No Hiding Place

by Harry on December 15, 2015

A friend asked me last week how I watch cricket. Do I sit for 8 hours at a time, or watch highlight reels, or what? So I explained that when possible I watch live during breakfast when the kids have left the house, and actually take a short lunch break if there is live cricket to watch. If I am cooking, or cleaning the house, I have it on, turned up loud, in case anything unmissable happens (only if my cooking is uncomplicated enough to . But, if I know a game is likely to get tense and exciting, and will not be able to see it at all — teaching, days of meetings, etc — then I try to avoid learning what happened, and watch either highlights or, sometimes, long parts of innings, later (sometimes much later). He scoffed. How hard can it be to avoid learning what happened in a Test match when you’re in Wisconsin? [1] He, much more impressively, has to avoid learning the scores in a Packers game (I didn’t say that, in fact, this is something I manage to do all season every season, with no effort at all). Anyway, he told me that when he was a kid, on days that his dad couldn’t see a game, he (the dad) would come home and say “We’re in the cone of silence. Nobody say anything” and expect complete cooperation from everyone in his herculean effort to avoid learning the score.

Well, every Briton over the age of 40 knows what comes next. But surely there must be an episode from an American sitcom with exactly the same plot, no?

[1] During the World Cup I had the misfortune of teaching a class with a smart and lovely Indian lad, who did his absolute best to keep results to himself, but…well, his best often wasn’t good enough.



Tabasco 12.15.15 at 5:01 am

if I know a game is likely to get tense and exciting,



Sancho 12.15.15 at 5:38 am

It’s not just that cricket is monumentally dull, but that a more exciting version already exists, and is called “baseball”.


DonBoy 12.15.15 at 7:04 am

I feel that Friends did it once, and I know that How I Met Your Mother did.


Jim Buck 12.15.15 at 8:27 am

@2 It’s not just that sex is monumentally dull, but that a more exciting version already exists, and it is called masturbation.


jake the antisoshul soshulist 12.15.15 at 4:08 pm

Variations are common in American sitcoms, particularly since the introduction of VCRs and of course DVRs. Probably so common that there is not an individual one that is definitive.
VCR variations would include one spouse recording over the other’s tape: husband recording game over wedding tape, wife recording Soap over game tape, etc.

Also, too, considering that baseball is usually excruciatingly dull, I can’t imagine cricket at all.


RobinM 12.15.15 at 5:26 pm

When I was quite young I travelled miles by bus day after happy day to the home of the only member of my extended family who had a tv to watch each of the England vs. Australia test matches in their entirety. Hutton, Compton, the Bedsers, Bradman, Lindwall and Miller were among my gods. Since leaving Scotland for the US a very long time ago, I had not, until this past November on a visit to Australia, viewed any cricket. The Australia-New Zealand matches were on. I found it quite baffling, not because I had forgotten how the game is played, but because so many of the shots of the bowlers and the batsmen were repeated and repeated and repeated–I found it difficult to tell at times whether I was watching something that was happening as I watched or whether I was watching a replay. Technology spoiled what would otherwise have given me great pleasure, for cricket with its quiet subtleties simply got overwhelmed into oblivion. As in so many other things, just because technology can do something doesn’t mean it should be done.


rea 12.15.15 at 9:48 pm

baseball is usually excruciatingly dull

Only true if you don’t understand baseball.

But of course, I’m also a guy who thinks grandmaster chess is intensely exciting


The Temporary Name 12.15.15 at 10:22 pm

I remember when Fox attacked the NFL with lots of graphics and sounds, flames spouting here and there to emphasize a gladiatorial contest. Do they or other networks do cricket the same way?


TheSophist 12.15.15 at 11:35 pm

I also used to think that grandmaster chess was intensely exciting. Then Carlsen came along. What happened to the good old days of Ulf Anderssen and Tigran Petrosian? Now that was excitement…

Back to cricket. The IPL (Indian Premier League) has cheerleaders. There is something deeply wrong with that. Deeply.

A thought I just had is that something shared by chess and cricket (test match version only) is that hanging on in an inferior position to get a draw can be incredibly exciting. Just say the words “Monty Panesar” and “Cardiff” to any English fan and await the rhapsodic response. (Short version – MP is a bowler who really, really can’t bat. In order for England not to lose, he had to bat without getting out for, how long was it…oh, three weeks at least…and he did it, thereby earning a place in the pantheon.)


js. 12.16.15 at 1:46 am

“Monty Panesar” and “Cardiff”

I was following this on the Guardian OBO—and let us take a second to acknowledge how amazing it is that such a thing even exists. And even without being an England fan, I was refreshing my screen like a mad person.

(Just to clear up any lingering confusion: baseball is indeed excruciatingly dull; cricket is the opposite of baseball.)


harry b 12.16.15 at 2:45 am

Also that century by Moeen Ali against Sri Lanka in 2014….and Anderson. Moeen really can bat, but I had never seen him bat before, and thought that was his natural game. Playing against type in extremis. An entire day spent almost saving a match. What is more tense and exciting than that? My poor children and wife –I was driving for a good part of the innings, and demanded updates every 5 minutes, becoming increasingly sure that my middle child (who I thought might understand the game well enough to do this) was pulling my leg.


NomadUK 12.16.15 at 12:44 pm

I experienced attending a professional league baseball game once, and a duller way to waste an afternoon I can’t imagine (maybe watching golf). Much later I had the opportunity to attend and photograph a cricket match, and found it fascinating but inscrutable, as I’d been too lazy to actually study the rules beforehand. I know which one I’d rather watch if I could be bothered to watch sport other than the occasional football — really occasional … as in, the World Cup.


sillybill 12.16.15 at 9:25 pm

re: ‘the cone of silence’ – every year i play a game with myself to see if i can get all the way past the superbowl without knowing who the teams are going to be. only 2 complete failures in the last 15 years, including last year when i couldn’t get 2 of my customers to stfu about it, even after explaining the game. they thought i was crazy, i explained i hadn’t had a television in 27 years and they knew i was crazy.
i’ve never seen a cricket game, but all the talk about it by furriners (the economist) is very confusing.


tony lynch 12.17.15 at 1:07 am

Test match cricket makes everyone who follows it genuinely insightful and intelligent and, typically, gracious to those venturing opposing or differing views. It should be bottled.


nick s 12.19.15 at 5:59 am

Only true if you don’t understand baseball.

Please. Dear god, American sports handle lopsidedness badly, and a baseball blowout is arguably more excruciating than blowouts elsesport, because it won’t be over quickly, and the result counts for 1/162 of the season.

Americans got live sport early-ish and mostly don’t do sporting highlights outside of the Olympics. Yes, you get clips on ESPN, but the idea of sitting down to something like Match of the Day or a one-hour ‘Today at the Test’ doesn’t have an American equivalent.


Layman 12.20.15 at 1:13 pm

“and a baseball blowout is arguably more excruciating than blowouts elsesport, because it won’t be over quickly, and the result counts for 1/162 of the season.”

Well done. Complaining that baseball games are long, that baseball blowouts are boring, and that the results don’t matter anyway, in a discussion about test cricket: That takes some character!


Dipper 12.20.15 at 4:09 pm

I was a regular at Headingley Test Matches in the 1970’s, and sporadically elsewhere since. The things that stick in the memory are the little moments; the great fast bowler Dennis Lillee having a beer with the crowd when he was meant to be fielding, the Australian batsman David Hookes sitting in the Yorkshire crowd having a cigarette and chatting with the spectators as his team was being thrashed. The crowd cheering mammoth beer-glass snakes being passed along the western terrace.

Most people go to test cricket for the social experience of being with a group of friends in a large crowd. The chat, the banter, the drinking games; a quiet session of play can pass by quite happily. Occasionally the game will spark into life. Fast bowlers tearing in when the new ball is moving around, a batsman who smashes the ball round the ground. At those moments the ground becomes an arena of palpable tension and excitement as the crowd collectively wills one side to excel, and as a five day game approaches a tight finish the ability to generate real nail-biting tension for hours on end is unparalleled anywhere else in sport.

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