SALT LAKE CITY — For perhaps the first time in my life, I didn’t keep up on sports for an entire month. Well, American sports anyway.
I spent most of the past month across the pond, mainly in England, so the only sports I was aware of were those in the U.K. I did this by occasionally glancing at the morning papers and watching the telly at night.
Of course, there’s this new invention called the Internet where you can follow news from anywhere in the world, but I left my computer home and purposely chose not to follow what was going on sports-wise, not even my usual daily tracking of my two favorite baseball teams, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.
It was a different world in England, where there was never a story about football, basketball or baseball, the three main sports here in America. Instead, I got a daily dose of offseason soccer moves, the never-ending cricket “test” between England and India, and news about the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow, Scotland, not to mention the latest horse racing results. I’m sure none of the above were covered in your daily Deseret News.
Of course, England does enjoy many of the same sports as we Americans do.
Tennis at Wimbledon, where American athletes rarely contend anymore, had just ended before I arrived in the country. Same with the Tour de France, which held two legs in Yorkshire and another near London, early last month. We saw the aftermath of the tour, with dozens of yellow-painted bikes on the roads in every small town in Yorkshire along with red, white and blue pennants in places where the cyclists had raced a couple of weeks earlier.
One event that the USA and England share an equal interest is the Open Championship (don’t you dare call it the British Open — it’s “The Open” over there). It was held at Royal Liverpool in the middle of the month and I was fortunate to be able to witness some of Rory McIlroy’s birdies in person that week. I did enjoy following the coverage of that.
However, after that, it was all about soccer, cricket and the Commonwealth Games, in which commentators couldn’t hide their enthusiasm about the success of English athletes, who were slightly ahead of Australia in total medals when we left. Besides the athletics (track and field), the games featured familiar sports such as swimming, boxing and gymnastics but also included obscure sports such as lawn bowls, netball and field hockey.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I found one TV station devoted almost entirely to darts — darts! — a popular game in pubs in Britain with professional competitions as well.
One thing about the English, they have always liked their controversies with the tabloids being famous for their outrageous headlines (like “Missing plane found on the moon”).
Sports controversies were also covered extensively, even on the front page, while I was there. One of the biggest was Usain Bolt’s alleged comments, using an expletive to describe the Commonwealth Games and saying they were nothing like the Olympics. (Well, duh — the Commonwealth Games on par with the Olympics?)
Apparently the disparaging comments were overheard by a journalist and of course denied by Bolt the next day. But the Scottish people were so offended, they were threatening to turn their backs when he ran his relay race with the Jamaican team in the 4x100 relay.
Another big story concerned Alastair Cook — not to be confused with the old guy who hosted "Masterpiece Theatre" on PBS for many years — who is the star and captain of the English cricket team. Apparently he was not playing up to his potential and was letting down the English side, which was a concern in the media for many days of the endless cricket matches with India. However, he finally came around and led England to a 266-run win over India in the third test (don’t ask me to explain cricket).
Then there were all the soccer stories — how Manchester United’s new coach said not to expect much from his team for three months, how a Southampton player criticized the chairman on the club, how Everton signed Romelu Lukaku for 28 million pounds, and how a top Manchester City player felt disrespected when the club didn’t acknowledge his birthday.
Now that I’m back, I find that little has changed in the American sports world. My two MLB teams, Boston and Chicago, are still in last place, the Jazz have added and subtracted a few nondescript players, and everyone around here is still anticipating the upcoming college football season, which is now just four weeks away, instead of eight weeks away.
As much as I enjoyed England, it’s nice to be back in the USA, where I can follow football and baseball and of course, this week’s pro beach volleyball tournament in Salt Lake. What can get any more American than that?