Cricket is brutal. My friend Rob and I who enjoy leaning deeply into supporting our teams recently started asking each other whether it was worth it. I don't think you can enjoy the victories as much if you prepare yourself enough for the loss. It is just sport right? But there is something great about putting all rationality aside and becoming part of the drama.
Every four years these cricket world cup things come along and break you a little bit. In 1992, I was watching on free TV - with a 2 hour delay from the Trevor across the road who had MNET, the first pay channel in South Africa. It was our first world cup and sport was supposed to be a way of bringing a new nation together. Clearly losing together in the harshest possible way is supposed to be part of that lesson. We needed 22 runs off the last 13 balls when rain came. The two hour gap from across the road, that had had people hiding what they knew behind poker faces, became very confusing as everyone started trying to figure out what was going on. First it got reduced to 22 off 7 required. Then 22 off 1 ball. That was my introduction to what would happen every four years for the next quarter century and counting.
Big Mac Bleak Mac
In 1996 we had an awesome team capable of beating the rain. But not Brian Lara. That was a lesson in how no matter how good you are, one chap with a bat can smash your dreams. I refuse to speak about 1999, but if you want to know what happened, just listen outside the room of any grown South African man who is shouting out in his sleep at night in tormented anguish.
2003 was another dance in the rain and a lesson in knowing the difference between a total and a target. You need one more than the total to win. You can't block. In 2007, we bottled up all the angst of all the previous tournaments and went on red-eyed, steam-through-the-nose attack. It didn't work and we lost 5 wickets in the first 10 overs against the Aussies. I love Aussies. Very much.
But this year? Cool, calm and collected Amla. Wily Tahir. Fiery Steyn. And Captain 'I can see the matrix' De Villiers. We could do this thing.
Not to be. I have always been a Kiwi fan. In my eyes, the land of the long white cloud is the spiritual home of rugby and the All Blacks have to be the greatest sporting team of any code. But cricket guys? Can't you give us that? 2011 not enough? If I had to pick a side in this tournament to take our hearts out and squish them on the ground, it would be the Black Caps. I like the way they have played this tournament and I think they have a great side.
But geez man, throw us a frikkin bone.