Monday Jun 25, 2007

Cricket: What Baseball Wishes It Was

I just went to my first cricket match and though I understand cricket purists might argue that a Twenty20 match doesn't qualify, it was plenty good for me. In fact, due to the rain delay it was really only 10 overs per side :-). Is that a Ten10? Anyway, the story of how I attended this match is humorous and interesting. It was definitely fate and an experience I won't ever forget.

I'm in London attending the Gartner Identity and Access Management conference and arrived Sunday with my friend and co-worker, Brandon. We got in early and the Hilton didn't have our rooms ready so we did a bit of sightseeing. I'll spare you the details of our pathetic navigation of the bus system, but after making it to Buckingham Palace and seeing Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament/Big Ben, we had walked a long way and wanted to ride back to the hotel. The bus drivers were quite helpful and we were soon on our way back - or so we thought. In our haste to get on the right bus we neglected to make sure it was heading in the right direction. It wasn't. When the bus driver told us we were going the wrong way and we got off, we were next to something that clearly held sporting events. I asked one of the attendants through the fence if there was an event. He said yes and I asked if it was a football match. He laughed and said, "Mate, this is the Oval. You've never heard of the Oval?". I admitted the obvious, that I hadn't. He laughed again and then told me that the Oval was one of the most famous cricket stadiums in the world and the ONLY thing played in the Oval was cricket. I had just told Brandon that morning that one thing I wanted to do someday was to go to a cricket match. Why not today? The attendant told us that the game was being rain delayed and we proceeded to look for a place to buy tickets to find out how much it would cost.

A man, who either heard us talking to the attendant or could just tell we were in the market for tickets, approached us and said he had some he wanted to sell. Both of us were leery, but John assured us the tickets were not only legit, but 3 pounds (about $7) cheaper and could be refunded, if in fact the match was rained out. Further, he encouraged us to come in with him, his girlfriend Allison and his good friend James and pay him only if the match was played. Talk about no brainer.

The stadium was beautiful and looked to me like a HUGE golf green. It was somewhat covered by tarps, etc. to protect the pitch and key areas from the drizzle. The clouds were dark and I don't think any of us felt the match would actually be played. However, about an hour later the clouds cleared up and they announced that the match would occur, but it only be 10 overs per side and not the full 20. By this time John and James had completely explained the game. It helped that John was such a huge baseball fan (only weeks before he'd been to both a Cub and White Sox game in Chicago) and could relate aspects of cricket to baseball, something Brandon and I know better, though neither of us are fans.

The match was the Surrey Brown Caps, the home team, against the Hamshire Hawks. James is a big Hawks fan. John is a big cricket fan. Allison is mostly a John fan :-). The rain stopped, at least enough for the match to start and we could not have happened upon three better people to spend the afternoon with and learn about this fantastic sport. Hamshire elected to bat first, which John said was a surprising move, and Surrey proceeded to bowl exceptionally well keeping Hamshire to only 72. The spin (slow) bowling was quite effective. We were impressed that bowling, essentially pitching overhand while being required to keep your elbow straight, reached speeds of 89 mph. Yes, straight arm. Surrey looked like they would reach 73 very quickly, but slowed near the end, finishing Hamshire with an over to spare. Sky (a Sun customer) covered the match and we were on the replays, and probably the sports coverage on the news later, several times.

I loved it. Can't wait to go again. Thanks John, Allison and James! You guys were great and our experience with you at the Oval was definitely the highlight of our trip. John, when you are in Illinois next we've got to see a Packers/Bears game!

Cricket is so much better than baseball. Granted that is a low bar, but easily cleared. Let me know if you want to understand any of the rules or the intricacies, but do wait until John sends me his email :-)

Baseball - a poor imitation of cricket.

Saturday May 20, 2006

I'll never golf like that again in my life

My first round of golf for 2006 was today in a scramble with my dad and two good friends. My dad and one of my friends, Doug, are the real players, but I had a round none of us will forget very soon. My contribution on the front nine was minimal, consisting of an occassional drive, pitch or lag putt, but nothing to write home about. We finished the front nine at 4 under. The back nine is harder so we were thinking 6-7 under for the day would be great.

We got par on 10 and 11 and then it started. My friend Dan sank a long putt for birdie on 12 and then I drained birdies on 13, 14 and 15 from distances of 20+ feet each. We narrowly missed birdie on 16 and barely missed our first bogey on 17. So, we were 8 under hitting 3 on the par 4 18th from the rough off the green about 35 to 40 feet out. I pulled out my new favorite club, my 6-iron :-), and clanged it in. Amazing!

Even good golfers don't often get days like that. I'm lucky to get out a dozen times a year so I'm not mistaking this for skill. The fact that our foursome won the first flight and well over $600 in prizes made it even sweeter. I'll never forget it.

Wednesday May 03, 2006

Finally, Packers get help in the secondary

It was great to see the Packers get an outstanding veteran in Charles Woodson for the secondary. They didn't struggle as much there last year as they have in the few years before that, but protecting against the pass in this league is only going to get more important. You don't get to be a 4-time Pro Bowl player unless you are one of the best. The fact that he went to Michigan is just unfortunate. The big "G" will soon make him forget all about that big blue crap. :-)

Whether Thompson and McCarthy had a good draft, I'll have to defer to my good friends Nate Owen and Andy Land, who follow college much more closely. I sure hope with 12 picks we found a few future hall of famers. Why aren't we drafting more Nigerians.

Monday Dec 12, 2005

Packers Get A Gift

I wasn't sure the Pack would get another win, but I'm glad they did and I don't care that it was ugly or required a questionable call by the refs. What surprised me was that none of the three ESPN commentators actually realized what Gado was trying to do with the ball. He wasn't trying to pass the ball. He was trying to stretch it over the goal line, like you do when trying to score a touchdown, only in this case he was trying to avoid a safety. I sure didn't see the ball get to the original line of scrimmage. And as the announcers said, how you have a holding penalty on the offensive line that isn't in the endzone when the line of scrimmage is on the one foot line is beyond logic. I've never seen anything like it, but hey, I'm not complaining.

Monday May 02, 2005

My wife is worried

Now for something that is really important. I love the Green Bay Packers. I own stock in the Green Bay Packers. My office is a shrine for the Green Bay Packers. For 17 weeks starting in September, the world rises and falls on whether the Pack wins or loses. Last Thursday I was AIMing with my good friend Nate, who is not only a fellow die-hard Packer fan, but also the source of most of my analytic knowledge about the Packers (ok, so I'm a lazy die-hard fan). Anyway, Nate was telling me that the Packers are a mess. Then he backed it up with details: Ahman Green got his 3rd domestic assault incident, Javon Walker was a holdout, Bubba Franks hasn't signed and wasn't in camp, Al Harris was charged with sexual assault (never a big fan of his anyway and now I know why), the 1st round pick (Aaron Rodgers) doesn't help them this year at all. As further evidence he shared that the Vikings have added 8 new and better guys to their defense (not to mention getting rid of Randy Moss).

I asked my co-worker Greg, another huge Packer fan, if he knew all of this. He said he did and wasn't worried at all. When I told my wife what Nate said her response was, "I'm not going to share any of this with the children. I want them to have a good summer". Maybe I better have Greg give her a call.

More depressing to me than thinking about a bad year for the Pack is all the baseball that is between now and the start of the season. But at least it does allow the kids to enjoy their summer. Lucky for them I'm just the son of a die-hard Cubs fan.



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