Peter Siddle: Australian Vegan

Peter Siddle, vegan

Peter Siddle, vegan

The news that the Australian medium-fast bowler Peter Siddle is a vegan was music to the ears of this particular blog. Evander is the editor of the famous feminist bible of veganism, The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams, a work that at 25 years old is as relevant, trenchant, and challenging as ever. Martin is himself a vegan, and the co-founder of Lantern Books, which publishes many titles on this subject.

Siddle was only picked for the Australian team for the last game in the Ashes series, which the Australians had already lost, and so his six-wicket haul and relentless accuracy in the Australians’ Pyrrhic victory was in vain. There was also the usual nonsense about him lacking protein, and the worry that he wouldn’t have the stamina to bowl many overs in the heat of the Indian subcontinent (a concern that doesn’t seem to have affected Indian vegetarians).

What was probably lurking behind such ostensible concerns over Siddle’s health were the atavistic tropes that still define male sporting prowess: that real men eat meat, that male athletes need to be potent and carnivorous to be aggressive and effective, and that Australian men, in all their ockerness, need to be macho in order to scare out the opposition. Siddle’s openness about his veganism is a refreshing change, as is the fact that his diet is not merely one chosen for health reasons, but that he cares about nonhuman animals enough not to eat them. The Guardian reports:

Siddle does a lot of charity work for Animals Australia’s campaign against factory farming, and for Edgar’s Mission, a sanctuary for farm animals, and for the Penguin Foundation, to “preserve and protect the little penguins on Phillip Island”.

All this is good news. Might we see more vegans outing themselves in the world of cricket?

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A Singed Phoenix

The Coveted Urn

The Coveted Urn

To England fans of many years (such as Martin), the team’s 3–2 victory over the Australians in the 2015 Ashes bears all the hallmarks of a very English success story—partial, inconsistent, worryingly incomplete: the eggiest of curate’s eggs. All the narratives proclaiming a resurgence in English cricket—a young team that appears to be enjoying the game, a captain who has finally found his mojo as a leader, a batting order that while fragile is deep, and a fast-bowling department of substance—are hedged with caveats that observe that, man for man, Australia bested England, that England haven’t found an opener to accompany Alastair Cook, that England is weak in the spinning department, that England only win on English wickets, that Australia displayed more ineptitude than England did skill in the latter’s victories, that Jos Buttler and Ian Bell had better hit big runs soon, that Johnny Bairstow still hasn’t scored a Test century, and that Pakistan in the UAE and South Africa at home will represent the kind of genuine examination that playing Australia in England didn’t.

It’s easy to get carried away when you win—especially in circumstances that a few months ago seemed next to impossible. England were pathetic in the World Cup and timid in the West Indies. The shadow of Kevin Pietersen loomed over the team like Sauron over Mordor, and desolation and defeat seemed the only prospect ahead. But then Brendon McCullum and the New Zealand team charged over the hill, swords raised, and hope began to dawn (that’s enough Lord of the Rings metaphors—ed.). England got a taste for the Kiwis’ brand of cricket: fast, all-or-nothing, and likely to lose as much as to win. In such circumstances, 3–2 is the just the kind of scoreline that we should expect.

Last time England played Pakistan away, they lost, big time. They will probably lose big time again. Except, instead of 3–0, it might be 2–1. It might even be 1–2, to England, with that single Pakistan victory being a thumping, crushing, all-hope-extinguishing loss. It will be infuriating, exciting, dramatic, and, above all, the kind of cricket that people want to watch, players want to play, and the future of the game. The English phoenix is singed, sere, and burnt; it will fall into the flames again. But it will rise.


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Pure Products of America

The magnetic Ruth among fans: 1945, three years before his death.

The magnetic Ruth among fans: 1945, three years before his death

Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley died the same day: August 16.

Think about this.

Their deaths occurred fewer than thirty years apart. Each revolutionized and exported American culture while barely stepping foot outside North America. Elvis never performed away from the United States. Ruth briefly barnstormed Cuba and the Far East; took a few days in France and the U.K., where it is famously reported he tore up the practice-cricket field. (Of course, Right off the Bat vividly covers it—as if Martin and I were in slip at the time.)

Rock critic Greil Marcus cites William Carlos Williams: “the pure products of America / go crazy.” Seems to apply this day.

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Great Stadiums (8): Dodger Stadium (Redux)

Dodgy: the idea of a whole new stadium for L.A. Welcome back hexagonal scoreboards!—with a 21st.-c. difference.

Dodgy: the idea of a whole new stadium for L.A. Welcome back hexagonal scoreboards!—with a 21st.-c. difference.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been somewhat quietly working on a $100 million upgrade to the 53-year-old stadium, largely considered the Taj Mahal of baseball. Read all about it.

For those thinking our sports are about as exciting as watching the grass (or AstroTurf) grow, check out a pro game at any of the stadiums in this series or just stop by while some kids—with bats, a ball and their dreams—are at play in a pickup game.

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A Rise from the Ashes

One of the reasons why sport engrosses large panoply of the society is that it mirrors life. People can pick an image of themselves, a person who they think represents them and what they stand for in life and then support that person until the last breadth that sportsperson takes in the arena.

Like life, sport shows the filthy rich on talent given to them through divine intervention. You also see the journeymen who would beat everyone and their brother in their village or town, but at the largest stage are only good enough to do a job and earn a living. Then there are those eccentric characters, who alone make a sport worth watching. Heroes to traitors, Demure and honest to loud and canny. You can find all sorts in sport.

But one thing that sports almost exclusively puts forth in the most public way possible is the very real human struggle of one day being in the doldrums and being called “unselectable” by your coach to two years later, playing in a way that befits your talents and God-given ability. Almost everyone who is anyone in this world has gone through those moments in his or her own professions and personal lives. Moments where every step you take is taking you towards the wrong direction. Where the rules around you have changed all of a sudden and things you did right yesterday have now been made wrong to do today. And the worst – too many cooks (mentors) have messed you broth with their pointless advise.

It is a pleasure to see someone so publicly rise from the ashes. (the pun might have been intended, pardon me) Steven Finn’s transformation is the feel-good story of the summer and nothing short of an Oscar-winning script. When good things happen to great blokes who are genuinely nice and appreciate that what they have is not to be taken for granted, it’s really special. I hope he takes a moment to celebrate this moment. I know the cricket world is.

Keep going, good lad.

Parth Taneja

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The Inside Scoop

Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi: Surgical strike

Now that I (Martin) have turned fifty, my doctor has advised me to get a colonoscopy, and dutifully I have scheduled one for later in August. At a pre-operation, getting-to-know-you meeting, my surgeon, a dapper gentleman by the name of Dr. Muslim, only had to hear me open my mouth to wish him a very English “Good Morning!” before replying: “You got crushed the other day!” I, being like the good doctor a passionate follower of the global game of cricket, knew exactly what he was talking about: England’s thrashing at the hands of Australia in the second Test match at Lord’s. Thus it goes within the international cabal of cricket fanatics: an immediate rapport and run down of vital statistics before we’d even run down my own.

It should be added that Dr. Muslim grew up in Lahore, and has—like many followers of the Pakistan team—an air of wounded bafflement as to why a side that has produced so many talented and exciting cricketers over the years has failed regularly to meet its potential. As Dr. Muslim ruefully acknowledged, the same might be said about the state, and we agreed (after Dr. Muslim had given me the inside scoop, as it were, on the procedure I would shortly undergo) that Pakistan’s cricket team performed remarkably well given the turmoil in the country. Dr. Muslim was trenchantly medical about what he called the “cancer” of Shahid Afridi‘s presence in the team (he agreed that Afridi was to Pakistan what Kevin Pietersen was to England). He anatomized that South Africa’s failure to achieve total dominance was due to a lack of “balls” (he didn’t mean the ones you throw). And he held little hope for England in the Ashes, although the fact that he’d acquired tickets for two days at the Oval in London (the site of the final game in the series) suggested to me that he at least believed in the statistical possibility that the series would still be competitive.

As a patient cricket fan and a cricket patient, I welcome Dr. Muslim’s probing analysis of my team and my body. I take it as a good omen that in an office off Union Square in Manhattan, an entirely unexpected examination of the state of world cricket could occur at the same time as the examination of my own state. One can only hope that my colon will prove more robust than England’s batting line up, and Dr. Muslim will be able to pronounce me Afridi free.


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The Problem with Flared Skirts

Nothing to do with the Georgia Peach, either

Nothing to do with the Georgia Peach, either

Auntie Beeb has interviewed veteran major-leaguer Mary Pratt of the Rockford Peaches. Never heard of ’em? Did you see A League of Their Own (1992)? The film is based on this all-women’s club from the 1940s, tho in real life the championship depicted was between the Racine Belles and Kenosha Comets.

In Right off the Bat, Martin and I talk a little about the state of the National Pastime “when all the men were gone.” This would be the summer of 1943, when the women’s league was founded, into the summer of 1945. (Per the photo, Rockford perdured till 1954.)

(Not talking this kind....)

(Not talking this kind….)

Skirt-uniforms were worn four inches above the knee—slightly scandalous for the times—and all the women playing hardball had the strawberries (not Darryl) on their thighs to show for their considerable efforts in such garb—while off the field “walking like ladies.” (If she had the opportunity, I’m sure my ultra-coordinated, wiry, and baseball-crazed [She kept score every day, when not at work, from radio broadcasts!] mother might’ve been a women’s-league bench-warmer if not actually in some starting lineup.)

Check out this delightful 4-minute interview with the indomitable Ms. Pratt.

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