For All Nails pt. 24: That's Not Cricket!
5 April 1972
Red Hook Fields, Brooklyn, New York
Nigel Whittington had expected to be a happy man, but instead found
himself embarrassed, confused, and sitting on a bench.
The umpire had just rejected a howzat from one of the players, and to
Nigel's absolute surprise, the player waltzed right up to the umpire
and started haranguing him! Yelling and hollering, and the umpire
took off his hat and threw it down and hollered right back. Surprised
... no, downright shocked to see such behavior at a cricket match,
Nigel's first instinct had been to break the fight up before someone
got hurt. After all, when slap-happy football players back in Oxford
had started to scream at the referee, blood and pain was not far away.
Only the ump, a burly Brooklynite named Bret Candreotti, had responded
to Nigel's bodily interpolation with a grunted, "What the fuck are you
doing?" while the other player, equally surprised, jumped back and
yelled, in the incomprehensible local accent, "Samattawhitcha!?"
"I was, I mean, I was just trying..." Nigel spluttered.
As an embarrassed Nigel tried to explain that he was just trying to
keep the two of them from killing each other, his friend Danny
Rubinstein jogged up in his red-and-yellow team uniform, _Mackin
Street Donut-Bombers_ emblazoned across the front. "Heya, Nigel,
c'mere. Whyn't'cha sit this one out?" 
"Yeah, why dontcha sit this one out, huh?" chimed in Candreotti, while
another player managed to glare _and_ shake his head at Nigel at the
same time. "Frickin' nelly." Nigel avoided the men's stares. He
hadn't been playing too well, and now he had misinterpreted, well,
something. Agreeing to play had been a huge mistake.
"Aw, Christ man, now whaddaya we gonna do wit' only eight guys on our
team?" yelled the bowler. 
"Heya, Bobbaroo, you was only playin' with eight anyways!" yelled
someone from the batting team.
"Hey, Rubinstein said this a--hole could play!" yelled another.
"Shut the f--k up, willya?" yelled back Rubinstein. In a clear
attempt to further profundicize Nigel's confusion, the mens'
expressions didn't match the severity of their language. Nigel
thought he knew North Americans. He had spent four years in the CNA
as a teenager at public school in Massachussetts, before going back to
England for university, and he got along fine in Manhattan's better
precincts. Unfortunately, this wasn't Massachusetts and this wasn't
Nigel and Danny schlumped over to the bench. "Don't sweat it, Nigel."
Nigel shook his head, wiped his forehead with the back of his hand.
"I had no idea it was so different."
Danny laughed as he pushed some pads off the bench onto the dirt to
make room for them to sit. "Yeah, well, that's my fault."
"I mean," said Nigel, feeling defensive, "I play cricket with some
fellows in Manhattan. This is something completely different."
Danny laughed. "Yeah, I shoulda warned you. I mean, I've seen
English cricket, back in university."
Nigel shook his head. "Yes, but..." he started, and then surprised
himself with a snorted laugh. Seriously! He was 25 years old, and
acting like some grammar school child. "It is ridiculous, isn't it?"
Danny clapped Nigel on the shoulder. "Yup. Whole 'nother world over
"You have that right," added Nigel. "The Manhattan league played with
English rules," he added, still feeling defensive about his awful
Danny sprawled back on the bench, legs extended, ankles crossed,
staring at the ongoing game while talking to Nigel. "Yeah, you gotta
understand, over the river there, that ain't the CNA. Manhattan's
still in the United Empire, far as most've 'em are concerned. This
here is Brooklyn City, Noit'america." He spit to his left, barely
missing the bench. "Cawss, I fuhgot too."
"Danny, no offense intended, but do you realize that your accent gets
much stronger the second you get out of Manhattan? I can barely
Danny laughed. "Yeah. Actually, y'know, I'm from Nawlins, but the
accent ain't all that different from Brooklyn." 
"Now I understand why all my friends back in England advised me to
turn down any jobs anywhere but New York City."
"Yeah, well ... f--k! Lookit that, man!" Danny stood up, as the
action caught his attention. "Catch it, catch it, f--k! Trow you
moron, trow!" The bowler had given the batsman a chinaman, but he had
splatted it practically to the out line anyway. The fielder got the
ball on the first bounce and threw it back hard as he could towards a
fielder racing towards the back wicket.  The runners charged past
each other, then started to slide.
"Dammit, dammit, yes!!!" yelled Danny! "Go for the double!" One
fielder tagged a runner out, then flicked the ball at the other
wicket. "Go go go go go ... aw f--k!" The runner slid in, bowling
over the wicket with his body as the thrown ball went wild. 
Nigel looked up at Danny, who had just flung his cap in the dirt. "At
least you scored."
"Yeah, but that's a frickin' out, man!" Danny pointed at the field,
"That's right, you only have three." Nigel shook his head. "I
"Yeah, one more and it's a new innings. Unless it's tied, and that
almost nevuh happens, we only got six inna game, an' this is numbuh
five, so unless we pull out a lead it's all ovuh."  Danny's
N'awlins accent was really coming through now. New Yorkers insisted
that the accent of the CNA's second-largest city sounded nothing like
the speech of the nation's largest metropolis, but Nigel couldn't hear
a difference to save his life. 
Danny flopped down. "Gah! Run and an out. Shoulda been four." [7b]
Now Nigel clapped him on the shoulder.
"Hey, what was that expression? Don't sweat it. Thanks for inviting
me. Next time, though, I'd like a primer on how to play. Everything
is different, you realize. Fewer players, more active fielding, much
Danny, quickly putting aside his team's brief humiliation, added, "And
we yell back the umps."
"No, we don't do that in England."
"I wouldn't've guessed." Danny scrunched his face for a second.
"Listen, Nigel, things are slow at the firm. I'd bet that I can
convince one of the partners to let me knock off midday on Friday.
The Civil War is this week, y'know. Since it might be the last, there
won't be a problem." [7a]
"The what?" asked Nigel.
"Jesus, Nigel, you been in New York what, three weeks, and you don't
know? What, you don't watch vita? The Bee Cee-Noo Yawk test match!"
Nigel nodded. "No, you're right, I heard some of the senior traders
talking about that."
"Okay, but you're not a trader, you're an analyst, right? Talk to the
guys at the firm. I betcha what that _everybody_ knocks off early
that day, and the firm already has tickets. And the game's in Tory
Stadium, easy to get to, not out on Mars."
"Isn't that in Broncks, though?" asked Nigel. 
"Ah, c'mon! Straight shot up the MTS. Fawty minutes from midtown,
tops." Danny looked at Nigel. "Trust me, going to this will be good
for your career. And I can explain you the game as you watch the best
of the best play it."
By this point, Nigel probably would have preferred a root canal, but
his friend seemed so excited about the idea ... and he did have a
point. Everybody talked cricket in this town, more even than
football.  It wouldn't hurt to have a clue what they were
talking about. It was now sinking in that he must have said some
pretty stupid things without knowing it ... what did Americans mean by
"googly," anyway? "You might be right."
"And lissen, bub, the cheerleaders ... almost as good as the Yanks.
So, in for some pro-cricket?" 
"I think I can be there, but," he said, pointing at the field, where
the players were hollering at each other again, "whatever you call it,
that's not cricket."
 American-rules cricket abandoned the white-uniform thing earlier
 American-rules cricket uses a nine-man team, instead of eleven.
 "Bee Cee" stands for Brooklyn City. Upper-class Manhattan is
heavily Anglophile, as are many of Brooklyn's old brownstone
neighborhoods. The remainder of Bee Cee is almost aggressively, well,
not exactly Anglophobe, but Manhattanophobe.
 In American-rules cricket, the wickets are 45 yards apart, not
20. This speeds up the game: more outs, fewer runs.
 Plays at the wicket occur under baseball-like rules.
Technically, the wicket has to be knocked off, but a fielder can also
catch the ball and tag the player out. The wickets, I should mention,
are twice as wide as in regular cricket: that forces the batsmen to
swing more often. If a batsman swings and misses, even if the ball
would have missed the wicket, that counts as a strike: a batsman has
only three strikes and he's out. Of course, he can choose not to
swing. If the ball misses the wicket, he's fine, and can stay fine
indefinately. (Baseball with unlimited balls, basically.) If he
swings, he has to run if the ball reaches the "outfield" (defined a
circle around the batsman with a 20-yard radius) without bouncing.
There are other times at which a batsman must run, but the rules are
too complicated for me to have thought of them.
 "Innings" is both singular and plural. In baseball terms, that
would be only three innings, not six, since in American-rule cricket
each team's at-bat is considered a separate innings in American-rules
cricket. Scoring is different, too. The effect of these rule-changes
is to significantly speed up the game, although do remember that
"speed up" is relative.
 By 1972, New Yorkers no longer go to "woik" or watch the "boids,"
while their New Orleans counterpart still do. Greater New Orleans
(whose suburbs have entirely consumed everything as far north as Baton
Rouge) and its accent is beloved --- if in a strangely condescending
sort of way --- in most of the CNA, but quite despised in the rest of
the Southern Confederation, especially Georgia.
[7b] If the ball goes out without bouncing, it's worth four runs, not
[7a] The owner of the Brooklyn Trolleydodgers has been threatening
for years to move the franchise if Brooklyn doesn't build him a new
stadium. There are offers from both Marlborough City, Manitoba, and
Charleston, South Carolina. Brooklyn's mayor has declared that she
will not be held hostage by a cricket owner, New York province is
little more than a legal fiction with next-to-no tax-raising or bond
issuing authority, and the Governor of the Northern Confederation,
Lane Weisberg, is terrified of showing favoritism towards his home
town. 1972 may be the Trolleydodgers last season in Bee Cee.
 "Test match" means something different in the CNA. It's a
five-game series. Twice a season, the Brooklyn Trolleydodgers of the
Confederation League play the New York Tories of the Northern League.
The N.L., despite the name, is a national league.
 "Broncks" is OTL's "The Bronx," although it extends substantially
further north than OTL. Tory Stadium is on approximately the same
site as Yankee Stadium. The surrounding neighborhood is slightly
shabbier than it used to be, but still rather upscale, having never
undergone the racial turmoil that disrupted OTL's South Bronx.
("Negroes" make up approximately 25 percent of New York City's
population, and while some neighborhoods are blacker than others, the
degree of residential segregation is much lower than OTL.) The MTS is
the Metropolitan Transit Service, a significantly more comprehensive
system of local, express, and "super-express" trains than ever existed
OTL. For those of you who care, there is no equivalent of the
Cross-Bronx Expressway, and "the Bruckner" is just Bruckner Boulevard.
You can thank Dave Barrington for a more transit-oriented New York.
I still can't imagine Brooklyn without the BQE and the Prospect
Expressway, so I'll leave that one to another author.
 Which means soccer, of course, not American-football.
 Scheduled for every year but often boycotted, the CNA champion
team plays the Mexican champion team. Both the Americans and the
Mexicans use cheerleaders, but the Mexican ones are known for
near-pornographic routines, at least by North American sensibilities.
(Anyone remember the XFL?) Mexico's tightly-repressed political
culture seems to have produced a flowering of other forms of, uh,
self-expression. By 1972, the Mexican influence is beginning (just
beginning) to have an effect on professional North American