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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday April 20 2017

I always know when I am on the right track as a blogger.  It’s when someone quotes me.  (It’s usually either the Quotulator (I was most recently quotulated by him in this posting) or 6k.) This means (a) that I have said something interesting and somewhat novel, and (b) that I have said it well.  (b)-ing I do, on its own, regularly.  I regularly say obvious, banal, boring things clearly and fluently.  Don’t we all?  Nobody copies and pastes (b)-ing.  Frustratingly, I also do quite a lot of (a)-ing on its own, meaning: I say something interesting, but say it very badly and confusingly, with constant self-interruptions, this paragraph perhaps being yet another example of (a)-ing.  Nobody quotes (a)-ing either, because it just confuses and irritates people.  You have to do (a)-ing and (b)-ing all at once before you get quoted by anyone.

So, if 6k has just been quoting me, I must have said something good and said it right, right?  And 6k has just been quoting me:

First this, from earlier this week:

I still hate and fear golf.

And then this, from the posting that that recent posting linked back to:

I remember once having a go at it, when I was at my expensive public school in the middle of the last century.  I still remember hitting one golf ball really sweetly and deciding, right then and there, that I would never do this again, because if I did, there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life.  And I wasn’t having that.

Sadly for me, though, this is not the perfect piece of writing that I yearn to contrive, every time I place my fingers above my keyboard to start to type in this stuff.  It was not, that is to say, the blogging equivalent of a perfectly hit golf shot.  (a)-ing and (b)-ing were not perfectly combined. There is one crucial word missing.  Where it says: “… there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life”, I should have put “… there was a definite danger that playing golf would take over my entire life.”

Playing cricket, as a life-time occupation excluding all else besides doing whatever work was needed to stay alive, never appealed to me, for the simple reason that I was always hopelessly bad at playing cricket.  A cricketing life would have been a life of constant humiliation at the hands of all the other, better cricketers.  The occasional well flighted off-break or decently played single out to extra cover would not have begun to compensate for all the contemptuous fours and sixes hit off me (if and when I ever bowled) or the flying stumps (if and when I finally got to bat).  You can’t play cricket alone, against only yourself.  You have to have opponents, and if these opponents are almost always better than you, you aren’t going to have a huge amount of fun.

But playing golf is different.  Basically, no matter how they dress it up, golf is, or at any rate can be, a solitary game.  It is a game you can play against only yourself, and for me that would be a fair contest, rather than the permanent humiliation that me playing cricket regularly (by its nature, necessarily, against other cricketers) would have been.

6k notes that do I “love cricket”, and I do.  But to be more exact, what I love is following cricket, not playing it.  And following cricket, at any rate the way I like to follow it, fits in perfectly with me also having a life doing other more meaningful things besides following cricket.

What I love about cricket is, yes, the game itself, but also the minutiae of its progress - the verbal commentaries and the numbers and the dots, the runs and the wickets, the constant flow of data.

Football is not like this, for me.  The actual processes don’t appeal to me nearly so much.  All that passing and tackling and dribbling and creating and missing half-chances.  These processes only really matter, to me, if they result in a goal, and in a way they only matter to anyone if they result in a goal.  With football, it’s only goals that count.  Only goals determine who wins.  And only the goals really speak to me, so I prefer to watch, if I watch football at all, the recorded highlights of football, and the more highlighty the better.  (This is not an argument that you should stop loving football or playing in or going to watch football matches or watching entire games of football on your television.  I am merely describing how football does and does not appeal to me.)

Cricket, on the other hand, and unlike football, emits this constant gush of truly meaningful information, information which all adds up to winning or losing.  And I relish the decoding of this information in the same way that an MI6 analyst must relish being able to tell what is happening out there also only by looking at data on a computer screen.

I only ever actually attend a cricket game as a special and very occasional treat.  I wouldn’t want to watch cricket, for real, in person, at the actual ground, day after day.  The very second-hand and rather arms-length nature of cricket data is, for me, all part of what fun it is to be receiving it.  Having played enough actual cricket in my extreme youth to have the game imprinted into me, like a first language, I know how diabolically difficult it is to do what good cricketers do routinely.  When, as happens from time to time, my computer screen announces a “w” (somebody just got “out"), I feel the same lurch of emotion that the real spectators and participants enjoy or suffer.  When I see a “4” reported at Cricinfo, and then read some guy telling me that it was a good shot rather than a mis-hit, I get almost the same pleasure from that as I would have got from actually seeing it.

Especially entertaining is if, say, an IPL team needs to clobber a boundary off the final ball of a T20 game (never mind – it’s just a sort of cricket game) to win, but will otherwise lose, and then a “6” shows up on the screen.  Hey, how about that!  Or, if a limited overs win-or-lose, no-draws-allowed game ends with, say, one team needing three to win off the last two balls (I seem to recall something like this happening in the IPL a couple of days ago), but with only one wicket left, and the penultimate ball suddenly announces itself to have been a “w”.  Game over.  Wow.

(Although, I have to admit that a big spread of Premier League games on a Saturday afternoon, with goals erupting quite regularly, and then final whistles all being blown in a sudden rush, is fun, provided your team’s circumstances mean that you have firm preferences for several of these games rather than just the one game.  Lots of significant games then adds up to something almost as continuously amusing as a single game of cricket.  To me.  (This is not an argument, see above ...)

I know, all very childish.  But following sport is rather childish.  And there’s nothing wrong with such childishishness provided that it doesn’t totally take over your entire life and turn you into a permanent twelve-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week child.  Because, what I especially love about following cricket is that I can combine it with other things.  Life, when I am following cricket, can go on.

I can now even carry a 1960s mainframe computer around with me in my pocket.  I can keep up with any games of cricket that are happening while being out and about in London, meeting colleagues and friends, and taking photos.  My cricket machine even doubles up as an A-Z map, complete with a blue blob that says “you are here”.  Amazing.  In short, and although there are days when it threatens to, merely following cricket has not totally taken over my life.  There are even days when my real life is so diverting that I neglect cricket entirely, and have to catch up later.

All of which means that when 6k says that what puts me off golf is its pleasure to pain ratio, and that he feels just the same about cricket, and how come I don’t? - well, with respect, and all my fault for failing to clarify the difference between playing golf and following cricket, but he has it all wrong.  Following cricket is continuous squirts of fun into the texture of everyday life, all pleasure and no grief.  Playing golf threatened continuous squirts of pleasure, but no everyday life at the same time.  It threatened a completely different life for me, and an utterly vacuous one, like being a drug addict (very like being a drug addict), with all my spare time and spare cash consumed by it.  Like playing outdoor solitaire, all the time and not doing anything else, and perhaps even stealing money to fund the habit.  (I am also terrified of actual drugs, for the same reasons.)

Because the thought of playing golf during every spare hour I had filled and fills me still with such horror, I have even avoided following golf, for fear that merely following golf might become a gateway drug to actually playing golf.  You want continuous data?  Golf, like cricket, supplies a constant gush of it.  But cricket data never says to me that I ought to pick up a bat or a ball and start trying to play the game, again.  I know my limitations.  Following golf?  Well, I just can’t take that risk.

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