Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Twee, Bill - What About Cricket?

Bryson Blogs on Baseball

Nothing quite satisfies like a good Bill Bryson book. I know. I've read them all. Imagine my surprise when I found one in the library today that I hadn't read! I thought that I'd read them all, but no. Apparently, I confused Notes from a Big Country with some other one; and, consequently, forgot I hadn't read it. Silly me!

Bill is, of course, not only a very well-know travel writer; but also, the world's most well-known Anglophile – and a “close” neighbour. He lives, nowadays, near Wymondham – bout 20 miles from me. He never pops round for a cup of tea – even though we were neighbours back in the States – he from Iowa; me from Missouri.

Back to Bill's book.

Amidst all the trivia in this book is Bill's critique of cricket; and, correspondingly, his enthusiastic endorsement of that great American pastime – baseball. Summing up: Bill thinks cricket is a bit silly and loves baseball with a purple passion. Perhaps this is explained by his undying affection (quite rightly) for his now-deceased dad who was, by all accounts, one of the great sports writers of America. At least according to Bill he was.

Strange then that Bill never took to cricket. The games aren't that dissimilar. They both use a bat to hit a ball, and they are both obsessed with statistics. The true baseball fan will bore you endlessly telling you Warren Spahn's lifetime E.R.A. and Stan Musial's lifetime batting statistics.

But, you can always tell a true baseball fan – for he will bore you endlessly with: “There’s nothing quite like taking in a game at historic Wrigley Field!” However, before you can get into the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field you will need Chicago Cubs baseball tickets. Even though Cubs tickets are notoriously tough to find, GoTickets.com has tickets for every game on the 2007 Chicago Cubs baseball schedule. Order your Cubbies tickets now!

Last time I was in the States we had a few days in Chicago and got tickets for the Cubs. My host let their offspring find tickets on the internet and (apparently) he paid an exorbitant amount for them. It was explained thus: some time ago the Cubs sold all the tickets to an agency and the agency charges exorbitant prices for tickets. Still people come to the ball park. You would think they would blame the Cubs for this blatant misuse of the free enterprise system – but, apparently, not.

It was a night game (one of the few at Wrigley) and we spent the pre-game hours in the pub in downtown Chicago. Sensible plan I hear you say. Very sensible as it was raining. The game was delayed – so we decided to stay in the pub. Good plan I hear you cry.

Eventually, we got word from someone at the ball park that they were going to start the game. It was now getting on for 10 pm.! We rushed to the elevated and raced to Wrigley Field. We poured from the train and into the hallowed halls. We found our seats – the game had only just started. Heaven!

Except we discovered that a goodly proportion of the crowd had been in the ball park for some hours, sheltering from the rain under the upper deck and drinking beer. I mean all the beer. They had run out and we not selling any more, either on public health grounds or simply because the vendors were exhausted.

Baseball without beer! Unthinkable!

I did manage to find a few very sorry looking hot dogs.

Four guys sitting not far from us were more drunk than I can ever remember being. They must have consumed most of the missing beer themselves. It turned a bit chilly. We were poorly prepared for cool weather – even though it was now approaching mid-night. Most of our party decided to retire to warmer more liquid surroundings. I stayed on with a buddy until after the seventh-inning stretch. Tradition!

I expect that's the last game I will ever see at Wrigley. Saw my first game there when I was about five. Fifty years had passed, but it was still better than sliced bread.

Cricket's like that, Bill. I'm surprised you never noticed.

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