Lancashire vs. Middlesex, a game for the ages

Games evolve. That’s what they do. We like to think that the sports we watch are just about the same as they were 100 years ago, but intellectually we know that is not the case. Baseball instituted the designated hitter in the 1970s. Soccer outlawed the back-pass. The NFL brought back the two point conversion. And cricket drastically changed the rules of the ODI in 2011.

All of these changes were done with one thing in mind: make the games (supposedly) more fun by giving advantages to the offense.

This is true in every sport and in almost every rule change. Roughing the passer rules, goal line technology, soccer’s magic spray holding the wall in place, lowering the mound and the shrinking of the strike zone in baseball, and in cricket the body armor batsmen are allowed to wear to make it easier to stand up to bowlers.

All for the offense. All for more runs, goals, touchdowns. All because league administrators think that high scoring affairs are how you sell tickets.

And I think that is silly. Offense minded rule changes dumb down the game and alienate core followers.

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But though I mention cricket above numerous times, it is one of the few games that still manages to challenge even is most ardent supporters with its long days and slow scoring rates. First class matches still require an attention span that belongs more in the 19th century than it does in the 21st. And despite so many calls to make the game shorter with ODIs and T20s, in the early 1990s the County Championship took the unusual step to make their matches LONGER – increasing from three to four days.

And that brings me to my point: tomorrow morning, on ESPN3.com, the first class County Championship match between Lancashire and Middlesex will be shown LIVE here in the states.

The sport that exists outside of time and the format and league that exists even further away from modern sporting convention. Live and in color in the United States, a country that more so than any other demands shoot-em-up scoring in its games.

I will be watching for a couple reasons. 1. ESPN deserves it for making the effort and 2. I want to take a few hours to enjoy a format and a league that requires intellectualism, patience and a long attention span.

And by the looks of my twitter feed, I am not alone here.

Take note, league administrators.

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