I did eighteen consecutive Christmases in the Northern Hemisphere. The holidays are better up there. There’s nothing like laying in bed, listening to the hollow scrape of the snowplough, or your neighbors fighting over parking spaces. People get emotionally attached to certain carved-out regions of snow, especially after spending a few hours excavating their cars. They put bits of furniture in the street, designating the spot as owned. Woe-betide any who breaches that sacred covenant.
Christmas in Australia overlaps with cricket season. Actually, down here cricket overlaps with just about everything. All my male relatives will be gazing blankly at the television on Christmas Day, and it will be turned up loud – partly because they’re deaf, but also because they’re a bit silly. Cricket will drown out everything until my mother – who’s been slaving for hours in the kitchen, demands they turn it down. And they’ll comply, grumbling, as if their lives are unfair.
I didn’t miss cricket when I lived in the US. For eight years, I worked only a few blocks from Fenway Stadium. I don’t remember my colleagues mentioning baseball much. I mean, obviously Americans are an odd people, but they’re more tolerant than they seem to know.OB
On the other hand, if an Australian suspects you’re not paying attention to cricket, they’ll want an explanation. If you just admit to not caring, they’ll ask why. In that case, whatever you do, don’t give them a reason, because it will only confuse them. As far as they’re aware, everyone likes cricket. You can’t say, ‘well, the game drags on a bit, doesn’t it?’. They’ll just stare at you, wondering what’s the matter with you, and why you invited Satan into your heart.
Of course, my situation is a little more severe; I don’t follow any sport whatsoever. I believe that if I did, and my team lost a game, then I would be inclined to feel sad. And that seems pointless, really. I know – sometimes my team might win and then I could feel happy. But this doesn’t work, somehow, perhaps because I’m already happy. And do you know why? Because my team hasn’t lost a game lately, because I don’t have a team. You see? It’s a very good system. Overall, I’m a sound thinker, and everyone should subscribe to my newsletter.
In summary, I think that being emotionally invested in a sports team would be like placing my potential for future happiness in the custody of a bunch of overpaid strangers, in the mad hope that they might occasionally win a Premiership (or whatever they’re called). I know, I know – there might indeed be emotional highs associated with the occasional win, but such moments would be fleeting compared with the long drawn-out anxiety of the season.
So, I avoid sport. There’s too much statistics. Statistics aren’t good for people, it makes them twitchy. And you know something? Should I ever become a really successful writer, I’m going to buy one of those log cabins in Maine or New Hampshire, and I’m going to spend every single Australian summer on the far side of the world because, weighed against cricket season, giant snow-covered bears with gnashy teeth would be preferable in just about every way.
I didn’t even mind playing cricket when I was a little kid. But that, in my view, is about as far as the game should ever have gone. Why anybody would pay to watch millionaires play that game is beyond me.
Because – and it’s important that I emphasise this – cricket is unexciting by design. It is slow. On purpose. Which is also refreshing, when you think about it. Not everything in life should make us feel forcibly excited or agitated. No, cricket is a calm game. It is unhurried. Professional cricketers play as if nobody is watching. They stroll out onto the field as though time has stopped, and all life’s brevity forgotten. And the player who chucks the ball (who for no reason whatsoever is called a bowler) spends most of the game lost in reverie, pondering the many mysteries of the universe. Five minutes of rumination, then the bowler awakens from a daydream, chucks the ball down the pitch and then he spends another five minutes pondering metaphysics. Everybody watches and waits. There is no rush. Some of these games – test matches, I think they’re called – can last several weeks. Nobody minds, nobody complains. An American in the crowd would have an aneurysm, but that’s a newsletter for another day.
Obviously, from an anthropological perspective, this is all marvelous stuff. Isn’t it fascinating that people watch this sort of activity on purpose? I understand there’s a hypnotic quality to the proceedings, but I’ve never personally experienced it. I’m too lucid, I suppose. Still, I have nothing against the game – I merely do not find it scintillating. I know! I have an almost morbid predilection for novelty, but what can one do?
Now, putting aside cricket for a moment, you probably have heard by now that we Australians are a bit irreverent. Nothing’s sacred to us, apparently; we laugh at everything. That said, I would discourage you from noticing the teensy tiny tight shorts that Australian footballers like to wear on the field. Don’t do that. It’s a serious game. Also, many people – my father and brother, for instance – will not appreciate it if you ask which among their favourite footballers is showing the nicest buttock.
Because, and it bears repeating – Australians are a terribly irreverent people. Just don’t point-out anything silly or untoward about a popular institution, that’s all. And respect the status quo, and above all, don’t rock the boat! And if you can’t … well, you might have to move to America.
“Hey Dad, how much do you reckon those football blokes are enjoying that scrum?”
Incoherent masculine growl.
Last Christmas, I took my daughters to my mother’s house and cooked them a roast. This year, we’re staying home and going bike riding or something. Why? Well, did I ever tell you about cricket? Oh and the other thing is, I recently finished writing a very long science fiction novel (more on that later), and I still have all this editing to do, and editing is like a game of horseshoes. Except it lasts about as long as a test cricket match. (And by the way – if you noticed a huge amount of spelling errors in this newsletter, I apologize but I need a break from editing, just forgive me this once.)
What I am looking forward to is Boxing Day – which falls the day after Christmas. (If you don’t know what Boxing Day is, don’t worry, nobody does.) My mate Cooldeep is having us all over for lunch. They’re Sikh-Australians and, by the way, if you can ever manage it, do what I did and get yourself adopted by Sikhs. It’s worth it for the samosas. Also, apparently Cooldeep is barbequing a duck. I have to go down with him down to the park early in the morning and help him catch one. Alright, settle down – I’m only joking. We already tried, and the ducks were too quick.
But now? Now I have go now and make a sponge cake for the the Sikh side of the family. I hope you’re all having a happy Christmas. And please feel free to reply to this newsletter, and let me know how you’re going and what you’re doing over Christmas. I truly do love hearing from you all, and promise to write back.
Merry Christmas and all that,
Kris St Gabriel