The Edgbaston Test didn’t go all that well for England. Not well at all in fact. Sure, they were missing several key players. Maybe more than several. But they were still firmly walloped by a very, very good New Zealand team at what was formerly known as England’s fortress.
But there was still a lot to like. Mostly because of the people in the stands. I think even England fans can agree that the Test was fun from the first ball to the last because of the fact that the ground was lovingly filled with cricket fans. 20 somethings in fancy dress. Businessmen in a shirt and tie with a plastic cup of beer in the sun. The old timer with the radio attached to his ear. The young family with a kid on mom’s lap. And the songs. Oh those songs. The nearly non-stop singing. Choruses echoing around the ground all day long. From late morning to early evening. It was glorious. Every second of it. I wasn’t even there and I loved it. I was watching on a second monitor at my kitchen table as I tried to work and it was still the highlight of the last year and then some.
Everyone together. Rising as one. Voices lifted in song. It reminded me — and all of us — of what we were missing during the pandemic. Crowds. Being around strangers that feel just like we do. Thousands of them. All of us together. Tens of thousands of us. We are not alone. We’ll never be. We are part of something larger, we are part of a community of humans. All of us, at our cores, more or less the same. And today we are all here to sing and support this team that our grandfathers taught us to love.
It’s everything great about sports. It’s everything great about being a human. A reminder that we are all in this together. We all have hopes and dreams and sadnesses and heartbreaks. And today we are all here to cheer on our heroes in the sun. My brother next to me. My sister two rows down. Not family but simply my fellow humans. Let’s hug strangers and sing songs and remember why we all kept getting out of bed during the darkest days of the pandemic. And also why we kept getting out bed after inconceivable loss, black days that belonged only to us. When we are alone. When we discover what loneliness really is and why it kills people. But we soldier on, we get help, because we know that out there everyone is hurting, in their own way, or maybe getting better, or moving on. There are endings that are beginning and beginnings that are ending and everything in between.
There’s a moment when we realize we want to get better. It’s a powerful moment. We’ve all had it. We’ve all been there. After weeks or months or even years of feeling wretched and broken, we realize enough is enough and that we are ready to move on from the sadness, the pain, the gross feeling in our guts.
A few weeks ago I came across a band called Bleachers. I think Spotify spun them up for me because Bruce Springsteen sings on their latest single and I listen to a lot of Springsteen on Spotify. I liked what I heard. I sought out more. And I came across their big hit: “I wanna get better.” The record version is fun and poppy. The kind of song you want to hear in your car on a summer’s day when everything in the world feels all right and you roll your windows down and sing along.
But the real joy comes in the live versions I found on YouTube. Thousands of people, people of all shapes and sizes, all ages, all creeds, all colors, all screaming at the top of their lungs: “I wanna get better.” I would watch the videos with more emotion than I have felt in a very long time. All those people. Just like me. All who struggled or are struggling, and all want or wanted to get better. Loss, depression, anxiety … these are human emotions. They are not Matt Becker emotions. We all have our shit. All of us. And we all want to get better. I heard every voice, lifted, singing: I wanna get better. People just like me. People not like me at all. It was a powerful feeling. It blew me away. I am not alone. I’ll never be.
I discovered Bleachers and this song the same week as the Edgbaston Test and it was then I realized that the feelings inspired by both the crowds at the cricket and the crowds at the concert while not the same, were close. All of us together. Singing along. Looking around. Seeing ourselves. Seeing the same hurt and hope in other’s eyes that we feel in our own. We are humans. We are all together. Let’s sing.
Humans will always want to gather together. We all kept reading those think pieces in the New Yorker that claimed that office culture was dead. That the future of concerts was Zoom. That movie theaters were doomed. Rubbish. We need humans around us. We need to feel the same things together. We need those constant reminders that we are not alone. A lesson we all had taught to us by the Test at Edgbaston. I had tears in my eyes several times, even just watching on TV. We are back. We are together. We are cricket fans. And we aren’t alone.