watching them, and moved on, these “stories” that they used to watch religiously faded from their routine and when normalcy returned, those routines had already pivoted to a new normal.

Humans are resilient creatures. We can get used to anything. And that is a part of our nature that allows us to survive trying times. But let’s make sure we don’t get used to not having cricket, or to having a soulless replacement that we only turned to while the fires burned. Let’s make sure — when it’s safe — that live cricket comes back, and reminds us all why it is one hundred million times better than any alternative.

Like all things cricket — like all things important and good — we need to take care of it, not just in the good times, but when times are dark, and tragedy is everywhere. Especially then even.

Keep watching those highlights, everyone, and remembering.

Maybe the last time, I don’t know

It’s snowing here in St. Paul this morning. I don’t remember the last time it snowed. It had been a lovely spring, after a mild winter. We left sub zero temperatures behind in January, and by March the world was already greener and warmer, the days seemingly longer than in previous Marches, though of course that’s not possible.

When I can’t remember the last time I experienced something, it always hurts a little. I don’t remember the last time I washed the sheets and towels before I left my old life. I don’t remember the last cricket match I watched, or followed online. I don’t remember the last time I saw Alistair Cook bat, or Dale Steyn bowl. I don’t remember the last time I just felt okay.

I remember some though.

Last week I closed on my old house. It was the house where I had lived with my ex-wife for 13 years, before I left in the spring, almost two years ago now. I had moved around a lot as a kid. Between the ages of 9 and 13 we moved four times, to four different states, before I ended up here in Minnesota, where I have since stayed. Then I lived in my mother’s house here until I was 18, and then it was college and a series of studio apartments and a house with roommates and then I moved in with my ex-wife and we bought a house in 2003, then sold that one and bought another in 2005, the one we closed on last week.

My wife had lived there alone for the last two years. Living in and around and among all those old ghosts of our collapsed marriage. I always felt bad that she had to walk alone in those rooms with all those old wounds every single day. I had not been to the house for over a year when I went up there in February to sign the papers that put it on the market. It was as hard as I had thought that it was going to be. Ghosts. Memories. Difficult times. Good times. Laughter, tears, shouting. Long afternoons on the patio looking back into that field of endless green, a cold beer, a book, the Twins game on the AM radio.

I went back up there again last week, on the day the house closed. My ex-wife had already moved out. The house was empty. Full of echoes and silence. I cleaned. I swept and washed the floors and cleaned the kitchen. I pulled our dog’s old tie out out of the yard. I took a small rock from the driveway. I found an old receipt from a trip to Target in 2016 and kept that too. I walked from room to room. It was a cloudy day, but the sun kept peeking out here and there. I kept going outside when it did, but I kept missing it. I went to the basement and swam among the memories, to the garage. Every square foot a sadness. I had lived there for 13 years. Longer than I had ever lived anywhere, longer by a country mile. It had been my home. I knew every nook, every cranny, I could walk the house blindfolded. And then I locked the front door. Put the key under the brick on the back porch. Got on my bike. And rode away. For the last time.

Sometimes you remember last times. Sometimes they are truly are the last time. The last time you lock that front door, the last time you leave someone or something behind, knowing no matter what happens, you will never get to go back, never again get to smell your home in the morning on a summer Saturday, when the windows are open, and the sound of lawnmowers is filling the faraway empty spaces of sound, along with bird song and the shouts of children, the odor of freshly cut grass and coffee and home. No more will you be in that place where you once felt safe.

We all have these. Moments when the wave breaks, and rolls back, never to return. Old college apartments, old jobs, old dogs. Dead brothers. Dead dads. Dead friends. Sometimes a thing or a person has a last breath, a last moment in your life, and you remember it forever, and you lie awake at night and feel that gross feeling of the knowledge that what you had is gone.

I remember other lasts, from the not too recent past, before the world caught fire. I remember the last concert I saw: Wilco at the Palace in St. Paul. I remember the last movie. That last match I watched at Lord’s, at Headingley, the last time I watched cricket with my jaw on the floor.

And while sometimes, in the darkest moments, it can feel like all those moments were truly endings, the last of something you once held so close, something you believed would never leave you, we all need to remember, especially in those dark moments, that we have not experienced the last of so much. There were will be concerts again, movies in theaters again, and there will be cricket again. There are times when doors have closed and closed for good, sealed shut. But the doors of the world we used to know have not done that yet. They are still ajar, and one day they will open again, and while we have all experienced lasts, and some that we frustratingly cannot even remember, the world we knew is not one of those.

It will look different, but those doors will open again.

And when they do, we will get the opposite of last times: first times. Our first time in the sun with our family again, our first cricket match again, our first concert again. We will get these, and these we will not forget, nor take for granted. And there cannot help but be hope in that knowledge.

We have all left. And been left. Watched our world collapse, rebuild itself, and collapse again. We have all had doors close, lock, and disappear. We have all laid awake at night and tried to remember the smell of beds long gone, or the last time we laughed, felt okay, or the last time we walked the dog before he quietly passed on in our arms. Those are the finalities we face as humans. It’s the pact we make for all the joy we find. For all those first times when the world opens up in front of us, and life is one, long, endless horizon. And this world we live in now, is not the former, it’s the latter, it’s a door left ajar, waiting to open. And when it’s safe, it will.

Life is a series of endings.

This is not one of them.

I will never bike up the street of my old house, turn into the drive, unlock the garage, peer into the kitchen window at the undeniable space of home. Never again. That is a concrete ending that fills me with an endless well of sadness. But, one day, maybe even soon, that sadness will be filled with the opposite, which makes all those last times worth it: first times. And in a few months, maybe a little longer, maybe not quite as long as that, our world will be a sea of first times, finally allowing us to move on from all of those last times, whether they were personal, or global, or just quiet moments of silent tragedy that broke our hearts.

We might not remember the last time we watched cricket, but that’s okay, because we will watch it again for the first time together soon.

Image from iOS (4)

USA Cricket: 2007-2020

As cricket — and the whole world — takes a break, I am reviewing the last 13 years of cricket, from when I became a fan in April, 2007 to the present day. 


It’s been — almost with a doubt — a positive 13 years for the US Men’s cricket team.

2007 dawned with the US Men about to embark to Australia to participate in division 3 of the World Cricket League, only to have their plans scuttled by yet another suspension from international cricket, their second in two years. Both punishments were imposed by the ICC for disputes within the governing body of US cricket, the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA). The suspension in the spring of 2007 would be lifted in April of 2008.

Thus began a middling series of seasons by the US men, full of some ups, some downs, but mostly stagnation. They started in the World Cricket League fifth division after the suspension, and they promptly earned promotion to division four in 2010, then to division three in 2011 before being relegated back to division four the following year. In 2013 they were promoted to division three, and then were relegated back to division four in 2014. (Deep breath.)

During these years, USACA was slowly but very surely becoming the laughing stock of the cricketing world. Rival USA Cricket bodies started forming and leaching off members, and the ICC continued to investigate USACA independently. The calls to ICC to remove USACA’s status as the official US Cricket governing body grew louder and louder and louder, until the situation became almost untenable. USACA was a mess. A corrupt, bloated mess. From their finances to their constitution (or lack thereof) and their complete and utter inability to support growth of the game in one of cricket’s most fertile yet most underdeveloped markets.

In 2015, the ICC suspended USACA. More or less cutting off their funding while still allowing the national teams to play in ICC sanctioned tournaments. The US Men got back in o division three in 2016, where they remained after a fourth place finish in 2017.

Finally, in June of 2017, the ICC removed USACA permanently, and granted jurisdiction over cricket in the US to a new organization, USA Cricket, in 2019.

Cricket fans across the land celebrated. Maybe, now, finally, the men’s team would start to have the support they needed in order to being the process of reestablishing themselves on the world cricket scene after missing in action for well over a century. And the team responded almost immediately: they were promoted to division 2 in 2018 and they finished in the top four of the same division in 2019, qualifying them for a new incarnation of division 2, which includes a path toward qualification for the 2023 World Cup.

That fourth place finish included a loss in the third place game to Papua New Guinea, a match that received official ODI designation, making it just the third official ODI for the US Men in the history of the format.

In probably the most fun development of the past year, their qualification for the road toward the World Cup includes several ODIs on home soil. Their first domestic ODI series took place in September of 2019, a tri-series featuring Papua New Guinea and Namibia. The US men won three of their four matches, losing their last match to Namibia in a rain shortened contest. They’ve since played a handful more ODIs, beating the UAE twice and splitting results with Scotland in December before losing all four of their matches in a tri-series this past February against Nepal and Oman.

And, of course, the US men played their fair share of T20s between 2007 and 2020, playing in T20 World Championship qualifying tournaments in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015, finishing 6th, 12th, 15th and 10th, respectively. Then, in 2019, the ICC granted all associate nations full T20 status. So the USA played their first full T20 international in March of the same year against the UAE, and their most recent this past August, losing to North American rivals Canada. All told, they have played eight T20Is, all of them in 2019. They have won two (beating the Cayman Islands twice this past August), lost five, and had one no result. (Side note: that no result was in their first T20I against the UAE. In Dubai. Because of rain. In Dubai. You can’t make that kind of stuff up.)

Which brings us up to today, where everything, of course, has come to a stand still.

They were supposed to be playing an ODI tri-series against the UAE and Scotland in Florida as we speak, but that of course was rightfully postponed, and as near as I can tell there are no fixtures currently scheduled for the US men. It’s a shame, of course, that the world has paused just as the US were poised to make at least a little noise on the world cricket scene, but we all get that that’s small potatoes in comparison to, you know, everything else.

But, still, a bummer. Now I don’t think even the most optimistic US supporters saw them realistically qualifying for the World Cup, but it still would have been a fun ride.

That said, once this whole thing finally blows over, there’s a lot to be positive about with regard to this team. Their top five ODI run scorers are all under 30 years age, for instance, as are four of their top five ODI wicket takers. Those numbers aren’t as great on the T20I side, but they are still good. And just 11 days ago, right before the whole world caught on fire, Dane Piedt, a spinner with nine Test caps for South Africa, turned his back on the Saffers to play for the newly formed US T20 Minor League Tournament, with further intentions to meet the qualifications to play for the US national team and help them reach the World Cup.

And so 13 years on, despite the coronavirus, the US men’s team — and, really, all of US cricket in general — is better off than it was in 2007, I don’t think anyone could argue with that. Even with the coronavirus I think that might be true. Results on the field aside — results which have been positive — the destruction of USACA alone would be enough to give US fans hope for the future. But the results plus USACA getting the boot plus a group of young, fun to watch, hungry players makes one even more excited for this virus to clear the hell out so we can get back to the cricket.


Cricket and Terrorism: 2007-2020

Long before the coronavirus, the world was a scary place. And the years between 2007 and 2020 were particularly horrifying. War, genocide, the refugee crisis.

Cricket, a global game, was not unaffected.

In 2009 in Lahore the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by gunmen and Pakistan didn’t play a home test match for 10 years. In Christchurch the Bangladesh team was minutes away from attending prayer services at the Mosque where a single gunman killed 51.

And in war torn Afghanistan, their cricket team — one of the game’s best stories about these 13 years in question — barely even stepped foot on home soil, much less played cricket there.

There was the Mumbai attacks in 2008. The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka just last year. The Turi Market bombings in 2017. Those horrors and so many more made the game pause, reflect, and then move on, toward healing.

Sri Lanka, the team that was attacked, was the first team to play a test in Pakistan after 10 years.

Three years after the Mumbai attacks, India lifted the World Cup trophy just up the street from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

And, as already mentioned, Afghanistan has entertained us all, winning matches, going to World Cups, and obtaining Test status, playing joyful cricket that belies the tragedy in their country.

Cricket, the global game, couldn’t escape the terrors the world has to offer, as hard as it tried. The international game has no choice but to bend in the wind of politics and war. And that’s what it did for those 13 years of bombs and bullets. It bent, but never broke. It paused, sent players home, but also called them back. The attacks on team buses and on players attending Friday afternoon prayers reminded us that the game is, really, rather trivial in the light of everything wrong in the world. The terror gave us perspective. But, also, the game healed us, taught us resilience, that life goes on, even in the face of unbearable sadness.


I have been trying to write this post for several days. I have started and stalled it several times over. Something was missing from it each time and I would give up. I guess, mostly, I wanted to point out that during the 13 years I have followed the game, the world has seen tragedies and the game has been forced to react to those tragedies. But the world has always been a scary place, and cricket has always been there, at least for the last 150 years or so. These last 13 years were no different, on a scale of global horrors, than any other 13 year period in cricket’s existence. The game changed a great deal in that time, thrived even, despite the terror, but it has always done that. Always came storming back when the world needed it most. After World War 1. And World War 2. After terror attacks and apartheid and famine and dictators. The cricket always came back.

The world has always been a scary place. And it will always be a scary place. Virus or no virus. Sports exists, for the most part, outside of that. Except, when they don’t. When team busses are attacked and teams aren’t allowed to play at home. But they still play. And the crowds still come out. And we all get to cheer the cricket on, a bit of normalcy in the face of so much sadness and pain.

Cricket has always been there, and it will continue to be there. Pandemics, wars, terror attacks. Looking at the past 13 years of war and tragedy has only served to remind that the game is as resilient as the humans who play and watch it, and therefore will come back. When it’s time to heal, when it’s time to go back outside, cricket will be there. The bombs will fall silent, and the cricket will be there, just like it always has been.

When the shots rang out in Lahore on March 3, 2009, it probably felt like the whole world was ending.

It wasn’t. Later that year, Sri Lanka played and drew Pakistan at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in a Test match, Only a few short months after bullets rained down on their bus.

And, ten years later, Cricket came back to Pakistan.

And it will come back to all of us soon enough.