July 9, 2014

Sticky Wicket

I learned about cricket these last few days. Looked around the internet and watched some footage. Seemed a thing to do. Maybe not the thing to do. It is a sport. If we'd have stayed a British colony for longer, we'd probably dig it. Probably be better at soccer too, though people seem to think that we're an ascending power, in that regard.

I'm not so sure.

There is a somewhat uniquely American opinion that we'd be the best at every sport, if only we cared. That is the narrative, isn't it? If more kids played soccer, we'd win everything. To the extent that other nations win things, it's only because we've not reached our potential. Their victories are thus somewhat by our permission.

This is the narrative in soccer, and again, most other sports. But interestingly, it seems not to be the case in distance running. The narrative in that regard seems persistently to be that "the East Africans" win. That for every one Rupp it takes Nike/Salazar untold resources to develop, there are thousands of - to this point, nameless - runners waiting to burst forth from Kenyan anonymity, and drop a 13 minute 5K, a 2:08 marathon, etc.

People guess at the why this is, of course. Genetics, altitude, culture, and everything else are offered as the reason, or at least some of the reasons. To be fair, they don't even really guess at it. Quite a lot of academic literature - to say nothing of well researched books/magazine articles - has been devoted to the question, and we're yet without an answer. This doesn't seem to surprise anyone, however. It's accepted, in much the same way existence itself is. We can't quite quantify that either, but it just is. Or seems to be, which is maybe the same thing anyway.

So what, then?

I don't know. It's different, again. That's about all I feel comfortable saying. That, and it doesn't bother me a lick, to be honest. Seems to bother others quite a lot. Which is fine.

I guess we'll see.

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