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Cricket for Americans!

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Big news! On Monday, England defeated Australia on the famous cricket pitch at Lord's for the first time in 75 years! To put this in perspective, this may actually be bigger than the miraculous Red Sox World Series win in 2004, heralding an end to the 86-year Curse of the Bambino. Maybe.

Anyway, England's win put me in mind of doing a post on cricket, because it is so quintessentially British.

I have actually seen professional cricket: This Memorial Day, whilst my American compatriots were enjoying some good ol' barbecue and the unofficial start of summer, I was celebrating an undefined Bank Holiday at Lord's with some British friends. But despite having sat for three hours "“ the match was a Twenty20 match and therefore the "shorter" variety of the game "“ I'm not entirely sure that I can claim to know anything about cricket.

I was primarily at a loss due to the astonishingly sportsmanlike behavior of my fellow cricket fans. I come from the Red Sox school of sports viewing, in which watching sports is nearly as tiring as playing it and, win or lose, someone's going to set a car on fire afterwards. Here, though, people clapped whenever anything happened, regardless of whose team it benefited "“ polite, sure, but confusing as hell. I cast my lot with Surrey "“ good move, since they ultimately trounced Middlesex "“ but had virtually no idea that they had won until the very end of the game (this was also due in no small part to the very large specimen of British manhood sitting directly in front of me, his great jug head just the right size to entirely obscure the pitch).

Given the fact that actually watching cricket left me no more enlightened than before, I turned to that font of all knowledge, the Internet. Here's what I found:

First: What is cricket?

Cricket, being a game of interminable length involving a "bat" and a ball, is a lot like baseball. Except that it's not. The similarity clearly derives from the action of striking the ball with the bat-like object, but cricket takes place in the center of a large field and the concept of a "foul" or even a "strike" doesn't enter.

Basically, cricket works like this: There are two teams of 11 players, with two on-field umpires. The field is oval shaped, with a strip of dry land around 22 yards long in the center. Positioned at either end of this strip are the wickets, basically three wooden poles called "stumps" stood up next to one another, with two wooden pieces called "bails" resting on top of them.

The batter stands in front of one of these wickets, which serve as targets for the bowler (basically, the pitcher); the bowling team has all 11 of its men on the field, in various in-field and out-field positions.


Two guys from the batting team are on the pitch at one time, the striker and the non-striker, positioned at opposite ends of the pitch; the pitcher, called in cricket the "bowler," stands just beyond the wickets at the non-striker end of the pitch. He winds up and hurls the little wooden ball toward the striker, who is the batter in action. The striker's job is to hit the ball away from his wickets. Runs are scored for each time the batters are able to run back and forth between the wickets after the ball is hit; if the batter hits the ball outside of playing area, but it touches the ground first, that's four runs. If it sails outside of the playing area without hitting the ground "“ in real out-of-the-park home run style "“ then that's six runs.

An inning is over when 10 guys from the batting team have been gotten out; getting "out" can happen any number of ways, but can include being bowled (when the bowler hits the wickets) or caught (where the struck ball is caught by a fielder or a bowler before it hits the ground). The two teams then switch at the end of the inning, the bowling team batting and the batting team bowling.

In a test match, there is no predetermined time limit to an inning, which is why cricket can go on forever (in these newfangled Twenty20 matches, thank god, there is). The only time limit in test match cricket is five days to complete the whole game; the longest match on record was what is called a "timeless test," which, just like it sounds, has no time limit, and it lasted 10 days.

There are a lot of other, much more complicated rules and strategery and obscure terminology (flipper, googly, tonk, etc.) but I'm not going to get into them here. Suffice it to say, batters try to score runs while the bowling team tries to bowl them out. The winner at the end of day (or five days) is the team with the most runs. And that's cricket!

Cricket players have bad luck: Bizarre injuries off the cricket pitch

In cricket, you don't necessarily get the same spectacular bone-breaking collisions and slides that you get in baseball "“ but from the cursory research I've done, cricket players are more likely to be injured in weird ways off the pitch than on:

"¢ In March 2008, an all-round player for Geelong (that's Australia) was out of commission after injuring his knee "“ putting on his pants.

"¢ British tabloid The Sun dubbed cricketer Chris Lewis "The Prat Without a Hat" after he shaved his head during a tour of the West Indies and suffered severe heatstroke.

"¢ A Sussex player was out for a match after a teammate playfully squeezed his shoulder and injured it.

"¢ Player Chris Old missed a Test Match when he bruised his rib in a particularly violent sneeze.

"¢ Derek Pringle ruled himself out of a Test Match after injuring his back writing a letter "“ the chair he was sitting in collapsed.

"¢ And last, but certainly not least, when English captain Ted Dexter's Jaguar ran out of gas, he tried to push it back into his garage; he lost control of the car and ended up pinned to a gate under it, with a broken leg.

Scandal "“ it's just not cricket

Just like any major sport, cricket has its own scandals. In May, Chris "The Prat Without a Hat" Lewis was sentenced to 13 years in prison for smuggling 7 pounds of cocaine, worth £140,000, in his cricket bag (he was also carrying what prosecutors dubbed his "manbag," a Prada purse). He said he thought it was orange juice mix. Giving evidence during the trial, Lewis and his co-conspirator Chad Kimon each claimed that the other had set him up.

This wasn't the only time that cricket has seen players involved in recreational drugs: In 2001, five South African players were caught smoking some celebratory pot after a win in the West Indies. Cricket has also had its run-ins with doping, not unlike its distant American cousin. In 2006, two Pakistani cricketers were banned from the game for two years and one year respectively after testing positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone.

Cricket can be tragic

In March of this year, a cricket match was cancelled in Pakistan after Islamic militants ambushed the Sri Lankan cricket team as they made their way by bus, with an armed escort, to the pitch. Seven people died in the attack "“ six of the policemen who were escorting the team and a bus driver "“ while seven cricketers and a coach were injured. International teams have vowed not to return to the country.

Tradition! Tradition!

Cricket is also an opportunity to exercise that famous dry British wit and affection bordering on obsession with tradition.

ashesFor example, the recent England win at Lord's was part of a Test Match series called Ashes, so named because in 1882, Australia beat England for the first time on English ground. The loss prompted an English paper, The Sporting Times, to publish a satirical obituary on the death of English cricket: The body would be cremated and its ashes sent to Australia, the story read. England's quest to beat Australia then became a "quest to regain the ashes." Now, the symbol of Ashes is an urn said to contain the actual ashes of a burnt cricket ball; it's not, however, the Ashes trophy exactly: The urn typically lives at the Marylebone Cricket Club, home of the Lord's pitch, while the actual trophy presented to the winners of the series is a Waterford crystal recreation of the urn.

But in recent years, interest in cricket has apparently waned, so cricket organizers have tried to inject a little life into the sport with the shorter Twenty20 matches and by allowing fancy dress on certain days at certain matches. This has provoked the ire of many an old-time cricket fan (at Lord's, you can spot them by their "egg-and-bacon" "“ yellow and red "“ ties and trilby hats and by, in most cases, their extreme age).

See Also: Highlights from Cricket's Strangest Matches

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
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Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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