Thinking about the sociology of cricket

If you thought that cricket was a pleasant and quaint sport with matches that last days, a British commentator suggests otherwise. Like other sports, cricket has become dominated by money (“lucre”) and this threatens to overwhelm the commentator’s interest in watching the interactions between players:

Cricket has had a real battering in the last few months. This was not just because of the match-fixing scandal at the end of the last English season; it was also because of the rather gutless way in which certain parts of the cricket establishment, here and internationally, responded to it. Cricket is a game now obsessed with money. Even those who do not engage in match-fixing, and who condemn (quite rightly) those who do, share the same devotion to filthy lucre. The only difference is that they prostitute the game in different, and entirely legal, ways.

I have never been an especially partisan follower of cricket. It is not just that, on one level, it’s only a game (I shall deal later with the charmingly old-fashioned notion that it is, by contrast, more than a game), and therefore which side wins or loses is in the end irrelevant. It is that the main interest to me, as a follower of the game, has been its aesthetics and, almost as much, its sociology. It has the capacity to be a visually beautiful game, and because games of cricket can go on for up to five days, there is plenty of time for the spectator to examine the interaction of the players with each other – with those on their own side as much as with those on the opposing team.

The solution for this writer is to watch cricket at a lower level, such as watching is son play with other 14-year olds. You will hear this argument from some Americans as well: the professional sports are tainted and if you want to enjoy an authentic version of the game where players play because they love the same, you have to go to the college level or lower. I tend to think this argument leaves out an important aspect of why people watch sports – they want to see the best athletes in the world perform amazing plays. High school athletes may love what they are doing but it is hard not to think about how a college or pro athlete could athletically do so much more.

I have also always enjoyed watching the interactions between players. Additionally, I enjoy going to sporting events to watch interactions between fans and the players and amongst fans. In short, if you gather so many passionate people together in a relatively small location with much on the line, there is bound to be some interesting interactions.

Of course, cricket on the international level also has the potential to open up discussion about colonialism and class – how exactly did an English sport find its way to the streets of Australia, the West Indies, Pakistan, and India?

An emerging portrait of emerging adults in the news, part 2

In recent weeks, a number of studies have been reported on that discuss the beliefs and behaviors of the younger generation, those who are now between high school and age 30 (an age group that could also be labeled “emerging adults”). In a three-part series, I want to highlight three of these studies because they not only suggest what this group is doing but also hints at the consequences. (Find part one here.)

In Sunday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune, there was a story citing research that shows emerging adults are more tolerant than previous generations on issues like intermarriage, gay marriage, other races, and immigration. Yet, at the same time, there is also research suggesting levels of empathy among college students are down about 40% compared to the 1970s:

“Millennials, A Portrait of Generation Next,” an extensive study of teens and 20-somethings released earlier this year, showed that members of the Millennial Generation, generally born between 1981 and 2000, are “more racially tolerant than their elders.”

More than two decades of Pew Research surveys confirm that assessment.

“In their views about interracial dating, for example, Millennials are the most open to change of any generation,” the report states.

The study goes on to report that nearly 6 in 10 Millennials say immigrants strengthen the country, compared with 43 percent of adults ages 30 and older…

The problem is that tolerance doesn’t necessarily mean understanding, researchers say. Adults working with teens say they see an unsettling strain of desensitivity among young people.

In May, University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research issued a report on an analysis of 72 studies on the empathy of nearly 14,000 college students between 1979 and 2009. The result: Today’s college students are about 40 percent lower in empathy than students two or three decades earlier.

The researchers suggested that disheartening trend may have to do with numbness created by violent video games, an abundance of online friends and an intensely competitive emphasis on success, among other factors.

This is a very interesting conclusion: the younger generation is more tolerant but less understanding and empathetic. So what exactly does this tolerance look like? The lack of empathy, in particular, is interesting as it is another step beyond tolerance. Empathy is the ability to understand and take on the feelings and perspectives of others. Is tolerance the end goal or is there more that we should be striving for as a society?

This conundrum reminds me of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the current topic of our Sunday School class. In verse after verse, Jesus suggests that Christians aren’t just supposed to put up with people: “loving your neighbor” means taking an extra step toward people, bringing reconciliation, peace, and blessings to other rather than just letting them be or letting them pursue their rights in their own space. Loving people means putting them above yourself, something beyond both tolerance and empathy.

One outcome suggested by this story is a meanness or harshness among high schools. Teenagers understand about respecting difference but this doesn’t translate as well into personal interactions where being mean is seen as being cool.

Another possible outcome is living alone, keeping people at a distance. I will consider this in part three of this series.

Cheerleaders fight skimpy uniforms

High school cheerleaders in Bridgeport, Connecticut are requesting uniforms that don’t bare their midriffs. The school district is now working to deal with the problem.

But why not have a larger discussion about whether there should even be cheerleaders? NBC Connecticut ties the midriff-baring to a recent study about college cheerleaders:

As noted by NBC Connecticut, the Bridgeport cheerleaders’ plea comes on the heels of a recent study of college cheerleaders, which found that college cheerleaders whose uniforms exposed midriffs faced a significantly higher risk of developing eating disorders.

How about a different comparison: do cheerleaders of any kind (midriff baring or otherwise) have higher rates of eating disorders? Even if midriffs are covered, I would assume appearance is still an important component for many cheerleaders – and whether appearance should be promoted in this way is debatable in itself.

Prescient EW bullseye quote: “My generation…would never watch a show called My Generation.”

I’ve wondered who is the target demographic for ABC’s new show My Generation. Will the generation who the show depicts (people around 28 years old who graduated from high school in 2000) actually watch or is this show made by and made for the over 40 or 50 crowd who are curious about these kids are up to?

I’ll be curious to know how realistic this show is or whether it is just full of the typical high school archetypes (the geeks, jocks, cheerleaders types). Unfortunately, the trailer suggests it is full of these archetypes: “the over achiever,” “the nerd,” “the rock star,” and so on.

Quick Review: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Two reasons I watched this movie: I’ve read the books the movie is based on and it was free at the library. Two quick thoughts on the film:

1. The books are much better. There was a clever character to the books whereas the movie was just another fairly formulaic kids movie. The books often made me laugh out loud while the movie did not.

2. There is a genre of high school movies – this could be considered “high school movie lite.” It had similar themes including what it means to be cool and dealing with family members and featured plenty of pop/rock music. There were typical characters including the overly-machismo gym teacher and the older goons. If you have seen an average middle school movie, you’ll feel like you’ve seen most of this movie before. It just so happened that the main characters were younger.

Overall: read the books for the real Greg Heffley.

(The film got mixed reviews from critics: it is 53% fresh, 40 fresh out of 75 reviews, at

More evidence: start school day later for teens

It seems like I have been reading for years about studies that say that teenagers perform much better in school when the starting time is pushed back. Here is another study that suggests starting the day 30 minutes later leads to “stunning” results.

It raises a question: why don’t more schools respond by changing their starting times? I’ve heard arguments about this interfering with after-school activities, particularly sports. It may conflict with schedules for siblings in schools with different starting times or may lead to a shortage of buses since early high school times mean the buses can be used again for elementary students. And there are more reasons that get thrown around, many probably legitimate.

But: if the real goal of educators (and the supporting parents) is to help students succeed in school (specifically: boost learning), isn’t this something that needs to change?