My days as a sports fan are long over, but over on this side of the pond a funny thing has happened:
I still don’t care about sports, but I’ve become a fan of British sports fans. I absolutely marvel at them.
They are without a doubt the most patient people on the planet, rooting their hearts out for a game in which scoring happens about as often as a total eclipse of the sun.
There’s plenty of almost-scoring in soccer (which is called “football” over here), but to my impatient New York eye it’s just a lot of frantic guys in short pants, endlessly chasing a ball that goes out of bounds every eleven seconds.
I was walking past a pub near our house the other day when suddenly, the place erupted with hysterical screams and cheers. Heavily tattooed Brits were hugging and high-fiving. I ducked inside to see what had happened.
Peace in the Middle East? An end to world hunger? Oh, no. Something much rarer than that.
On the TV over the bar, somebody had just scored a goal late in a soccer game, bringing the score to one-nothing. (I beg your pardon - make that “one - nil.”)
The guy who’d scored was so excited he ran down the field, ripped off his shirt and slid on his belly into a pile of his equally delirious team mates.
Their excitement reached near-pornographic proportions. I doubt their wives got much attention that night.
Admittedly I come to this issue with a strong American bias. Back when I did care about sports I enjoyed basketball, with its endless scoring.
Rack up those points! Run up the score! Three-pointers and slam dunks galore!
I don’t think basketball could ever catch on big-time here in England. The Brits would find all that scoring....somewhat crude.
Which I guess is why Brits love cricket. It’s extremely civilized, and about as exciting as a license renewal at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
If you think watching baseball is like watching paint dry, watching cricket is like coming back the next day to stare at the wall and make sure the paint is still dry.
One guy, the bowler, does all the work. He’s a combination sprinter-pitcher, running toward the batsman before hurling the ball.
Situated all around the bowler are his team mates, guys in long white pants who stand there for hours like figures on a human sundial.
They’re waiting for the ball to be hit to them. Basically they’re statues with a pulse, conserving their energy in case the bowler drops dead from exhaustion and has to be replaced.
Once again, I tip my hat to those fans who appreciate the intricacies of these games.
But what are the chances of me getting excited about soccer or cricket? Pretty much zero.
I beg your pardon. I meant to say “nil.”
GODFATHER KNOWS BEST