March 1, 2012 by vinylburns
My first memories of this tiny country, New Zealand, involve deep and hot summer days, with the earthy sizzle of an electric barbeque in the wind, and the dim whispy murmur of never ending cricket commentary.
This excruciating sport, often drip fed to the nation over five days, or sometimes mercifully delivered, under almost parliamentary style urgency, jammed into just one ten hour day.
I never understood it, but it was there… always there. A constant insectular buzz, wedged between the layers of cicadas and the crunch of the salty dry grass, in a kind of antipodean audio sandwich.
Yes, I had developed a bemused fondness for the sporty ritual, the way that a hungry cat can’t stop watching a vegan eating lentils… It was a long hollow experience, eventually ending in dissatisfaction, and an ulcer.
Then, I stopped watching this contorted sport which elicits from me such a conflicted range of tortured reptilian responses. Why?
At some point about 15 years ago, THE MAN decided that it was time for New Zealand to PAY to watch their summer game. Plenty did, but I, and I’m certain many others, did not.
[Many years pass without watching cricket]
I watched it again the other day, for the first time in nearly 15 years… It’s still baffling, and has even fewer fights than I remember. One thing though, has changed.
New Zealand is bad.
If you know me, you know that I don’t stand for mediocre… so I’m writing this sitting down, out of disgust. (and because I’m eating).
I asked myself…
Why would a snotty 8 year old want to go and stumble around a wicket all day, wearing his Granddad’s manky old sweater-vest and risking getting a face full of broken teeth from that one time when “Fat Knees” Clifford finally connects one of his wild lurches at the ball, and Snotty’s Silly Mid-On reactions are several seconds short of adequate.
Why? Because he watched the legends of the game on his 1980’s TV set, while his creepy uncle poked the BBQ and tried to do the same to his Grandma. Snotty lost himself in the fantasy of playing for his country, living and breathing a game that would take him away from his quarter acre purgatory for, sometimes, as long as FIVE DAYS!
Publicly broadcast cricket was the electrically delivered conduit to his golden future. It was the athletic Cupid of One Day Matchmaking.
Anyways… enough poetry. Here’s the thing.
You take something the nation regards as important, make them pay for it, or otherwise discourage them from engaging with it, and there is inevitably a section of society who loose, or never even begin to have an interest in it.
When that happens, there’s no telling what is lost.
Are we suffocating the potential greats by charging suburban New Zealand just to inhale a hint of grassy inspiration and crowd soaked anticipation.
So I have been wondering this week, if the inconsistent and often disappointing record of our Black Caps over the last decade on the global cricket map, is a direct result of “us” limiting access to the broadcast games, thus reducing the number of inspired players, which in turn limits the pool of professional grade players.
By removing that constant and inescapable inspirational catalyst, the ever present and deeply powerful, infiltrating soundtrack of the Kiwi summer. Cricket.
Now, if we were talking about “news” or “the arts”, then sure… whatever… But this is SPORT!
Sport keeps us calm, complacent, distracted. And if we don’t do it well, then I can’t really believe that it’s that important.
Sport makes us think that sport matters… and conversely, no sport makes us think that “not sport” matters.
I’m pretty sure that now there’s sport back on Prime TV, at least for now, we’ll be hearing a lot less about Occupy and some of that other stuff that, even now, I’m struggling to even remember…
What’s your name again?