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Tohle je můj čtenářský deník, který vyzrazuje zápletky a nemluví spisovně. Just sayin.

22. 8. 2011

Marcus Berkmann - Rain Men

      So here's another one I'll be writing in English, this time simply because I wouldn't know how to write certain things in Czech. Literally. There just isn't the necessary terminology and I really don't feel like inventing one. It's a book about cricket, one of the things that prompted the formulation of my Theory of Layers and Unexpected Revelations(c), keep checking your favourite bookshop.
      Rain Men is mainly about village cricket as it's played, as opposed to idyllic images that keep appearing in British ads, and about what it means to be a cricket fan. And it's really funny, too. My favourite is the chapter on why cricket would make a perfect fundamentalist religion. Here, have an extract:

Why do you like cricket?
It is a question that arises time and time again. Non-believers cannot understand how anyone could allow themselves to fall under the spell of a mere game, and such an intrinsically silly one at that. Their sneers and contempt, not to mention their endless satirical use of the phrase ‘bowling a maiden over’, can undermine the most robust of personalities. What they don’t understand is that we know it’s stupid, but England are 82 for 4, for Christ’s sake. Which, needless to say, answers all their questions in full.
Cricket leaves no room for doubt. Its superiority as a sport is manifest. If the heathens cannot accept this, they cannot really argue if we have them horribly put to death.

       Marcus Berkmann describes how as a kid he had to hide his faith and pretend to like football to fit in. He later realized he wasn't alone and could openly profess his preferences in public, yet for some reason, they still wouldn't let him into any team just because he lacked any talent whatsoever. He therefore decided to start his own team, the Captain Scott Invitation XI and in this book now describes a typical year of such a team.
       It starts with the torture of the winter months when you can spend endless hours watching England lose every Test they play (the book was written in 95) or be denied TV or TMS and spend  days going about your business while constantly thinking about what the score is. Then the spring starts and you practice your cover drive with a ruler in front of the mirror and wait for the season to start. And then spend the summer playing with people who hate each other, cheat and insist on giving people out lbw when the ball pitches outside leg. You play in matches where neither side really cares about the opposition but everyone wants to have a better average than his teammates.
      Berkmann even includes an A-Z of Scott Batsmanship, a classification of the types of bowlers you might encounter in village cricket and a drinking game based on how much you screwed up on tour. A serious business, this.
      He notes how hard is the life of a cricket fan who has his head stuffed with cricket facts but remembers nothing from the textbooks they present him with at school. The sad thing is, I probably shouldn't be sitting here, thinking I know, right?! (Shut up, of course I know what Bradman's batting average is, everybody knows that.) Well, at least now England are actually winning Tests. And they stopped selecting batsmen with large bottoms. (He said it, not me!)
      And because this really isn't one of the books easy to summarize and its main strength is in the style and humour, have another - slightly longer because I like it and, frankly, because I can - snippet instead of me praising it some more:

Captaincy is a subtle art, requiring tactical insight, management skills, a firm chin, endless patience and a powerful set of lungs. Many hundreds of books have been written on the subject. Sometimes I feel as though I have read them all. Perhaps the best and certainly the most authoritative is Mike Brearley's The Art of Captaincy, mainly because when Brearley wrote it, he had skilfully fostered a reputation for having the largest brain in the world. It may be cleverer to be thought clever than to be clever, and to be thought as clever as Brearley is very clever indeed. But as his book shows, Brearley onle knew half of it. He was a superb test captain, undoubtedly, with a deep understanding of the way people tick, and an instinctive knowlegde of how to get the best of an unlikely raw material. But when did he ever have to collect tea money? When did he ever have to go to the opposition's skipper and say, 'Er, look, I'm terribly sorry, but we seem to have an extra man by mistake. Would it be all right if we played twelve-a-side?'
      For it is out here, in the uncompromising world of 'friendly' cricket, that a captain really earns his spurs. Anyone can marshall the world's best cricketers into a series-winning fighting force. But I can't imagine that Michael Atherton has ever had to ring around all his friends on the morning of a Test match because Graeme Hick has been told by his wife that he has to put up some shelves.
      The perfect illustration of this disparity is the phenomenon of 'stonedrift'. It has different names in different teams, but whatever it is called, stonedrift makes the life of every captain at village level a waking hell. In our team it was named after Paul Stone, an early stalwart and a master of the practice. You would ask him to field at cover point. Off he would trot, smiling and eager to please (thoroughly nice fellow, Paul, always smiling and eager to please). Ten minutes later you would glance over to cover point, expecting to see Paul Stone, hoping to see Paul Stone, sometimes praying to see Paul Stone. But at cover point, there was an uncanny absence of Paul Stones. Not one Paul Stone was there to be seen. Sometimes he had drifted off to the third-man boundary, sometimes to short mid-off. Invariably he had completely forgotten where he was supposed to be. Once he made it as far as square leg. But he would still be smiling - and so were the batsmen, as they clumped every ball through the convenient hole in the field. Paul Stone drifted off completely a few years ago, but his legacy remains. Some fielders stonedrift with astounding skill and timing, often disappearing from the allotted position only seconds before the batsman offers them an easy catch there. Sometimes they move closer to someone to have a chat. Or perhaps there is a left-hander in and they can't remember where they have to go. Some fielders can only remember two positions, one for each end, and when you want them to be in different places for each batsman, a form of intellectual short-circuit takes place and they wander around like long-stay mental hospital patients recently released into the community. And yet in our team many stonedrifters have been playing cricket regularly for fifteen years. When you try to move them back to the position you first put them in, they look utterly dumbfounded, and sometimes throw up their arms in despair, as if to say that you really should make up your mind. In fact, you already have made up your mind - to absentmindedly stab them with your fork during the tea interval.

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