Sunday, January 29, 2012

And so to play up and play the game, and never mind the snicks or the statistics ...

(Above: umpiring in a post-modernist world).

As always, Sunday is a chance to catch up on the week-old thoughts of expert climate scientist Cardinal George Pell, and by golly, after a week, do they get a pong that assails the nostrils.

Take World Leaders for example, in which Pell manages to conflate gambling and drug abuse, and delivers this off-the-cuff statistical advice:

General health costs from illicit drugs, including the treatment of cannabis-induced schizophrenia, are at least as high as alcohol-related health costs.

Uh huh. So the hapless academics who toiled away to analyse the data that produced this chart for Australia (study in pdf form here) completely wasted their time:

Well near enough is good enough in the world of Pellist climate science, and so the 14.6% social cost of illicit drugs is clearly at least as high as the 27.3% for alcohol. Even flinging in alcohol and illicits together can't help him balance the books, but hey, tourjours gai in a Pellist world of science and statistics. (But why do people scribble factoids when a two second googling would lead them to more compelling data?)

Now please breweries, remember the Catholic church is your friend when the collection plate next comes round your way ...

And there are other bon mots in the Pell piece, like how no-one wants a nanny state attempting to curb human weaknesses. After all, that's the job of the Catholic church, and its nanny church wowserish ways.

But enough of the Pellist way with data, because hark, there's the siren song of the Sydney Anglicans, and this week the neo-Calvinists have gone populist with cricket:

In a desperate attempt to make neo-Calvinism relevant and popular, Michael Jensen has penned Towards a theology of cricket.

Let's hope his theology is better than his understanding of the dullest game - bar baseball - on earth ...

Now the pond admits to seeking some technical advice from those around who have wasted an already wretched life watching the Indians go down, but even the pond knew this bit of Jensenism was tendentious:

3. Cricket is a game that relates directly to the surface of the created and cursed earth; it is exposed to the wind and the rain and the sun. The ball is bowled to bounce from the dirt and grass and to respond to it.

Why the earth should be cursed is a matter only the bleakest of Calvinists can explain.

But as for the dirt to which we shall all return someday, for upmarket games these days the dirt is cosseted and cuddled, and covers are routinely deployed, and for down-market games concrete or matted pitches are provided, and even the most abject theologian should understand the difference between cursed turf and cursed concrete (no, this is not a chance for you to wax lyrical about how you scored three runs for Balmain D's in 1970 on a concrete pitch, there's too much of that sort of thing going around already).

Let's skip over Jensen's comparison of W. G. Grace to Jacob, and Don Bradman to Christ, and the number of Xians who have played the game, so we can get to this next bit of errant theology:

4. Cricket is a game invented by shepherds to play while their sheep grazed on green pastures and drank from still waters. It is a pastoral game.

Well in a church where the literal truth of Adam and Eve can still get a run, they would believe that, wouldn't they, but if you head off to the wiki on the history of cricket, here's the version written by Charles Darwin:

The sparse information available about cricket's early years suggests that it was originally a children's game. Then, at the beginning of the 17th century, it was taken up by working men. During the reign of Charles I, the gentry took an increased interest as patrons and occasionally as players. A big attraction for them was the opportunity that the game offered for gambling and this escalated in the years following the Restoration. By the time of the Hanoverian succession, investment in cricket had created the professional player and the first major clubs, thus establishing the sport as a popular social activity in London and the south of England.

Children and toffs gambling! Where's your shepherd cricketing Messiah now? Hang on, he too was a working man, a carpenter ... or was he a Harry Hodgetts man?

Hurrying on - like the white rabbit, we sense the need for an important date - we'll go past Jensen's talk of Peter Roebuck's talk of the redemptive potential in cricket for individuals.

Some might find it merely tasteless, given the failure of cricket to redeem Roebuck in life or in death, but it seems Jensen can't see the wood for the many reported trees, as he proposes that Roebuck - who jumped out a window six stories up - expected too much of the game, which is great fun, but can't change hearts.

Well it certainly didn't change Roebuck, though if we take the analogy of cricket to Christianity to heart, perhaps Jensen has a point, since the Calvinists have been trying for centuries to produce dour Trevor Bailey hearts, but without much luck ...

Not to worry, let's cut to the heart of the matter:

9. The batsman who ‘walks’ is expressing a far more Christian view of the world than the batsman who doesn’t. The batsman who acknowledges that he is out even when others cannot see it is saying that the truth is what actually happens, and that it matters in every instance. The batsman who does not walk is firstly postmodern, in that for him nothing is true until it is described as such (‘it’s only actually out when the umpire says so’) and secondly, fatalistic, in that he argues that umpiring mistakes in his favour will eventually balance those mistakes that fall against him - so he might as well make the most of his luck while he has it.

Say what?

Well first the pond had to suffer through a lengthy account of an innocent being given out in a game played against deaf people, in which the deaf umpire gave people out for snicks he couldn't hear, but thought he could see, and then the pond was assured by this same expert that this was the silliest thing that had ever been written about the game. And a lot of twaddle, mountain high loads of it, had been written over the years ...

Assuredly, this expert advised, it must have been written by someone who never played the game, except perhaps some kind of silly hit and run thing at a neo-Calvinist barbecue.

The reality is that it is impossible, indescribably silly, or desperately foolhardy to walk in the matter of LBW, and there thus is nothing post-modern about waiting for the umpire's verdict. Ditto run outs and stumpings, and ditto catches where the batsmen might not have seen the outcome of the catch. Or even been assured in his or her own mind that he or she had actually hit the ball (yes women play cricket too, though why has never been completely clear to the pond, even if Australian women are currently ruining life for kiwi cricketers).

In this post-modernist subjective world, even a player sometimes can't tell what happened, so waiting for the umpire is merely sensible and modest, and 'walking' is a grand rhetorical gesture beloved only by ponces and gits of the kind who think that duelling is a noble and manly thing to do ...

The reason why professional cricket now employs a panoply of technical tricks - oh dear absent lord not another half hour looking at hot spots and snicker snacker-ometers - is that in the postmodern world, it is sometimes very hard to ascertain whether there has been an edge, and if there has, what has been edged, and whether the ball has been plucked from the air before touching the grass.

That's why these days the umpires on the field are frequently post-modernist, and revert to the third umpire in relation to all manner of things, and why there has been a rigorous attempt to remove 'bleedingly obvious to television viewers', old-worldly umpiring mistakes from the game.

The notion that either players or umpires actually know what is happening most of the time, and that this is the truth, is surely the greatest philosophical delusion of all time, advised the pond's resident cricket expert ...

What Jensen is actually saying is that Christians are as deluded as batsmen who 'walk', as if they know the truth of things, and somehow think they're preserving integrity, confusing this with the quaint traditions of English gentlemen of Victorian times, when amateurs walked through one gate, and lumpen yeoman professionals walked through another to take the field.

What is being expressed isn't a sensible way to play the game, but a yearning to return to the simpler times of Sir Henry Newbolt and Vitai Lampada and imperial delusions and the Anglican church as facilitator of conquest:

There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night --
Ten to make and the match to win --
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote --
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'

The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game!' (the rest here)

Okay, you probably think the pond is being unnecessarily cruel to Michael Jensen's very old fashioned theology, and yet here, in another place, Jensen quotes Newbolt's poem with what almost passes for full approval, noting that in the old days of the nation and the empire, for cricket writer Neville Cardus, the present state of the game was 'not cricket.'

A bit like Jensen saying the present state of the game for non-walkers is 'post-modern' and 'not cricket', and evading the truth, while the earlier state of the game was truly Christian and truly 'cricket', and righteous 'walkers' will inherit the earth, along with the meek and Sydney Anglicans.

Oh let's hear it for the warrior Christian way, and in the process it becomes clear why Sydney Anglicans have such a terrible time coping with gay and womens' rights ...

Naturally a fierce war broke out in the comments section, proposing that bum sniffing in rugby was the actual game that was played in heaven. Not that there's anything wrong with bum sniffing, but should it be done in front of a crowd?

Truly, the pond says unto you, visiting the Sydney Anglicans and the Pellists each week becomes weirder and weirder ... and then the Sydney Anglicans have to run a story like You Lost Me without a hint of post-modernist insight or reflection, as to why churches might be running out of steam:

Part two identifies six main reasons for why young people are disconnected from the church together with recommendations for how the church (church leaders as well as parents) can respond. The six problems are that the church is overprotective and unwelcoming of creativity and involvement in culture; shallow in its teaching; antiscience; repressive particularly in regard to sex; exclusive in a way that conflicts with the open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance of the surrounding culture; and does not allow the expression of doubt.

Well it's a statement of the bleeding obvious, no doubt about that, especially as it relates to the Pellists, who routinely commit all these sins.

But can we add to that Sydney Anglicans' attitudes to gay and women's rights, and talk of post-modernism in cricket, and the joys of 'walking' instead of waiting on the umpire's verdict, especially in these post-modernist, TV gadget-laden times?

To conclude, a good hour or more wasted listening to cricketing anecdotes in search of correct cricket theology is an hour that will never come back ... and the result Sydney Anglicans?


  1. off topic but have you read the openly rascist rant's on piers latest piece of gabage. the akertoad and his tadpoles are in full on mode lol

  2. Dorothy you'll go nuts reading that Sydney Anglican stuff... I have!

  3. Akker Dakker is never off topic Sully, but sometimes it's hard to cope, in much the same way as beating off a rabid dog can get tiresome. But for those who have the strength:

    And yes Calamity Jane, between the Sydney Anglicans and Akker Dakker, is there any wonder this refuge is called loon pond?


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