I was born in February of 1976, and so the vast majority of my earliest memories take place not in the 1970s, as I normally like to imagine they did, but in the 1980s.

When people think of the 1980s, they think of skinny ties and yuppies and cocaine and loud colors and sleek lines. A decade of decadence and excess, of Depeche Mode and Duran Duran and New Order. But that is not how I remember my childhood. My memories are not false, I just didn’t experience those 1980s, I experienced the lingering years of the 70s. I wore hand-me-down corduroys, passed down from my oldest cousin to my next oldest cousin to me. On the weekends we went hiking in the bleak hills of southern Ohio, and we took one vacation a year, up to the Becker family cottages on little Lake Brevort in the upper peninsula of Michigan. We ate hot dogs cooked over an open fire, and played in the shallows of that rocky shorelined lake, as my parents drank beer and decided which night would be best to go into town for our one dinner in a restaurant.

By the middle or late 80s, of course, my little family had caught up with the times. Dad traded in his old three geared tank of a bike for a brand new lightweight road bike. My sister and I listened to Michael Jackson and George Michael and Bon Jovi and the Bangles. We bought a new car, trading in my mother’s bright orange Chevette for a perfectly normal, suburban 1985 station wagon. I wore Guess and Girbuad and played Nintendo.

But still, until 1984 or so, my family lived the lifestyle that most people equate with late 1970s America. Times were hard, money was short, so you made do, and made the best, and did what they did in the 1970s and found joy and hope in the out of doors and in hot meals and Friday nights at home, eating milkshakes from the United Dairy Farmers, looking forward to that one summer vacation, mom pinching pennies and saving money in a Christmas account at the local Savings and Loan.

All of this is to say that decades bleed into decades, eras into eras, one long stream of time. When the calendar turns over to a new year, or a new decade, or a new century, it feels like a hard stop, a line in the sand that we have crossed over into someplace new, and different. It feels that way, but it’s not true. The calendar we have created over the years does not govern time, or eras, it simply counts the days, it is up to us to govern our time, to decide what kind of place we will live in.

People might say “cricket in the 70s” and a picture will form in your head. But that image in your head might actually be of something that happened five years after they turned the calendar over to the new decade.

The infamous underarm incident screams 1970s, from the uniforms to the haircuts to the people in the crowd. Yet, that event took place in 1981.

Time is time. There are eras, but they are not defined by years and decades, they are defined by us.

Right now, in this time, it feels like we have, for once, reached a point where there will be a before, and an after. When we do emerge from this, the world is going to be a very different place, even if a vaccine or treatment is found. And this new normal will not just affect how we grocery shop or work, but also our leisure time, our sport. Anyone who watched the Bundesliga yesterday received a touch of what sport, including cricket, will look like for the foreseeable future: quiet, full of echoes, the same but also somehow so alien it was hard to watch.

Now that one league in one sport has put their collective big toe into the post-virus waters, fans of other sports can start to picture what they will look like. As a cricket fan, this might be just a little bit easier. We’ve all watched lifeless Test matches on Monday mornings of a dead rubber series, where the grounds are silent and all you can hear is the shouts of the players. But even so, we are not prepared for what cricket will look like on the other side of this. All the stadiums will be empty, tours might become less frequent or end altogether, the domestic game might rise to the top, as players prefer to stay close to home. And the grounds, all the grounds, on all the days, in all the formats, will be a Monday morning Test match. It is hard to picture, but it is getting easier, which in the end is providing us with a little certainty in a very uncertain time. At least, after yesterday’s Bundesliga matches, we know a little bit what sport what look like when we all get to go outside again. And the answer is simply: very, very different.

And this is a hard line in the sand, we tell ourselves. There is cricket before, and there will be cricket after. Pews in the same church but separated by oceans of time and tragedy. There is 70s cricket, and there is 80s cricket, Geoffrey Boycott in the former, Malcom Marshall in the latter. But Boycott made his Test debut in the 60s, and played his last Test in the 80s. And Marshall made his Test debut in the 70s and played his last Test in the 90s. Players bridge decades, styles of play bridge decades, the fashion on the field bridges decades. There are eras, but they are not defined by calendars, nor are they defined by events. Time is time, bleeding into one.

Cricket will be different when it returns, but it will also be the same. In fact, it will be more the same than different. Some players won’t return, but most will. And the formats we know will still be there, and the grounds we love, even if they are empty of fans for the first couple of years. Pitches will still swing, Lords will still have a slope, England will still struggle in Asia. If we list the similarities rather than the differences, we see that in the end, it will be same old cricket, for good or for bad. Time, quite simply, marches on. It has not stopped. It has not drawn a line in the sand. The cricket before will always be not just tenuously linked to the cricket after, but unequivocally connected, joined at the hip.

The same game.

20 years from now, someone will ask you to picture cricket before the virus. And an image will form in your head. It could be of the 2019 World Cup, or it could be from the 2023 World Cup, it will be hard to tell at first. You will need to think about it. For all time and all memory blends into one single memory, one single era. When I picture my childhood, I picture 70s grey, recession America. Even though that is not the America I grew up in.

And the same will hold true for all that came before, and all that comes after. External forces do not govern change, only we can do that, many years down the road. It’s a job for historians. Our job is to live and create and define this world, this time, we are given. Cricket won’t be exactly the same, but it will be close, and over time those lines we thought we saw in the sand will blur and shift until at some point when we don’t even notice it happening, disappear altogether. The sand just stardust, lost in the winds of time and memory.

There is, I think, hope in that.

Trafalgar to Lord’s to Us

I’ve spent quarantine reading books about war. For the most, in the normal times, I am a fiction reader through and through. But over the years I have collected several non-fiction books that cover famous conflicts or regiments or battles, from the US Civil War to the Russian invasion of Finland. I have found them to be a nice distraction right now. Sure, there might be a global pandemic, but at least I am not frostbitten and staring down a dozen Soviet tanks on a frozen lake somewhere above the arctic circle.

One of the books I read and enjoyed was Roy Adkins on the battle of Trafalgar, the great sea battle that was also, probably, England’s most famous maritime victory.

The battle took place in October of 1805 and lasted about five hours. The ships were wooden sailing ships, firing cannon. The sailors lived on weevil infested bread and were given rations of rum and beer because the water on board was undrinkable. The officers were men of class and distinction, mostly third or fourth sons of landowners who had no hope of a large inheritance. It was a battle from a different time, a different age, fought with weapons long since made obsolete. A time of pirates, and men climbing masts to seek out enemies, of blockades and hard, short lives.

When the news of the victory finally reached England — nine days after the last cannon was fired — Admiral Nelson, who was killed in the fighting, was hailed as the greatest English war hero ever known. No matter who you were, or what you believed, everyone mourned the loss of the great sea captain, and the loss tainted the great victory. Reading the pages of the reaction to the death of Nelson was the most extraordinary part of the book. The world has moved on from a time when we come together truly as one to celebrate one person. Those days are gone. We now live in a world where even pandemics are politicized.

When I would visit London, I would also stay in a quiet little hotel right off Trafalgar square. I knew it was in honor of a great British naval victory, but I never knew how great, how significant. Fought by men — and women — who lived on horrible salt pork for months and months, their teeth falling out from scurvy, their tall wooden ships taking broadsides of 40 enemy cannon not three feet from their decks, the wounded being dragged down for surgery, where limbs were amputated in a blood soaked cabin without anesthesia, the operating table lit by candles.

In every way possible, the battle of Trafalgar was the battle of an age long since lost from the earth. Centuries in the past. A world made of wood and bravery.


The last British survivor of Trafalgar to die was a man named Joseph Sutherland, who passed away in 1890.

The first Test cricket match was played in 1877, thirteen years before Joseph Sutherland’s death. And so a man — probably many men, and women — who fought at the now ancient battle of Trafalgar lived in the age of Test cricket. Test cricket, the same game we know now, in our modern age. A game, a format, which has seen an unbroken string of matches, reaching the benchmark of 2,000 Tests in July of 2011. 206 of years after Trafalgar. 121 years after the death of the last British survivor. And, yet, somehow, connected.

All things in life exist on one single timeline, including Test cricket. There are times in Test cricket’s history where it feels like the timeline was stopped, and the game moved to a new, different timeline. But that’s not the case. It is just one timeline, careening through the years. From Melbourne in 1877, to Lord’s in 2011, all connected via time to the years and events that existed before and after it. All of it, all of us, hurtling through space together. We look back at time stretched out behind us, and it’s not a tumbled mess of different roads, but one single road, leading us to where we are.

There are times in our own lives when our timeline felt like it was disrupted, wrecked, and we were moved to a different, sometimes darker, road. This is called mourning, this is called grief, this is called pain. And we get over that grief by connecting the time before the disruption to the time after, and come to understand that we have traveled, and continue to travel, on one single highway through this desert.

Right now, all of us are feeling as though our lives have been disrupted, irrevocably changed. And that is true, we cannot argue that. But they are still our lives, we are still moving forward, all we can do is live the best lives we can with the times given to us. This is our life, our timeline, and it is but one series of events, of years, of time. It is not several. We have not moved onto to a different existence, we are still who we were. Everything is connected. Life moves forward. From those wooden ships off the coast of Spain, to today, right now, it is a consistent, unchanged road of time. And Test cricket is the proof of this. 2,000 matches. Stretching back into a time where people who served on those ships still walked the earth. We put the game into different eras, marked by different times, but we put all 2,000 matches on the same plane of existence, the same timeline.

If we can afford ourselves the same kindness, then we will come out of this not to a different life, but to our same life, our same selves, mourning not a world lost, but days gone by, like we would do anyway.

There’s scene in the 90s film Dazed and Confused:

“All I’m saying is that I want to look back and say that I did I the best I could while I was stuck in this place.”

And that is all we can do. Our lives are just our lives. We just need to live them the best we can, no matter what the times we live in look like, because they are the only times we have, the only timeline given to us is the one we are on.

Joseph Sutherland fought on the HMS Beaulieu, in a time of muzzle loaded rifles and scurvy, but he also lived in a time of Test cricket, a game we all love and follow on smartphones. We lived in a time before COVID-19, and — god willing — we will live in a time after COVID-19. It will be the same world. We will be the same people. All we can do is the best we can, so we look back not on a wrecked timeline, but the same timeline, our same timeline, our same highway.

There are no disruptions to time. There is only time, and its passing.


Shared experiences

In the 13 years that I have been following cricket, I have experienced four World Cup finals. Two of those — 2007 and 2019 — I watched in a bar with other cricket fans. But two of them I watched alone, in my old house, on my laptop, in the middle of the night.

Of course, I wasn’t alone. I had Twitter. I was watching the matches by myself, but I was also chatting about the games with people all over the world, sharing moments together with the millions of other people watching on every corner of the globe. When you think about it, that’s really remarkable. And that is the time we live in now, the time of the shared experience. When we can be completely alone, but still connected, still a part of the moment.

I grew up in an analog era. We didn’t have cable television or the internet or a home computer. I didn’t experience computers at school until I was 13 or 14. I didn’t have an email address until I went to college, and didn’t use the internet until I was in my early 20s. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 25. I didn’t get a smart phone until I was in my mid-30s. My life, now, of course, is a digital one, in almost every way. But I grew up in a house with a record player — not because it was trendy, but because that was how you listened to music. I grew up on terrestrial radio and terrestrial TV, when you had four channels and that was that. In college, for more than two years, I lived alone without a computer or a television. And there was a time when I didn’t even have a landline telephone. I was cut off from the entire world for large swaths of time. And I was not unique. This was just how people lived, and it wasn’t all that long ago.

Now, we are connected. All of us. For good or for bad, that’s our reality. These connections, this shrinking of the planet, has allowed for a period of self isolation that still contains interaction with the external world. People still gather together to share experiences, they just do it alone, in their homes, with only their closest loved ones. I can’t imagine what it would hav been like to have been quarantined in the time before these digital connections, in the time when I lived alone, without a lifeline or a landline. If we have to live through this surreal and scary time, at least we are doing it more or less together, even if that togetherness means Zoom calls and remote film watching parties.


Monday is an anniversary of sorts in my life. I am not sure how best to describe, but basically May 4, 2018 was the last time I felt okay. I went to Moscow on the Hill, a Russian bar in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood, and sat on the patio and drank beers after work. Then I biked home by Lake Como and up to my old house in Roseville. I think about that happy hour a lot, and that bike ride too, and I try to put myself in my own shoes, and I am unable to do so. I don’t remember what is like to not feel sad, to not feel wretched and awful. All I remember is the last time I didn’t feel that way.

The weather was just like it has been all weekend here in St. Paul. Sun, warm, blue skies. Spring in the north. There are few things better on earth. But now all it does is remind of the before times, back when I was okay. Spring used to be a time of rebirth, of coming back. Not any more. Maybe not ever again.

Right now, though, we are all struggling. All of us. The whole world. All at the same time. We are all anxious, and worried, and facing an uncertain and difficult future. Things feel really dark. Even if we come out of this okay, healthy, the world will be forever changed, and that can be so sad to think about — all that is lost, all that will never come back. Already our favorite bars and restaurants and closing forever. Muddy Waters in Minneapolis just announced that they were closing for good last night. I used to go there back when it was just a coffeeshop on 24th and Lyndale. I would drink a mug of milky coffee and smoke American Spirits. And now it’s gone. Another victim of this awful virus that’s infecting all of us, everything, no matter if we get sick or not.

Everyone is sad, everyone is depressed, everyone is feeling wretched and tired and terrible. Everyone just wants to turn off the world, and their brains, and stay in bed. And we are doing it all together. It is the greatest shared experience of all time.

But I feel like I am outside it. Like this sharing of troubles has taken away the one thing I could call my own, my depression. There’s no other way to really say it, everyone is struggling, but I feel like I can’t talk about how hard a time I am having, because everyone is having a hard time. All the virus does is take, and it has stripped me of the last crutch I had. Now I am not alone, and all I want to be is alone. Welcome to the interior monologue of the depressed soul, where logic takes a back seat, and emotion is driving, and they never trade off.

There’s a Mount Eerie song where he sings about being in the hospital waiting room as his wife lay dying down the hall. The room is full of people experiencing the exact same thing, but he is alone, they can’t understand his grief. No one can. He is alone in how terrible he feels, only he can feel as terrible as he does.

I wrote about this before. A long time ago. In the before times. How when my father died I felt so terrible that I knew no one else could feel what I was feeling, how the world would be a dark, desolate place, if even one other person felt as wretched as I did in that moment. I thought this, I believed this, even though I was in a room full of people grieving the loss of the same person I was.

In my mind, as I am sitting at the kitchen table on random afternoons, I feel myself start to spiral down to the hard places. There is a comfort there, in those places, they are places I have built for myself, that I know well, even if they are unpleasant, they are familiar. But then I catch myself, and remember the whole world is struggling, and cannot help but grieve the loss of the loneliness I would feel in those dark moments. My days used to be sad and occasionally unbearable, but at least they were mine. Now even that is gone, and I feel as though I am just drifting in space. I want to feel bad, but I can’t, because everyone is feeling bad, and so I feel worse.

Jonathon Trott went public with his depression and anxiety in a time before I felt the way I feel now. At the time, I considered it brave, I considered it courageous. He wasn’t just helping himself, he was helping others who also were suffering alone, reminding them that everything could be okay again, if they just asked for help. I still think he is incredibly brave, but I also see a selfish side now. This is unfair but, again, I am not thinking logically. Selfish because he wanted the world to know how hard a time he was having, because they didn’t know before, probably never even guessed at it, but he was struggling, and they needed to know. The whole world needed to know, not because it made him feel better, but because it made him feel worse, it carved out a deep, dark place that he could call his own, and everyone could feel terribly about how terribly he was feeling.

That is unfair. And I am putting my thought processes on to a person who doesn’t deserve it. He is brave, he is a hero. But the mind works as the mind works. And I can’t help but hate him a little, for taking away something that was mine, and making it a less mine.

And now the whole world has done the same thing. My depression was my depression, my cross, my sadness. And now it’s everyone’s, and not mine at all. Shared experiences are supposed to bring comfort, and now they are taking it away.


I will get better though. I know that now. I didn’t know it before, but I know it now. And the world will get better, and we will get to go outside again. And we will share moments with our fellow humans outside of our computers and smart phones, and the moments we do share digitally will be moments that have nothing to do with pandemics, or lock downs, or shut downs, or quarantines. And one day I will be part of that world again, part of any world. I have felt outside of life for so long, and now I am drifting back toward it. This pandemic has taught me that I am not alone. And right now that only serves to make me feel cheated of the one thing I had: my loneliness. But there will come a time when I will take comfort in that notion instead, when I remember that there was a time when the whole world felt sad, and that time, like all things, passed.

We will be okay again. I will be okay again. We will get there together. Whether I like it or not. Right now I don’t want to get better, because my depression feels like all that I have to hang onto, the only thing that defines me as a human. Someday I will feel better though, and I will look out a the world, at all of those people who felt the same way, and look at them now, stars on fire with the joy of the world.