The Ashes is a biannual cricket tournament between England and Australia. Americans might be familiar with the humorously small trophy awarded to the winner, but you probably had no idea what that trophy is all about. The answer is national pride.
But I’m not here to get into the rules of cricket, the history of the Ashes, the break for tea, or how both teams wear the same color sweater vests. Yes, sweater vests. Every sport has it’s own rules, and I have no room to criticize because I played golf as an adolescent. No, this is about an ongoing debate between me and Lee over how the tournament rules make absolutely no sense.
Americans are familiar with the “best of” rules. For example, the World Series is best of seven. The Ashes, on the other hand, is five matches. Not best of five. Five matches full stop. If England wins the first three, they still play all five, knowing Australia has no chance.
To understand the next rule, you need to know a tiny bit about how a match is played. Teams take turn batting and pitching. Each gets two turns to bat and score runs. But what happens if it rains? Tough luck, princess. The match is five days long, no exceptions. If it rains and one team hasn’t finished batting, then the match is considered a draw, or as Americans call it, a tie. The Aussies could be 500 runs ahead and England could do a rain dance. It’s still a draw.
This brings me to the most frustrating aspect of the Ashes. If it rains for all five matches, then the winner is the team that won last time. Back in May, during the Ashes in England (currently, they’re playing again in Australia), England won the first two matches, and the third was rained out. Englishmen far and wide were celebrating like they successfully invaded a developing country. They had RETAINED the Ashes! It’s not about winning or losing…it’s just about not losing.
Luckily, England won the fourth match fair and square, making it a “true victory.” I brought up the issue of “morale” to Lee. Maybe the Australians had low morale following the draw. The only explanation Lee could offer was something to the effect of “now they’re playing to keep from embarrassment.” So, there’s that.
Ultimately, our differing ideas of sportsmanship is negated by an over-arching, absolute fact: the Australian team is a bunch of jerks. If they win, it’s because of unsportsmanlike conduct, and if they lose, they deserve it.