It’s a strange phenomena that big, burly and excessively hairy men can acceptably wear dresses to the cricket. The social norms at live cricket matches change. Fancy dress of all sorts becomes the order of the day. When or why this started is anyone’s guess.
Consider that anyone wearing a costume must remain in it for the duration of a match (or until he’s thrown out for building towers of plastic glasses) and the commitment becomes one of endurance. This is going to become apparent if the costume is Scooby Doo or an inflated and exaggerated muscular gladiator. Therefore, the decision to wear light summer frocks is definitely the preferable option. It seems this is what the group of six men in identical dresses and sunhats figured.
Even so, it’s difficult to understand the logic of this guy with the parrot head and fairy dress sitting beside the pirate.
The oddest combination that I saw at Headingley this year was the batman and robin, handcuffed together, standing at the urinal in the men’s toilet. This may not seem any odder than most of the other costumes except when you consider the guy dressed as Batman was a bearded dwarf and Robin was at least 6′ tall.
Alongside the strange Hawaiian guy complete with grass skirt and Detective James Crockett from Miami Vice, there was a strange group of thuggish looking chaps wearing grey military style coats, complete with pseudo Nazi insignia and bowler hats.
These guys were a particularly feisty group, standing up at any opportunity to yell encouragement at anyone else making a ruckus. Observation, however, was not one of their strong points. At one stage, one of them had returned with some beer and couldn’t seem to find the rest of his battalion, although they were only about five seats from the steps. Add to this the fact that they were all dressed identically in grey jackets and bowler hats and were yelling at him and his total confusion was indicative. If it’s possible to have a face, perfect for befuddlement, he had one.
I’d never been to Headingley and Nicktor had warned me, numerous times, that the western terrace was likely to become a battleground, being notorious for things ‘kicking off’ regardless of the cricket. For about six hours, we sat and watched the match with a good natured crowd who seemed to be watching with us. It was during the last hour that I realised Nicktor was right.
The stewards at the cricket, for some reason, do not like people stacking plastic glasses into what some call ‘towers’ and others, ‘snakes’. The idea being to make them as long as possible. This is true of Old Trafford as well.
Over the course of the day, a lot of plastic glasses are collected and then piled up to be displayed to the rest of the crowd. This causes a cheer and some good natured yelling. Sometimes, if the snake is impressive enough, the TV cameras will even pick it up for those luckily watching from home.
Then the stewards march in, stern faced and try and remove the glasses. Of course, they tend to go everywhere, which gets yet another big cheer. The stewards must be paid an awful lot of money because they suffer at the hands of drunken fans. Though they are backed up by the police when things turn nasty. Like the guy who whipped off a steward’s cap. The police had spotted this and marched straight down to evict the guy responsible.
Personally, I think this is a bit of an over reaction to something that is quite harmless. What isn’t harmless is when the stewards come in and things turn nasty when a fan disagrees. And by ‘fan’ I mean of the snake building rather than cricket because, oddly, during the last hour, not a lot of cricket was watched by most of these blokes.
Another popular pastime is to drop a golf ball in some unsuspecting chap’s beer. This is fine except everyone starts chanting ‘down in one’ and you have to drink it all down very quickly. To be fair, this is quite funny unless it happens to you. Most of our group of 12 spent a good part of the day with their hands over their glasses. You quickly learn how to drink while keeping the golf balls out.
And so by the last few overs, there were very few people left around us. We were like a small island of supporters in a badly attended game. Except that, rather than non-attendance, most of them had been kicked out by the stewards and/or police.
I’m making it sound terrible when in fact, it was fine. It was very rowdy and there’s no way you want to take your kids (which is a shame although there are other areas of the ground not as bad) but mostly it was just good natured stuff which, as it turned out, was more exciting than the cricket.
The Yorkshire Cricket Club tries to combat this rowdiness by doing a few things:
The beer queues
I’m sure they have designed the way they sell beer to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to get drunk. By researching levels of inefficiency and adopting them, they ensure that anyone standing in a queue is pretty much guaranteed to be in it for a minimum of 45 minutes.
The beer limit
No-one is allowed to buy more than four pints of beer at a time. This means more of you have to queue. If you are just a single person on your own, it’s going to be a pain queueing continuously but if you’re part of a group, four pints goes a lot further. Particularly if you have five people ready to take four each at the end of each 45 minutes.
The beer carriers
These are cardboard contraptions designed to disintegrate when coming into contact with liquid. They are also designed to carry four pints of beer without lids. And when they stop working, all four pints are destroyed.
The beer itself
At Old Trafford they advertise the alcoholic content of the beer, which is pretty low, but at Headingley they don’t. I think the reason they do this, judging by the beer, is because there isn’t any. I think people get drunk on the atmosphere and smuggled bottles of spirits.
All in all, the cricket was good in parts and interesting all day.