Cricket for Americans!

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

Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
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.
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.
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

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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