Growing up, I was a huge baseball nerd. I loved the Yankees, but more than that, I loved statistics. I had a yellow ruled legal pad that I filled with my handwritten recapitulations of every then-tracked statistic. And I remembered them all, in a nearly savant-like way. I collected baseball cards, and they provided me with an encyclopedic knowledge of who played for whom when.
This is all a dim memory now.
I go to a game or two a year, with a friend whose family has season tickets. To the Mets. And we talk about our fantasy strip clubs.
I don’t care, at all, about baseball until October. In October, I pay a little attention if the Yankees aren’t playing, and a little more if they are.
The last game I remember watching, and caring about, was, ironically, a Mets game – the last game of the 1986 World Series. I was in New England, surrounded by Red Sox fans, forced into Mets support by circumstance. As any Yankees fan knows, the Mets bite, but Boston sucks. The outcome couldn’t have been better for me. The Mets won, but only because Bill Buckner lost. That’s not fair. Bill Buckner played. The Red Sox lost. Poor guy got a bum rap in a team sport, and was betrayed by his classless team and his classless city. I told you Boston sucks.
Anyway, this all is by way of saying that recently, finally, I learned the basics of cricket, in a way that’s likely to transform my experience of its occasional appearance on a screen in front of me from being akin to hearing a conversation in Serbo-Croatian – a language I don’t understand – to hearing a conversation in Spanish – a language I understand enough to roughly follow along, without any hopes of meaningful understanding or participation.
I was at the bar, nursing my drink, and sitting next to a painfully obviously tourist couple. “Where are you visiting from?” I asked.
“The UK,” Tom said. “Yorkshire.”
Small talk ensued. They expressed mystification at baseball. I expressed mystification at cricket. “Who’s your team?” they asked.
I told them, roughly, what I just told you. Minus the yellow legal pad. “Who’s yours?” I asked, knowing the answer would mean nothing to me.
“Liverpool,” they answered. “Football. We don’t follow cricket, actually.”
“But you understand it?” I asked. I’ve long been frustrated at just how clueless I am when cricket is being played or discussed. Not, obviously, curious enough to spend three minutes on the Googles. But curious.
I proposed a trade. “I’ll make a deal with you,” I offered. “I’ll give you the ninety-second summary of baseball. And in return, you give me the ninety-second cricket overview.”
My ninety seconds turned out to take 300. The husband replied in kind.
And now, I understand cricket.