NFL and other American acronyms

Just read a passionate piece from John Stern on the NFL. Ah – now, no sooner have I finished that sentence than I’m already feeling uncomfortable over its accuracy: is it NFL, or the NFL?

See, this is my ignorance and my own shame, made all the more acute given I work for the American sport colossus, ESPN. I really know nothing of any note about American sports and, what’s worse, my indifference towards it has morphed to dislike and dismissiveness. It’s not that I don’t appreciate its skill; what little I know of it has dispelled that particular nugget of ignorance. And it’s certainly not that I wouldn’t enjoy it myself if I spent time getting to know it. No. I think it may actually be a form of anxiety.

To be a sport fan, or sports fan as my American employer insists it is spelled, requires dedication to the cause and an unwavering loyalty, but you can only reach that level of commitment once you’ve mastered how it all works. The nuances of its rules, the lingo, the exceptions, history and form – never mind all the teams and players, and associated statistics. And it’s those two things which I’m most  fearful of: if I did spend time getting under the skin of an American sport, or any other sport for which I’m not familiar, I worry that I could become almost hyper obsessed with it.

The Premier League doesn’t have this. Yet.

It happened with cricket, albeit when I was 12, and I’m definitely nowhere near that age now. But it could easily happen again, and John makes a compelling case for NFL to be my victim. Or me to be its, depending on the outcome. It’s also worth pointing out that American sport in the UK is a far, far bigger beast than you think. In 2004 Google says it was indexed at 21 (whatever that is). In 2014? It’s 100. The interest has gone up five fold.

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I used to work with John when he was editor of The Wisden Cricketer magazine, and remember being starstruck when introduced to him on my first day working for Cricinfo (whose office we all shared) in 2005. I’d read TWC and its former incarnations since I was 12. He couldn’t have been more diffident or affable, yet here I was expecting a larger-than-life media mogul who also had a vast cricketing knowledge; a combination of Piers Morgan’s bluster and blind confidence, and anyone who appeared on Mastermind in the 1980s (bespectacled, lack of social skills yet absolutely obsessed with their subject).

Disappointingly I got neither, just a top bloke, writer and editor.

It’s Sreesanth, not Sreesunth

Sreesanth, the India fast bowler, is my latest favourite player. Not because of his cricketing credentials, but for his name. Sreesanth. It’s singular; his first name is too long and complicated (it’s Shanthakumaran if you must know) and I have a curious liking for names and words and things.

I don’t know why…it’s probably because it’s so uncommon in Britain to be known nationally by your last name. Only if you’re a celebrity, and usually not a very good/popular/talented one, are you afforded notoriety by your surname. In the subcontintent, it’s common!

Anyway, I really am talking some rubbish here. The point of all this is highlighted by John Stern who, as I have mentioned before, is writing a diary for us at our Tour Diaries blog. And today’s entry should provide great reading for those of you interested into the world of a cricket journalist (John’s the Editor of The Wisden Cricketer):

But after leaving his seat and made for the exit, he promptly returned to the microphone-laden table. “I want to make an announcement,” he said. Comments like that lead to wild and excitable speculation. Journalists could see their careers flashing before their eyes. Is this the big one?

“I would like everyone to know that my name is Sreesanth. That’s S-R-E-E-S-A-N-T-H. Thank you.”

You what? We don’t do jokes ten minutes before deadline. Was it a joke? Not a very funny one clearly. Apparently, there had been a misspelling of Mr Sreesanth’s name (there was a U instead of an A, if you must know). And he’s not amused. But the culprits have been apprehended and they will be facing him and Munaf Patel in the nets tomorrow.

Stern blogs

Much to his amusement, John Stern, the Editor of The Wisden Cricketer, can now be called a blogger. He’s kindly offering his thoughts over at our Tour Diaries blog while in India for the third Test. Check it.

The far from super ICC Super Series

It’s really not been all that super, has it? John Stern, editor of The Wisden Cricketer in his column, Stern Words, wrote before this series:

Australia will be so up for it as to make the contest potentially one-sided despite the obvious talent they will be facing. Had Australia beaten England, the chances are that the World XI players might have fancied it more than the Australians. The opposite now seems to be true.

While the matches haven’t been wholly one-sided, Australia have certainly outplayed World XI who, as a team, lack the intensity that a group of players (a “team”) who represent a country usually have. It’s a shame, though; Lara, Flintoff, Sangakarra, Shoaib, Gayle…some fine, fine players. And my boss made a good point about the trouble the series faces; we see so much cricket these days that we’ve become spoilt for choice. The tasty prospect of picking Murali’s doosra isn’t a rare enough occasion to get excited about. Lara? Christ, I’ve seen him bat more than some of England’s players.

So what can the future of a “world series” hold? After England’s memorable summer, Australia – the caged animal, as John said – has fought back, determined to show the world that they are indeed the best. Better than all the rest, as (and I shudder that I know this) Tina Turner once said. But these two victories are a feeble attempt at confirming their waning authority as cricket’s leaders, not that that is Australia’s (or Cricket Australia’s) fault.

It’s the fault of the Ashes. Damn this summer, and damn all that participated; any other cricketing contest now seems weak and watery in comparison.