If only football would copy cricket and learn the noble art of calling it a day
I base this statement, let me stress, on 40-odd years as a football supporter – and four whole months as a cricket fan. So please feel free to suggest I’m talking absolute tosh.
Over the course of this, my debut cricket-watching summer, I’ve been compiling a list of cricket’s strengths as a spectator sport; it’s an exercise where my newcomer status and all-round ignorance of the game have actually proved rather handy. Fresh pair of eyes and all that.
The list has turned out to be a lengthy one – it’s still growing, in fact – and at a future date I intend to bang on to you about its contents to quite an insufferable degree. For the moment, however, one incident alone – an entirely ho-hum, matter-of-fact one, at that – is enough to back up my argument rather neatly.
In fact, I can’t even call it an incident, really. “Incident” implies at least some degree of drama, possibly even fisticuffs or at least handbags, whereas all we’re really talking about here is a bunch of cricketers, who’ve been going through the motions on the final afternoon of a County Championship fixture, finally deciding to pack up early and call it a day.
I mention it purely because, as a newcomer, I had no idea that this sort of thing happened. Until I witnessed it for myself, at the end of last week’s Sussex-Glamorgan game, I hadn’t a clue that the rival captains could agree to finish ahead of the allotted time if it was generally acknowledged that life was too short for all this futile faffing around. And if, OK, a clear-cut result to the game itself was clearly out of the question.
I have to say I was a tad put-out at first. I’d only just got in a fresh round of drinks from the bar. Plus a Kit-Kat, which I never like to rush. But once I’d had it explained to me by a kind steward (who, to his immense credit, avoided any suggestion that I was a dozy twerp for not knowing this stuff), I realised that what I’d just seen – less a declaration, more a sort of “sod this for a game of soldiers” – summed up everything I’ve come to love about this sport. And, as I say, one of many reasons why football could learn so much from it.
The problem with football is it distorts our sense of perspective. It encourages us to believe it’s more important than it really is. For years, I used to actively despise fans who arrived after a game had already kicked off – or, horror of horrors, who left early to miss the traffic – as if every moment of every football match, however drab or insignificant, should matter desperately to them, from the first whistle to the last. Only now am I coming to realise that they’ve had it right all along. If getting to a football match bang on time isn’t a matter of life or death – and it’s fair to say it generally isn’t – then why bust a gut? By the same token, if the game is crushingly dull, or just plain pointless, then by all means sneak off early. It shows you’re a rounded human being.
As a cricket fan, of course, you have little choice but to adopt this easy-going philosophy. Show me a cricket supporter who witnesses every ball of every fixture his team plays – including four-day Championship matches starting at 11am on a Tuesday – and I’ll show you a raving headcase.
No, cricket doesn’t expect you to sacrifice your life to it.
But then I sort of knew that already. Or at least I could easily have figured it out. What I hadn’t previously been aware of was that the players themselves also subscribed to this school of thought, taking it with them out on to the pitch. The school of thought that’s prepared, during a first-class professional sporting fixture, to say, ‘This is a complete waste of time, chaps, anyone fancy a pint?’
The day we get rival captains doing that during a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie – and let’s face it, they ought to – will be the day I know football has finally had its sanity restored.Tagged in: County Championship, Cricket, football, Glamorgan, Johnstone's Paint Trophy, Sussex
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