What's All This Then?
What's All This Then?
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State Shell of New Jersey: Knobbed Whelk
The Field Notes County Fair edition. Our tribute to the 50 states.
You know the big tent at the east end of the county fairgrounds? Next to the show barn? Imagine it’s an oval filled with 90,000 Pakistanis who love to watch pie-eating—who love pie-eating more than soccer—even though it seems to the rest of us that eating pie would be a fairly unpleasant reminder of British Colonialism.
OK. Got it.
The area where the table is, where the pie-eaters sit, is called “the pitch.” At either end of the pitch is a line marking “the crease.” Now, let’s say that inside one of these creases, your pies are cooling on top of three sticks, which are called “stumps.” This contraption is called a “wicket” and there’s a man attempting to knock the wicket over by throwing a ball at it.
Is he the other pie-eater, trying to ruin my pies?
No, the other pie-eater is on your team, and he’s standing in front of his own wicket of pies at the other end of the pitch.
There are teams? That’s weird. You don’t usually see that in competitive pie-eating.
Right. So the guy from the other team is called a “bowler” and he’s trying to knock your pies down before you can eat them. He throws with an overhand motion, releasing the ball before he steps into the crease, usually bouncing the ball on the ground to make it harder for the pie-eater to pick up. To protect your pies, you have a bat, and when he throws the ball, you swing the bat and try to swat the ball away. If you hit it, you and the other pie-eater switch places and then you can eat one of his pies.
And I suppose he eats one of my pies.
Correct. And after you eat one, you switch places again, eat a pie, switch places, eat a pie, and so on until the other team throws the ball back into the pitch.
Do a lot of people get sick?
All that eating and running and eating and running. It seems like nausea would be a hazard.
Well, no. Not really. I’ll get to that in a minute.
That’s OK. But if you miss the ball with the bat, and the bowler knocks over your pies, you’re out, and another pie-eater from your team takes your place. You can also be called out if the other team catches your ball on the fly, or if the ball hits your body and the umpire rules that it otherwise would have knocked over your wicket. This is called “LBP,” or “Leg Before Pies.”
After ten of your players are out, your “innings” are over, and then it’s the other team’s turn.
And whoever eats the most pies wins?
Sort of. This is one way in which cricket is different from pie-eating. Pie-eating, as you know, is pretty much all about the pies—how much pie you eat, how fast you can eat it, that sort of thing. In cricket, you’re trying to score “runs” and you can do that by consuming pies, but also by hitting the ball across designated boundaries.
OK, I think I understand.
Great. Now all you need to do is imagine that there are no pies, and that the whole thing goes on for five days.
Wait a minute. No pies? No pies at all?
Well, I suppose you could bring a pie if you wanted—you know, for the other guys—but the point is that the presence of pie won’t have any bearing on the outcome of the match.
What about all the stuff you said about the pie-eaters switching places and eating each other’s pies?
Nope. They just run back and forth between the creases, switching places. And they’re called “batsmen.” There are no pies. You’re really going to have to get that through your head.
So what’s the point?
The point? I don’t think the rules say anything specifically about a point to it. Why?
Because the point of eating pie is self-evident: free pie. I don’t see the point of hitting a ball with a bat and switching places with another guy.
You might as well ask what’s the point of any sport?
Oh. You’re one of those.
What? Who’s one of those?
Who are they?
All of you. You always have to bring reason into everything.
Reasons are spoilers. Nasty things. Most people learn soccer or baseball or cricket when they’re children. That’s so they don’t ask why all the time. If you expect there to be a “point” to a cricket match or a painting or a short essay written during Wednesday night’s rerun of Law & Order, you’ll be frequently disappointed.
That’s OK. How about a game of Hearts?
Fine. You’ll have to teach me.
It’s easy. You know how in the Sixties you had the British Invasion? You had The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, and The Who.
The Rolling Stones are trump. And Ray Davies is worth 13 points.
So I want Ray Davies.
No you don’t. That’s the thing.
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