The Ashes.  A long-standing tradition in England (and Australia, for that matter).  And England finally won the match, or test, at Lord’s – I believe they said it was the first in 75 years.  Well, it was also the first time I actually watched a cricket a game (or part of).[ad#ad-1]

The English are well-known for their reserve, and I think it also applies to sports.  By this, I mean that they do not go out of their way to explain it.  My husband and his family have always been sports fan.  That is, they follow all the English sports and have their favourites, even if they really don’t go fanatical like some fans.  They also don’t try to convert people to their sports religion.

This is very different from my experience in the States.  Over there, if you mention that you don’t understand the American ball games, someone would stand up and go into detail about how the game works.  Some sports fans, like one of my brothers, may bore you with all the statistics of a particular favourite player, completely oblivious of the interest (or lack thereof) or understanding of the listener.

Football (soccer) is easy for me to understand, as that is played in the US.  Rugby I have seen a little of and understand understand how they score, etc.  But cricket is another matter.  It does not help that I had never seen a match before yesterday.  But the terminology had been cmpletely baffling to me.  Even when I’ve asked a question, everyone just shrugs it off with “It’s cricket.” 

So, while visiting my mother-in-law, who is recovering from her fall and is finally home, we watched the end of the cricket match, the second test.  At this point, England needed 4 wickets and Australia needed something like 185 runs.  As much as comparisons are made between cricket and baseball, they are completely dissimilar.  The physiotherapist, an Australian, arrived just as England scored the first of the last 4 wickets.  By the time she left, the game was over.[ad#ad-1]

In that time, I learned what a wicket was and what is meant by an “over” (though I fail to understand how that terminology came about).  I still don’t know how they decide who bats and who bowls and whether there is a set number of runs that needs to be scored, while I understand that the number of wickets is 10.  I still cannot grasp how a game can last days on end, the terminology of 20/20, or why a female cricketer took nine hours to bowl nine overs.  As far as I can understand, 6 balls is an over, so 9 overs is 54 balls.  Why did it take so long?  Of course, I’m still too ignorant of the game to even ask more questions and no one’s about to explain it unless I ask specific questions.  Is it because it’s too complicated?

I remember years ago, while watching a sports game, my husband commented on the American habit of jeering and taunting the opposition.  He couldn’t understand it because it was just not done in England.  Of course, this usually occurred only in professional sports.  But, then, you notice how parents and, sometimes, coaches can get riled up in amateur team sports.  These people are all supposed to be role models for our young athletes.

I don’t follow sports much.  But I remember a news story a few months back about how parents here in the UK were becoming extremely competitive (more so than the athletes) and aggressive at tennis matches.  Then, just last week, a talk show host brought up the issue of bad behaviour amongst athletes and their fans at football (soccer) matches.  They noticed this most especially with football, but not cricket or rugby.  It’s very interesting the trend that is developing.

Growing up in the US and having witnessed the taunting, I never thought twice about it.  When my husband suggested that fans applauded good effort on the part of their opponents, I thought it sounded strange.  After all, it’s a competition, isn’t it?  You’re supposed to support your team and want them to win, right?  Why cheer on the opponent?  Well, it has nothing to do with supporting the opposition.  It has to do with showing good sportsmanship.  Giving credit where credit was due.  You see post-game interviews and those who show good sportsmanship will praise their opponents.  If they’ve won, it’s a lot easier for most players to be generous.  But when they’ve lost, I have more respect for the players who say, “They beat us because they were a better team” or “They played better”, rather than “We lost because we didn’t play hard enough.”  It’s as if the latter group was saying they were better but they just couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort.  A very arrogant attitude.

One of the ways schools are trying to teach good sportsmanship is by applying the mercy rule.  It’s already been in effect in some areas, but they are trying to widen it.  It basically means that if a team is ahead by so many points, then the game is forfeited.  I’m not sure this is a very good idea as it may teach kids to give up when the going gets tough.  It’s probably best just to let them play it out and everybody shake hands at the end.  I wouldn’t advocate that the winning team let up in their efforts either.  They should just play the “benchwarmers” at that point.  Then, everyone gets a chance to participate.

Though the jeering may have infiltrated British sports, to the dismay of the general public, I don’t believe that cheering for their opponents will ever take in the US.  The mentality is so different.  Society has changed somewhat in the UK, but I do hope that they don’t lose their sense of sportsmanship.  It somehow sets them apart.