Dave Armstrong writes sketches, plays, novels and award-winning comedy shows (Spin Doctors). He also plays trumpet. Armstrong has been creating comedy alongside writer/director Danny Mulheron since childhood, including their gleefully un-PC classroom comedy Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby. Armstrong also co-wrote award-winning play Niu Sila with bro'Town's Oscar Kightley, which chronicles the friendship between a polynesian and a palagi. Along with all that, he finds the time to engage on Twitter, write columns for the Dom-Post, and watch a bit of cricket. But the relationship is tenuous, as he explains in yesterday's column (reproduced with his permission):
For most people, this time of year is a relaxing one, but I'm in the midst of a trial separation. A couple of years ago I decided cricket and I were simply not getting on.
There were too many broken promises, screaming rows followed by moody silences, and even infidelity after I started attending Phoenix games during summer. So I decided that cricket and I should quietly part for a while. As with any relationship breakdown, it wasn't all the other party's fault. I had become a fickle follower. New Zealand being 34-5 on the first morning of a test was enough to make me fly off the handle and watch the Arts Channel for the rest of the day.
But the relationship wasn't always bad. Being the youngest child, I often had time on my hands during summer. As my siblings took off on beach holidays with friends or to attend rock festivals, my parents and I camped in places with beautiful bush but no trampolines, swimming pools, or other attractions of which 11-year-olds dream.
Thankfully I had a small transistor radio so could listen to the cricket. It would irritate my father that, whenever we hit some bay in the middle of nowhere, his big radio couldn't pick up the news yet my tiny transistor could easily amplify the cricket commentary.
My parents remember a beautiful West Auckland beach as the place where Mum spotted a tui, yet I remember it for Richard Collinge and Brian Hastings completing a world-record tenth-wicket partnership. The bay at Coromandel's Colville sticks in my mind not for its sparkling water but because it's where I heard Rodney Redmond score a century in his only test match. Most people think of kauri forest at the mention of Donnelly's Crossing in the Far North, but that's where I first heard about Dayle Hadlee's little brother Richard taking a few wickets for Canterbury.
The radio cricket commentators were a strange bunch. Most commentated part-time and had jobs in accountancy or as deputy principals of boys' schools. They had a wonderfully florid turn of phrase that you get with amateurs trying to be literary. Why say "lunch break" when you can say "luncheon adjournment"? An "agricultural stroke" sounded far better to them than "a wild swing". Glenn Turner never patted down the pitch but "did his gardening". And I'll never forget an English commentator nonchalantly saying: "Sadly, Hadlee bowls badly to Radley." You could hear the other commentators sniggering for the next 30 minutes.
We have wonderful memories of most of the incidents that Dave Armstrong describes, and of some of the personalities. We too were the youngest in our whanau, with parents and an elder brother who loved, lived and breathed cricket. So it's hardly surprising that we were similarly afflicted.
But once afflicted, cricket becomes a very fickle mistress. Dave Armstrong has experienced this as well; he concludes:
So when did my relationship with cricket start to deteriorate? It was well before the current crop of Black Caps started to lose regularly. New Zealand cricket teams have always had their fair share of losses, but it's the way that our present teams lose that is so galling. Perhaps the glut of cricket, with its never-ending series of flashy 20-over games, has caused fan fatigue as well. Or maybe the succession of appalling cricket administrators has gradually worn me down.
I think the actual moment that I first started to question my relationship with the game was when, some years ago, I heard ex-coach Glenn Turner describe the hysterical way wealthy "young guns" like Chris Cairns and Adam Parore acted when he dished out a bit of criticism. They were part of a new "rock star" generation of highly paid stars who had awesome talent but often lacked grit and application. To ignore the advice of someone with Turner's experience is unforgivable. You reach the heavens by standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before you, as a clichd cricket commentator would say.
After the recent Black Caps' triumph in Sri Lanka, I was pleasantly surprised, yet for some reason I wasn't elated. As for last week's first-innings debacle against South Africa, I was more amused than outraged. If the same thing had happened in the 1970s, with my little transistor radio in Godforsaken Bay, I would have been in tears. And you know that during a trial separation, when the bad behaviour of the other party causes amusement rather than anger - then it's time to get a divorce.
We're not ready to divorce the New Zealand cricket team yet, or the game itself. But we can understand where Armstrong is coming from. But even though our love for the game has been severely tested in recent years (and never tested more than on 2 January 2013), we're not ready to let her go yet. That said, a repeat of the carnage at Cape Town could see us reconsider.
But this is a lovely piece from Dave Armstrong; one with which we suspect we won't be the only cricket tragics to be nodding sagely and saying "Yep; that sums it up nicely".
Here's hoping for happier days in Port Elizabeth!