Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Blood Sport-Complete With Tea Break

On my only visit to London, long ago during the Carter Administration, yours truly attended a cricket match in the interests of further professional education. It was a long afternoon spent equally mystified by the game and stupified by boredom. The memory was filed and immediately forgotten-until this week.

I was dimly aware cricket's World Cup was taking place in the Carribean. Don't ask how, I don't know. Yesterday, Shari Tharoor, undersecretary general of the United Nations, had an op-ed piece in the New York Times berating Americans for their inability to like or comprehend the noble sport of cricket, the biggest game in his native India. It was the usual blah about our nation's barbaric simplicity of mind and thirst for violent action-you know the dril.

Today's Times printed several indignant letters from patriotic American fans telling Tharoor that, by golly, baseball can be EVERY BIT as boring as cricket, so put a sock in it. Giving the lie to those who say the nation's paper of record has no sense of humor, a story on the front page, complete with color photo, made the argument Tharoor should have used. It seems we have underestimated cricket, just not for the reasons he gave.

Shortly after Pakistan was eliminated from the World Cup by Ireland, an upset on a par with Arizona State beating BC in hockey, coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in the team hotel in Kingston, Jamaica. He'd been strangled.

Whooa! And Dennis Green thinks he got a raw deal in Arizona? Reading further, as who wouldn't, I was delighted to learn cricket is not and has never been cricket in the "good show old chap" sense of the expression.

Reporter Marc Lacey described the World Cup scene with phrases like "rum drinks swigged like water" and "large-scale gambling." There have been doping scandals (uppers, I presume) in the past few years. A past captain of South Africa's national team got a lifetime ban for match-fixing. The sport has an anti-corruption unit far bigger (and busier) than the NFL's. And now, a corpse with mystery attached. Plenty of suspects, too. Current Pakistan resident Osama bid Laden might've lost a bob or two on the home team.

Rum drinks with little umbrellas! Gambling!! Drugs!!! Fixes!!!! Murder most foul!!!!! Where has THAT sport of cricket been all my life? We are talking demographic platinum for American television.

Get me the president of Spike network on the horn. Good-bye ultimate fighting. Hellooo, cricket.


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