Tackling cricket on planet America
It’s a rare time for sport in America at the moment. It is referred to as cross-over time. At this time of the year all three major disciplines are competing for eyeballs as baseball enters the season-concluding playoff stage, American football powers full steam ahead during a consolidation period and basketball shakes off the cobwebs with pre-season televised encounters. At this time of the year any sport junkie can get his or her fix.
Unsurprisingly though, the focus of the nation is, and always will be, on American football. It is hard to comprehend how massive this game is in the United States. The NFL proudly boasts some 200 million serious fans, of which 46% are female. Hard to go wrong with those across-the-board numbers.
Many a baseball fan has now binned their chosen team until next season as they didn’t snatch a finals berth, and the majority of the ‘baseball nation’ just wants the Yankees slaughtered in the World Series. As for basketball, it’s too early to tell, but the smart money is already on the Lakers and the Miami Heat to play off for the World Championship. What a joke by the way …World Series, World Championship … only North America is playing!
American sport is blindingly simple and therein lies the secret as to why it is so supported and successful. Any fool can watch, understand and enjoy. In football the idea is to gain 10 yards with the ball in your possession with four attempts until you are close enough to attempt a touchdown. Repeat that as often as you have the football and hopefully you will have more points than your foe.
In basketball it’s all about getting the ball into your hoop more times than your opponent.
Baseball, now that’s a bit trickier. Get three guys out in an inning by way of caught, struck out or run out. Then do it all again about nine times each and then tally who has more completed runs around the bases. Trickier indeed!!
Many a time have I sat down and tried to explain the game of cricket to a home-grown American. I will generally be about three minutes into my well-rehearsed dialogue and eyes will start wandering. Before I know it, the fidgets begin and shuffling becomes compulsive, then finally I know I have lost them when their eyes start glazing over.
When I start talking about there being 10 ways to get a batsman out, that’s generally the trigger. They just don’t get it. They don’t try and get it. It is far too complex for their sporting senses to comprehend and to ask them to attempt to understand the intricacies of the game, well, a blank, unblinking, wide-mouthed stare is always the end result.
With that knowledge on board I read with interest that the ICC last week had discussions in Dubai about developing the fledgling game in the USA. It is undoubtedly a challenge that is worth some serious introspection because if it does succeed, a lucrative powerhouse will be introduced.
My advice, after living with cricket in the States for the last four years, is simple. Concentrate on the fifteen million or so cricket-loving ex-pats and get them engaged and energised with the game again. After all, the tough educating has already been done. Cricket is available to watch in the US, but not readily. Simplify things for those who wish to connect or reconnect.
Many ex-pats no doubt have dropped the ball at some stage as the American way of life has engulfed them, but burning deep inside will be a yearning for the game they previously adored while they were living in a far-away cricket-devoted country. That yearning needs stirring. Cricket may well seem like another life to some but rest assured that flame will flicker with recognition and sooner rather than later, cricketing enjoyment will return.
Who knows, they may even be patient enough to spread the cricketing gospel and fully educate a previously cricket-challenged friend.
Target the ex-pats, satisfy their needs and create the intrigue which others may well follow.