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Soup of This Day #110: You Got To Work To Feed The Soul

December 21, 2011

Western Brown snake
A Western Brown Snake, aka Gwarder. Dangerous when not imaginary – Photo: Andy Mitchell, 2009. Andy Mitchell is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Once I shared a house with some fellow students. It was a nice house. We drank a fair bit. On 1 night we drank a lot, even by our lofty standards and the next morning I woke up, standing in just my underwear in the middle of the street, about 50m down from the house. I wasn’t really awake to be honest – Sort of in that halfway world whereby you can still feel the tenuous grip of a nightmare – So I know that the reason I was out there was because I was dodging a snake.

This isn’t as dumb as it sounds – The 10 most venomous snakes in the world are Australian. Of those, 3 are present in Western Australia and yep, some of those can be found in suburban Perth. 1 of them is called a Death Adder. That’s ‘Death’ as in the opposite of ‘Life’ so you take a reptile like that seriously. Being fearful of things that have ‘Death’ out the front of their moniker, I’d jumped out of bed, run out of my room, unlocked the front door and then burst outside, racing down the path and out onto the road.

All while being asleep.

In my underwear.

Thankfully I didn’t sleep naked.

Anyway I’d made a fair old racket doing this so I had woken 1 of my housemates. By the time I’d come to a vague realisation that I was stuck in the middle of the road, he was at the front door, calling out to me. I don’t remember his exact words but they were surely around the theme of, ‘What the hell are you doing?’

In my state of dawning comprehension I could only yell back, ‘Snake. There was a snake and…’ I lamely trailed off as the morning light percolated into my brain: There was no snake – I had dreamed up the snake. Sadly though I hadn’t dreamed up the part where I was standing in the middle of a suburban street in my underwear. It was 6:00am and, oh Christ, there were people staring at me. There was a woman watering her garden, albeit in a fixed way that suggested she was holding the hose for forms sake but had long since lost track of what she was actually providing liquid sustenance to.

At least I didn’t have to feel too alone. My housemate, confronted by me in my underwear yelling about a snake took a dignified and cautious approach to the predicament. Which meant that he screamed out, ‘SNAKE! OH @#$%! WHERE? WHERE IS IT?’ and proceeded to hop from leg to leg, presumably to confuse the alleged reptile, presenting neither foot as a stable target. This behaviour might help to explain Riverdance except I hear that there are no snakes in Ireland.

I guess the point here is that, no matter how improbable what you say might be, if you say it with conviction others will believe. Saying it in just your underwear does lend a certain strength to the argument too.

There is a theory that T20 will save the game of cricket. The argument, made with conviction, is simple – Cricket has been dying a slow death for some years now. It’s problem is that it is long – Test cricket, the premier version involves matches of up to 5 days and it’s slow pace and redolent rhythm don’t naturally lend themselves to the iGeneration. What was needed was something to bring a new crowd to the game and so T20 cricket was conjured up by, of all people, the English.

T20 is a condensed, supercharged version of cricket. It is short, with just 20 6 ball overs per innings. Compare with a Test, which has as many as 90 overs per day or the more concise One Day Internationals (ODIs) which still feature 50 overs per innings. It’s not just bite-sized though – The rules have been adjusted to encourage expansive hitting. Batters don’t have time to settle in – They need to go out slogging for the fences.

And that’s not all – Each bat heads out to loud rock music, dressed in colourful clothing and often, miked up so that viewers can feel part of the game. There are dancing girls cavorting on stages around the ground, fast food giveaways and players high-fiving crowd members. It’s a festival of cricket, reduced like a fine jus and then served up in an explosive entree of whizbangery.

The whole thing is fresh, innovative and exciting.

It’s also really quite @#$%.

It shouldn’t be – On paper it takes out the boring bits and concentrates the fun. In reality though it’s a little like a cake made entirely of frosting – It sounds good but quickly makes you feel just a bit off in the stomach when you go to eat it.

To translate into another sport, let’s take rollerblading. It seems like fun. Apart from the falling over thing, closely followed by the hospitalization thing. But what if you were covered in wheels so that it didn’t matter how you landed?

Meet Rollerman:

Rollerman looks cool. Up until the 1:08 mark of this film I wanted to be Rollerman. Then I noticed him crabbing sideways like he wanted to, I don’t know, stop maybe and by the 1:23 mark I was happy being Ordinarymotionman. All of those wheels – Sweet, but too much frosting.

And that’s how each delivery in a T20 match is – A ball top-edged for 4 is a mindless swing of the willow, forgotten moments later when the batter has his stumps skittled or swings for the boundary once more.

In a Test that top edge would be illuminated by context, the bowler maybe having set a field and peppered the batter with short, sharp lifter’s, trying to entice a pull shot. There would be subtlety – Each ball a single line in a story, developed over time, with nuance and inflection.

By contrast, in T20 each ball is a txt from 1 disenfranchised teenager to another: edg L8 4 4rs lol

And here’s the thing, Test cricket is not @#$%. It’s actually wonderfully entertaining and I can cite the Australian’s past 2 series, both limited to 2 matches and both finishing 1-1 after some thrilling drama. In just those 4 matches alone Australia collapsed to 9 for 21, debutante 18yr old fast bowler Pat Cummins took 6-for and hit the winning runs over South Africa and New Zealand won it’s 1st Test in Australia since 1985/86 and they did it by a meager 7 runs. It was riveting stuff and there should be more of it. It turns out that all of those balls where nothing much seems to happen – That’s the cake that carries the frosting.

Months before I burst into the street chased by an imaginary reptile I was working a mining exploration gig. My job involved dragging wire through dense bush in partnership with another guy whose name escapes me. I think he was called ‘Curly’.

Or possibly he called me ‘Curly’ – There was a lot of drinking out there.

Anyway this 1 day I lost track of Curly. He wasn’t answering his radio and when the time came to haul arse on the wire his end was motionless. After several rounds of ‘You go find him. No, you go find him.’ with the boss I set off to make the 300m trek through some dense scrub to where Curly should have been. As I got closer I could just make out a piercing wolf whistle and then as I got closer still I could hear some indistinct yelling. I broke into a haphazard jog and when I was maybe 50m from the source of the din was able to make out that the yelling was:

‘SNAKE! @#$%ING SNAKE!’

I ran for that voice. Sure I’m cautious of snakes but there’s a code.

I broke out of the bush and shuddered to a halt at the top of a steep bank. The bank lined a large culvert, maybe 10m across and a good 5m deep. The water running down it looked to be 50cm deep and flowing at a fair clip – More of a river than a drain. In this water stood Curly, facing away from me and yelling about snakes.

‘Where’s the snake?’ I screamed at him.

He turned to face me and calmly announced, ‘There’s no snake, I just @#$%ed up and threw my radio in the river.’

This was a little too much for me to take in.

‘Then why the @#$% did you call out ‘snake’,’ I raged.

‘If I’d called out ‘Threw my radio in the river’ would you have shown up?’ he fired back.

Cricket is convinced that the only way to get people to show up is cry ‘snake’ in the form of T20. Honestly though, if they just told everyone the radio was in the river I reckon they’ll still draw a crowd to a Test match.

You Got To Work To Feed The Soul

One Comment
  1. I need to see Rollerman operate in rush hour traffic in Philadelphia before I pass judgment on if I’d like to meet him someday. I do not need to see snakes in rush hour, or any hour for that matter, to know I don’t want to meet them anyday.

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