My friend Judy K has a post up at Adloyada which covers a number of matters, including, prominently, my love of cricket. Judy writes:
I couldn't resist pointing out that every Jewish man I ever met from South Africa or Zimbabwe is besotted with cricket. This is not matched by the Jews of other former British colonies. On the whole, British, Australian and Indian Jewish men I know do not share this intense interest in cricket, despite it being an important national game.Australian Jewish men? I'm in no position to contradict that, but let's just say I have my doubts about it as a generalization reaching beyond those of Judy's acquaintance. The thing I'm interested in pursuing here, though, is her explanation for why the Jewish men from southern Africa who developed a passion for cricket did so:
[B]eing into cricket was the only way they could reconcile the combination of anti-semitism in the imitation English public schools they went to with their ambiguous status as whites. This is because as Jews with a very strong tradition of being conscious of slavery and freedom, they were also spiritually and emotionally kindred to the black people who were their servants.Judy reports that I see this as crudely reductionist, and she's right, I do. But here's a thing. Would you set out to explain why so many people in some category or other loved the music of Bach, or the movies of Alfred Hitchcock, in terms extrinsic to the qualities of that music and those movies? Why doesn't Judy want, and need, to explain why Australian Jewish men don't love cricket as much as their southern African counterparts do, if it is indeed so? Given what a fine and wonderful thing cricket is, that is what needs explaining. Why, for that matter, is there any call for a special explanation about Jewish men? Must Jewish men have become devoted to cricket for a different set of reasons than, say, Englishmen of various denominations (or none)?
For the boys in the context of those schools, being brainy was no way to win status. Normal athletics was something few Jews ever shone at. But cricket seems not to demand the same level of athleticism, so that many South African Jewish men I know of did bat in their school teams. And becoming a cricket maven and a total fan seems to have done the trick too.