As I write, the English nation are basking in a Test Cricket victory over Australia at Lords Cricket Ground, the first time they've achieved this in 75 years.
Cricket, Rugby and Football are the three main team sports in England, and I had my fill of all three before the age of 13 through School Games. Very basic (or no) changing rooms, no showers so I went home sweaty or caked in mud, or both, and no explanation of the rules or skills, was not likely to make me a lifetime player of team sports.
Between the ages of 13 and 16 I did the minimum of sport, and no team sport. I swam, and played squash.
At University I discovered a new team sport to watch, American Football. A friend of mine was a fan of the Washington Redskins, so I took up the team they were playing against that first time, the Philadelphia Eagles. My interest developed, along with a large number of other people's across the UK at the time, because American Football was being show on national TV.
So for several years I was able to follow the sport, and even played a little touch football with friends. Alas I was a little too early, a couple of years after I left University it was being more widely played with full equipment, but at least I could follow the NFL on TV.
Unfortunately the powers that be decided that Nicky Horne was too knowledgeable a presenter for the British fans, and substituted a pair of morons who knew less about the game than I did. They soon bit the dust (I was not alone in my relief), and Mick Luckhurst was chosen to present the show for the next few years. He was a semi-Brit who'd actually played, if you can call a Kicker a player.
Then the all-powerful NFL bosses sold the TV rights to SKY, a cable and satellite channel, which meant that a penniless student and generally tight-fisted individual like me couldn't watch the games without stumping up a whopping £30 (about $45) a month. That was that, I couldn't afford it, so I lost track of the NFL around 1996, after being a dedicated fan for 9 years.
Happily I had an alternative sport to follow. During the Summer of 1989 I was on industrial placement year away from University, driving up and down the country for long hours, and I discovered Test Match Special on the radio. This is the BBC Cricket coverage, and that summer Australia were in England playing for the Ashes. This was my first real exposure to Test Cricket, and it was made more enjoyable by the wonderful commentary where sometimes Cricket seemed to be the distraction rather than the focus. If you're on a long car journey and are fed up with hearing the same eight songs played every hour throughout the day, Test Match Special is truly diverting.
Test Cricket is a funny thing. A game is scheduled to last 5 days, with six hours play each day, and breaks for lunch and tea. Also breaks for rain, streakers, finding the lost ball that Steve Waugh smashed over the pavilion, and anything else you can think of. At the end of 5 days the result can still be a draw.
This may go against the American "Winning's the Thing" attitude, but it rather suits the English, since generally our country loses at most sports, especially ones we invented. If we win, then it's because something went wrong for the other team, or the judge/referee/umpire made a bad decision/was blind/was deaf etc.
So a win in Cricket after 75 years has left the nation happy, but also slightly worried and bemused. Can we go on and win the series? What if the Umpires get new spectacles and hearing aids? How can we support the underdog when the underdog is Australian?
When I am living in America I expect to be able to continue to follow both Cricket and American Football, since cricket is played round the world (well, the Commonwealth anyway) and round the year (handy having Summer in Oz and Kiwiland when it's Winter in the UK), and the US coverage of American Football is somewhat better than the UK coverage. We currently get one game a week for the first half of the season, two for the second half, and none of the post-season until the Superbowl (except for SKY viewers).
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