By jiminy, let there be cricket

 (Reprinted from July 21, 2011)

  Why can’t we be left alone?
  By “we,” I mean fans of major sports. Just as society is determined to get every man, woman and child aboard the PC bandwagon, so, too, do enthusiasts of certain athletic activities seek to draw us over to their side.
  And, truth be told, there are a few out-of-the-ordinary endeavors that I’ve found intriguing enough to view for short stretches.
  The NBC Universal channel airs a variety of sports, none of which falls into the category of football, basketball or baseball. Broadcast instead are things like track and field, beach volleyball, rowing, rugby, skiing and bobsleigh.

 I’ve watched each of them from time to time, some more frequently than others, but I don’t feel bad when I decide to finally switch channels. And, thankfully, no one at NBC Universal tries to make me feel that way, either.
  Olympics telecasts, on the other hand, are an entirely different matter.
  Regardless of which network provides coverage, we can be assured of heavy doses of female-friendly sports such as gymnastics and figure skating, as well as tear-jerking features about competitors, almost all of whom have apparently risen from tragic circumstances to become an Olympian. Obviously, the networks want women to watch.
  And that’s fine. In attempting to attract the distaff set, however, the networks may alienate men. Nothing wrong there if the males are simply ignored altogether.
  But they’re not. Rather, men are encouraged to intently gaze upon 16-year-old girls twisting themselves into unusual positions — a punishable offense in women’s eyes when done anywhere else — and then admit they liked it better than the previous year’s Super Bowl.
  If guys choose alternative viewing, they’re often charged with being non-patriotic, misogynistic or both. The misogynist’s tag can also be attached to males who exhibit a general disinterest in women’s basketball.
  Oh, and let’s not forget about the soccer fanatics, who belittle any U.S. citizen not properly worshipful of the rest of the world’s favorite game.
  The latest sport desiring to encroach upon our leisure time is cricket. It’s testing the waters, though, by introducing itself to the masses in book form.
  In a recent emailed press release sent my way, I learned of a publication called “Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature and Life.” One of the two authors, Martin Rowe, is a self-professed “cricket buff” and believes Americans can share in his passion.
  Unless a team of good-looking females opts to actually play cricket in the buff, most men will continue to ignore the sport.
  Rowe and co-author Evander Lomke try to align cricket with baseball, although this would not be the first association between the two entities. Back in the 1970s, then-Cubs outfielder Jose Cardenal sat out a game because of fatigue, the result of a sleepless night caused by a noisy cricket.
  Oh wait — wrong cricket. Unfortunately, the other one isn’t really appropriate, either.
  Yes, there are similarities in the way baseball and cricket are played, but how serious are we expected to get about a sport that includes terms like “googly” and “inswinger”? Heck, I still snicker at the idea of “love” being a word used regularly in tennis.
  I credit the PR folks with doing their best to generate interest through hyperbole. The release sent to me stated how “much of the English-speaking world came to a complete standstill” when India and Pakistan faced off in a semifinal match at the Cricket World Cup a couple months ago.
  Boy, I wish I wasn’t hearing about the Cricket World Cup for the first time now because any excuse will do when it comes to taking a work break.
  In the interest of honesty, it must be admitted that Rowe and Lomke are trying to do more than just sell Americans on cricket. They also attempt to enlighten cricket fans about baseball. Along with an explanation of each sport’s rules, the authors delve into the history of both games, the people who’ve played them and those who’ve comprised the respective fan bases, and various memorable feats.
  And, to be fair, cricket does predate baseball by quite a long time. It was first played in southern England in the 16th century, and it developed into that country’s national sport by the end of the 18th century.
  So maybe I should give up baseball and focus on cricket instead. If I study real hard, maybe one day I’ll understand why a team “bowls” and a batsmen gets “dismissed” and a game’s duration can be measured in something called “20 overs.”
  Or I could just do what most American male sports fans are doing right now: praying that the NFL and NBA resolve their labor disagreements very soon.