Canterbury Tales: British Baseball

Often during my American Studies class here in Canterbury, my English teacher and students poke fun at tidbits of stereotypical Americana – nothing serious is said. The comments are similar in scope to the way that, from the perspective of an American, every Englishman sips tea and eats crumpets all day long. It doesn’t bother me much for the most part (although when student commented that all Americans are fat and unhealthy, I resisted the urge to snap back with a word or two about the oral travesties that are the mouths of many English people). But when, as a completely unnecessary tangent to the discussion, my teacher called basketball “quite a long and boring game”, my hand immediately shot up and I inquired as to how, if he could be bored after at the most two hours of a relatively fast-paced game like basketball, he could stand to watch cricket – one game of which can take up to thirty hours (six hours a day for five days). As most of the class either chuckled or nodded their heads in agreement with me, my teacher attempted to defend his view – saying I didn’t understand the “culture” of cricket and what it signifies to the English and so on. He also claimed that basketball in America didn’t have the same cultural importance.He’s actually completely right on the first count, I don’t have the faintest idea what cricket represents to the English, much less what the actual rules are and the point of the game. Like most Americans I know it’s “kinda like baseball, right?” At the same time, even though my teacher has lived and studied in America (and even has an American wife) almost as many years as I’ve been alive, I’m confident that he doesn’t understand the culture and significance of basketball to many Americans. It’s either virtually impossible for me to comprehend the significance of cricket to the English or for him to comprehend the importance of basketball to Americans.Like most Americans that choose to come to Europe either to study or to backpack, I came with aspirations of “finding myself” and immersing myself into all the cultures that I encountered. As the English term time winds down, I’m happy to report that I feel like I’ve succeeded on both counts, but much more so on the former. The reason for that is this: I’ve been in England for nearly four months, and have talked to hundreds of English men and women about anything one can imagine, yet I cannot comprehend the fanaticism that they have for soccer, much less the country’s “second” sport – cricket. When a soccer or rugby game is on the “telly” at a pub, a switch is flipped in the minds of the populace and nearly everyone turns into an absolute hooligan – males and females alike. For whatever reason, the culture of soccer in England demands that an act like this.I’m not criticizing this English “custom” in any way, I’m just trying to illustrate a point that no matter how hard one tries, the vast majority of us will only ever have one culture that we can honestly, truly relate to and understand – and that is the one that we are born into. It doesn’t matter if I spend another semester in England or another 20 years here, there are simply some aspects of the culture will seem completely logical to a 10 year old English boy that hasn’t even been alive as long as I could have been in the country that will still seem completely foreign to me.Essentially the argument my professor and I were having was for naught. I will never understand cricket and he will never understand basketball. This does not mean that we ought not to try to accept and understand each other’s cultures, or that any hope of immersing oneself into another culture is impossible. It just means that as crappy as America seems a lot of the time, and as desirable as Europe looks sometimes, the fact that we were raised here and are at home here is something to be proud of, it’s the one thing we’ll always have to come home to. That and knowing that basketball is CLEARLY better than “British baseball.”