Friday, April 6, 2018

Loudoun County Cricket, or, Asians in the New America

Loudoun County, Virginia is a rapidly growing suburb on the fringe of greater Washington, with a population that says something interesting about America right now:
Loudoun County’s growth over the past three decades has been driven in part by Asian Americans, who have flocked there to work for AOL and other tech companies that have set up shop in the area. Today 18 percent of the district’s residents are Asian American. Nearly half of those are Indian American. Drive past a park on a summer evening, and you’ll see cricket matches under way—the Loudoun County Cricket League has forty-eight teams and more than 1,200 players.
Besides the cultural interest, this has big political implications. Asian Americans used to be a swing group, strongly attracted to business-orientated politicians like the Bushes. Now more than 80 percent are Democrats. This explains part of why Loudoun County has gone Democratic lately, and why Virginia has gone from being a strongly conservative state to leaning blue. Anti-Trump Republicans gnash their teeth over this, sure that Indian Americans – hard-working, family oriented, religious – would be natural Republicans if Trump and his friends would shut up about criminal immigrants.

This also makes another of the little litmus tests I am so fond of: would you find it cool that people play a strange game like cricket right up the road, or do you wish everyone in the community played the same game together, like softball in small towns of the Old Days?


G. Verloren said...

Cricket isn't even that strange or exotic, being perhaps the single most British sport imaginable, right up there with croquet.

If we had more large, highly concentrated numbers of immigrants from Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, et cetera, we'd see plenty of cricket played regularly, and it would seem normal and commonplace.

Heck - even the "great American passtime" of baseball isn't even truly American. Like so many other things, we got it from our British forebears.

This all helps to demonstrate just how intensely insular and provincial Americans can often be. There is a sort of brutal arrogance in how we tend to disregard anything and everything that isn't intensely familiar. A bunch of kids playing cricket in the park isn't just an amusing novelty to smile at with interest - it's actually startlingly strange and even downright worrying to many of us.

G. Verloren said...

Speaking of cultural and political litmus test examples, I'm reminded of certain news stories I've come across somewhat recently about neighborhood residents getting into scuffles with their local Homeowner's Associations over items of property they choose to keep in their yards or driveways.

For example, there was a fellow I read about a while ago who kept his small private airplane stored on his driveway, wings detached and wheels locked, totally stationary and inoperable. It was painted in an ordinary pattern and colors, nothing remarkable about it other than the simple fact of it being an airplane. It was in no way meaningfully different than someone storing a boat in their driveway.

And yet, apparently this was utterly unacceptable to some of the neighbors, and they pushed to have the plane removed, and eventually got their way - the HOA actually sent people out to literally deconstruct and remove the plane by force. The owner was rightly furious and persued legal action for unlawful tampering with his property, sparking the news article.

Apparently a lot of the neighbors were on his side, unsurprisingly finding the plane's presence to be charming and quaint. It had been tidily kept and was in good repair, and it was stored entirely on the owner's property, did not obsctruct sidewalks or sight lines, and caused no practical problems for anyone. It was reportedly beloved by the kids of the neighborhood, who found it a source of great interest and even neighborhood pride.

But apparently a few nosy and joyless neighbors (who actually lived on a separate street entirely) had complained to the HOA that it was an "eyesore", and kept on complaining regularly for over a year, prompting the response.

Some people are just viscerally intolerant of anything even slightly out of the ordinary. I call it the "Wonder Bread" problem. It's not enough for some people to personally eat nothing but plain white bread - they have to angrily try to force other people to conform to their bland tastes as well. Heaven help you if you enjoy sourdough and they find out about it!

John said...

Cricket is a strange game. In what other game do you need three sets of numbers to convey the score?

G. Verloren said...

I'll happily concede that, as a game, cricket is rather strange.

But as an everyday occurance? As just another feature of life and civilization? As an aspect of reality and human experience? Not very strange at all. Fundamentally, it's just a competitive team-based ball game, which is one of the most ordinary and universal human endeavors I can think of.

And to be truly fair to it, it's not all that much stranger than other ball games. For example, look at the scoring in tennis.

A score of 15 - 30 doesn't mean 15 points vs 30 points? It means 1 point vs 2 points? So we're multiplying by 15 for some reason? Okay, fine... but then why is 3 points scored as 40, instead of as 45? And why is having 0 points called Love? What in the world is that about? And the whole Deuce and Advantage system of ending a game is weird...

...and once you win a game, you get 1 point toward winning a "set" of games? And then you keep playing more games until someone gets enough set points to win the set? And there's still Deuce in sets, but suddenly there are tiebreakers now, when games don't have them? And then once you win a set, you get 1 point toward winning the entire "match"? And matches throw away the whole Deuce scoring thing entirely, along with tiebreakers, and are simply scored as best 2 out of 3 wins?

Is cricket a little weird in terms of rules and how it is structured? Sure. But so is tennis, and yet we don't think of tennis as "strange" when it moves into communities where it previously wasn't popular.

No one is going to get mad about their town's young folks suddenly spending all their time at the newly built tennis courts instead of playing good ol' fashioned softball. And yet, if it were cricket instead? At least some people would be uneasy about it - not because the rules are significantly more or less "strange" than those of tennis, but because cricket doesn't have the benefit of being something they already sometimes see people playing on television.