Monday, 11 December 2006

The Power of the Game

Presently in Australia, the Ashes Test Series is underway.
For those not in the know, The Ashes refers to a series of five, five day games of cricket between bitter arch enemies England and Australia. The Ashes that the two teams are playing for, refers to this tiny little trophy cup pictured to the left, and as legend suggests, the trophy apparently contains the burnt remains of cricket equipment, albeit a ball, bail or stump from the wickets used in the original game between the two nations in 1882. Nevertheless, The Ashes are a big deal. There are many countries in the British Commonwealth that compete in the game of cricket, but none seem to inspire the nation as much as the traditional Ashes Test series. I think most countries involved in this game are happy to see England beat, although Australia has dominated the competition for so long, I wonder if this remains true.
While England are rubbish at practically every sport they compete in (ha ha), surprisingly they managed to prise the Ashes from the grip of skilled Australian hand last time the Ashes were played. But it looks like the victory will be a short lived for the Poms, because Australia is set to win them back in glorious style.
I say all this with tongue firmly in cheek, since I find Test cricket to be about as interesting as watching paint dry, most of the time. And Shane Warne...ughhh...he may be a highly skilled cricketer and sure to go down as legendary for his antics both on and off the pitch, but seriously, most will agree that he seems to be a pig of a bloke. I can't bring myself to watch five whole, largely monotonous days of men prancing around in white uniforms, but I will watch the end of a live game, especially if it is a nail biter. Ashley however, is an avid, fanatical supporter of the game, and has been somewhat out of sorts since we are over here in Canada, a non-cricketing country, while The Ashes Series takes place in Australia, capturing the imagination and excitement of a nation. It is incredible how sport can do that. Take World Cup Soccer for instance.
During the World Cup I went to the mall in nearby Richmond to collect my watch; it had been in for repair. It was about 2pm and the first day of the school holidays. I was walking casually around, just looking at stuff and taking in the strange energy that usually resides in such places; where many people mingle and mix unknowingly, and mostly unwantingly in the true sense of contact. When, from around the corner, came a thunderous multi-voiced roar, and what followed was equally bewildering and altogether intriguing. People who had been strolling without a care only seconds before, erupted into a gallop of panicked proportions, sprinting for what appeared to be their lives and disappearing on mass to somewhere around the corner, though in the direction of the thunderous roar.I too quickened my pace, although I felt no need to sprint, I was merely interested to know the cause for all that commotion. And there it was.....a throng of perhaps 150+ people, huddled around half a dozen large TV sets facing out from and around a sports store. It was one of those moments that I regret not having my camera, for there was every visible race, gender and age represented there. Asians sitting among Caucasians cheering for Italy together; others booing Italy in light-hearted mirth; Muslims in the hajib jumping up and down while recounting the action over a cell phone; Punjabi teenagers punching the air; old men sitting transfixed, wide eyed, beaming; others wandering past with confused looks of interested curiosity, stopping to watch the jubilation on every face rather than the televised game, like I was. Then the crowd exploded into a deafening fever as Italy scored its second goal in as many minutes, to claim victory and its place in the World Cup final.
Alex was a bit shaken by the noise and wanted to leave immediately. He didn't understand what was going on, but I picked him up and showed him the TV and the soccer and explained the situation. I still don't think he really understood why so many people were enthused by a game of soccer on the TV. Or why this game in particular brought so many together, captured their imaginations and interest on this day. I had to wonder at that myself, but if a simple game of soccer being played thousands of miles away between two teams, neither of them offering local representation, can have such a drawing and bonding effect of all those around them, then maybe the World Cup should be an annual event. Why do we have to wait four years for such promising scenes as these - and I am referring to neither soccer nor cricket.

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