The Price Of Success

Following the first leg of their Champions League semifinal, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are on the verge of open war.  (UEFA has fined both of them, and the clubs are filing complaints against each other.)  Bitter intense hatred between Barcelona and Madrid is not a new thing; they are archrivals.  Their rivalry is among the most (if not the most) storied in world football–club or country.  For years each has tried to outdo the other.  They are the yang to each other’s yin.  Eternal enemies locked in combat.  One ebbs when the other flows.  Additionally, they embody two completely different ideals about Spain as a nation: centrality vs. regionalism.  They hate each other but cannot survive without the other.  It has always been like this.

Yet in the past few years something has been different.  The matches have been even more tense, if that were possible.  The hatred all the more palpable both on and off the field.  Whatever good feelings were created by Spain’s World Cup victory, they have been completely eviscerated.

Past of that is because of Barca’s, beginning with the annus mirabilis during Pep Guardiola’s first year as manager (coupled with successive humiliations that Real Madrid suffered at Barca’s hands.)  This led to Real Madrid’s futile attempt to recreate the Galacticos.  When that failed, Mourinho was brought in, and he escalated the growing arms race by injecting psychological warfare and his own pathological hatred (and fear and jealousy) of Barcelona.  Meanwhile, Madrid, desperate for a 10th Champions League title, has watched Barcelona win two titles since Madrid last won in 2002.

These are merely symptoms though.  The root problem of all the increased and frenzied tension is the money.  Madrid and Barcelona are the two leading superpowers of world football–like the United States and the Soviet Union were during the Cold War.  No one else mattered, only each other.  But this is more than ideological warfare; it is financial.  Both clubs spend exorbitant amounts of money–the kind that in the football world is justified by only instant success.  The pressure that this puts on coaches, players, and even the management (who, along with the fans, creates this pressure) is absolutely overwhelming.  With this pressure comes even more worldwide media attention which ratchets up the pressure even more.  Therefore, it is absolutely no surprise whenever Barca and Madrid meet, someone cracks.  The pressure quintupled this year because of the five meetings, four of which coming in close succession.  Rangers and Celtic have nothing on Barcelona and Madrid this year.

The irony is that whoever wins the Champions League semifinal could still lose the final–there are other rich and competitive superclubs, Manchester United at the top of the list.  But neither side can afford to think about Manchester United now, at least not until after next week.  After all, whoever faces United will meet them in a football match.  There is only time for football when the war is over.

No Way, Jose!

Today Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-0 in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.  This defeat was all the more satisfying because it happened at the Santiago Bernabeu in front of the Madridistas.  This is the fourth of five times that Barcelona has met Madrid this season, and thus far the Blaugrana have won 2, drew 1, and lost 1.  As a result, Barcelona will probably win La Liga and advance to the Champions League final at Wembly to face Manchester United.

This season Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey, thereby winning its first trophy in (I believe) three years.  A few things to note: (1) The Copa del Rey is far and away the poor cousin tournament of the Spanish season.  If it weren’t Barca v. Madrid, it would not have carried nearly as much meaning as it did.  (2) Sergio Ramos promptly destroyed the trophy by accidentally dropping it from the team bus.  In honor of Passover, Ramos created the first unleavened trophy.  (3) It was a psychological victory, but even that victory was tainted (the first victory over Barcelona in seven meetings.)  Madrid had to become everything the Madridistas hate.  The fans want attractive football; the team is a bunch of thugs.

Today, once again Madrid was reduced to 10 players during the match.  Once again, the match was highly combustible and resulted in handbags and red cards.  And once again, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho–the eye of the hurricane–complained about how the referees (and everyone else) fixed the match for Barcelona.  Mourinho has been going off the handle for the past few week–even more so than normal.  In fact, so much so that the normally demure Barcelona coach (and legend) Pep Guardiola exploded and called him out.

The truth is that Mourinho had this coming.  He uses an ultra-defensive, in-your-face style that at times threatens to become antifutbol.  It was the same at Porto, at Chelsea, and at Inter.  His style reflected his personality.  No one would accuse Mourinho of making friends, either with other coaches or with the media.  Maybe his abrasive and obnoxious personality is an act, but it is a convincing one.  It overshadows all else about him, including the teams he coaches and his legacy.

He has also been incredibly successful.  He was brought to a cowed Madrid to win, specifically to win the Champions League.  Given the loss today, he has probably failed, and failure is not acceptable at Madrid.  It remains to be seen what will happen, but the cracks that appeared in the Madrid facade months ago (between Mourinho and Jorge Valdano) will surely grow once Madrid is eliminated from the Champions League.  Yes, they won the Copa del Rey, but the biggest prizes will have eluded them.

This is what Mourinho feared in his nightmares.  Failure.  And worse, failure at the hands of Barcelona.  He has a special hate for Barcelona, which is the other reason Madrid brought him in.  The Barca fans hate him with equal passion, and Mourinho is only too happy to make himself a pantomime villain for them.  He likes the attention, but, he fears failure.  He cannot stomach it.  As a result, there has to be an excuse.  Now he blames the referees and UEFA.  The truth though is that all year his team has been second-best.  Rather than deal with that, he has been only too happy to turn into a conspiracy theorist, aided and abetted by Marca and AS.

The truth is that Mourinho brought this on himself.  He alienated everyone while raising expectations to an impossible level.  Instead of turning his team into something special (only he can be the Special One), he turned them into thugs and whiners.  The truth is that Madrid has been completely remade in Mourinho’s image.  When the passions die down, the Madridistas should call for his head–although they are probably so thrilled to have won something that they will overlook that he did not succeed.  (Although who knows.  These same fans demanded the termination of the Vincente del Bosque era, and he won the Champions League.  They didn’t like the way his teams played.)

I am waiting for the obligatory statement from Alfredo Di Stefano saying how awful Madrid has become.  He has already made his displeasure publicly known.  It will not change anything, but perhaps it will make the Madrid fans wake up.  Let Mourinho go back to England, which is more suited to his style and personality.

Mourinho failed.  He wanted to humiliate Barcelona, and Madrid was his vehicle to do it.  The real loser however, has been Real Madrid.

Paul Clement, John W. Davis, And Legal Morality

It was no surprise when the House of Representatives defended DOMA.  It was surprising that a big firm like King & Spalding (K&S) took the case.  Despite how horrible Corporate America can be, as a whole it is generally more progressive in attitude than the United States government and many states.  There are many reasons for this.  Corporations are responsible to shareholders not constituents; shareholders care about money, constituents care about social issues.

Although corporations may be myopic when it comes to short-term costs like environmental protections, they see far into the future when it comes to social issues because of the money that can be generated by tapping into affluent communities with expandable incomes (i.e. large segments of the LGBT community.) Conversely, LGBT-led boycotts have been quite effective since the 1970’s when Florida orange growers learned the hard way that aligning with Anita Bryant was bad for business.  Meanwhile the Southern Baptists failed when they boycotted of Disney for being too gay-friendly.

Furthermore, in the decades since Stonewall, more and more LGBT people have come out, and it turns out that they too are employees.  Corporations often want to keep employees happy, particularly those in high-powered positions.  Ergo, it is makes sense that Corporate America would as a whole be more gay-friendly than a government-run by politicians who need to win the bigot vote.

Big law firms like K&S are very much a part of Corporate America.  These firms tend to be gay friendly because there are gay lawyers who work there and gay law students who aspire to work there.  This is especially true in the major legal markets: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, DC.  Furthermore, these law firms depend on corporations to stay in business–corporations that want to appear as gay-friendly as possible.  That is why I was surprised when K&S took the case.  Representing DOMA would surely bring a fallout, not just externally, but internally as well.  The fallout was even more inevitable when it was leaked that all employees of K&S, regardless of whether they worked on the case or not, were unable to participate in any outside anti-DOMA activities.  That clause was unusual to say the least.

But as surprised as I was when K&S took the case, I am flat-out shocked that they withdrew today.  I cannot say I am displeased, but it is most certainly a self-inflicted wound.  It flies in the face of legal ethics.  If K&S didn’t want the case, they shouldn’t have taken it. Furthermore, while the LGBT community and its allies are cheering, the right-wing is fuming and calling this a new McCarthyism (ignoring their own support for the McCarthyism of the Tea Party, but that is neither here nor there.)  Finally, as a result of the firm’s change of heart, Paul Clement, the K&S attorney working on the case, quit K&S and joined Bancroft PLLC, a DC boutique firm.

The loss of Paul Clement is substantial for K&S.  Clement is a former Solicitor General, the government attorney who argues the position of the United States before the Supreme Court.  (Actually there is an office of about 20 attorneys who argue such cases, but the Solicitor General leads the office and argues the most high-profile of these cases.)  K&S hired Clement to build a competitive appellate and Supreme Court practice.  Very few private attorneys argue regularly before the Supreme Court; Clement will be one of them no matter where he works.  Now, not only has K&S lost Clement, it lost credibility before both court and client.

Clement wrote in his resignation letter:

My resignation is … prompted by the firm’s decision to withdraw as counsel for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives in defense of Section III of the Defense of Marriage Act. To be clear, I take this step not because of strongly held views about this statute. My thoughts about the merits of DOMA are as irrelevant as my views about the dozens of federal statutes that I defended as Solicitor General.

Instead, I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do.

Perhaps Clement secretly believes that DOMA is a terrible law that should be struck down.  Or maybe he believes it is a good law (Although it is telling that the firm he left for is not another large firm, but rather a small boutique made up lawyers who mostly served in the George W. Bush-era Justice Department.)   Legal protocol suggests that by seeing the DOMA case through to the end, Clement is acting properly.

The comparisons to the Guantanamo cases that some on the right are suggesting however, are misguided.  When the attorneys at big law firms took the Guantanamo cases, what they were doing was making sure that the law was applied equally.  In other words, the basic assumption was that the Constitution grants the right to habeas corpus and due process and the government was not properly applying the law.

In the DOMA case, the issue is whether the law itself is constitutional.  The Justice Department says no.  Basic morality says no.  And it would appear that the large law firms (and a substantial plurality if not majority of the legal community) also say no.  The proper comparison is less with Guantanamo cases than with the NAACP’s Jim Crow challenges of the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s.  And that brings us to John W. Davis.

Like Clement, Davis was a former Solicitor General.  Unlike Clement, Davis was a politician and the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1924 (he lost to Calvin Coolidge.)  Clement is a brilliant oral advocate, one of the finest, if not the finest, of his generation.  Davis was one of the greatest of all time.  He argued 140 cases before the Supreme Court.  Very few have argued more (Daniel Webster comes to mind.)

After he left government, Davis became a corporate lawyer in New York, and the law firm he joined still bears his name.  Davis continued to argue before the Supreme Court, many of his cases against the New Deal.  However, his greatest claim to fame, or more perhaps infamy, was his representation of South Carolina in Briggs v. Elliott, one of the five cases that came to be collectively known as Brown v. Board of Education.  Davis, a Southern Democrat by birth, let it be known that he believed segregation was morally and legally correct.  He passionately argued this position (he allegedly teared up during his oral argument), and believed he had won, even though his opponent was Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court had been consistently struck down segregation laws.

The Davis comparison is apt because defending DOMA is akin to defending segregation.  Both are unconstitutional and immoral forms of discrimination dressed in the trappings of law.  Only politics kept Jim Crow laws in effect, and only politics keep DOMA alive now.  Just as we look in horror at the Jim Crow South, so too will future generations look in horror at the homophobia of this era.

This is the situation that Clement and K&S  found themselves in.  Lawyer and firm are both aware of history and legacy.  The tide is already turning against the foes of gay marriage whether those dinosaurs like it or not.  Clement and K&S chose the wrong side of history, but K&S blanched and backed down.  Clement did not, and I imagine that he will be remembered as John W. Davis is: a great lawyer who made a catastrophic decision.

Shameless Comparisons: Monsters and Sacred Monsters

A warning.  This review contains spoilers for both the US and UK versions of the television Shameless.

I.

When we watch our favorite television shows, we generally don’t realize how much of those shows are informed by our shared cultural identity.  It is not until we see shows from other countries (or subcultures) that we do realize it.  A show from Spain, for example, relies on knowledge of Spain that a Mexican viewer may not have.  We may like these foreign shows, but we cannot necessarily appreciate all their nuances.  I may love Upstairs, Downstairs, but the British class system is completely alien to me.  Similarly Seinfeld does not translate well abroad because there is something so American (specifically New York) about it.  Thus we get the remake–a way to reinvent the show in a new cultural medium.

Because for years Americans only saw British television shows of the highest quality, there was and is a (misguided) belief that all British television is wonderful while most American television is terrible.  As a result, for decades American television has co-opted hit British television shows with wildly mixed results.  For every show that transcended its British predecessor (e.g. All in the Family) or became a hit in its own right (e.g. The Office), there are tons of poor knock-offs that are best forgotten.  Most of them fade from memory almost immediately (will anyone admit to watching the American versions of Coupling or Men Behaving Badly?)  Alas, some not mercifully canceled and instead damage the memory of the fantastic original (Queer as Folk).

II.

Thus we come to Shameless, the story of the Gallagher family and their struggles just to get by.  In the UK version, the action centers around Chatsworth estate in the Greater Manchester area.  The US version transplants everyone to Chicago–thankfully not Pittsburgh where another American remake of a British show set in Manchester was transplanted to.  (I have nothing against Pittsburgh mind you, but Chicago is a much more comparable city to Manchester.)

I am about a month late to the party, but I was not able to watch the US version until just recently.  I was riveted–I watched all 12 episodes in two days.  I cannot wait for Season 2 and have already rewatched some of my favorite parts.  Nevertheless, because so many of the US story lines were nearly exact replicas of the UK version that it was impossible not to compare the two.  Any time there was something different, it felt incredibly jarring whether the change was for better or for worse.

The US version has a major advantage over the UK version: the benefit of seeing what has already worked and what has not.  From my perspective this is great because, I eventually gave up on the UK series.  Although always somewhat unreal, the show became far too much like a soap opera.  What was really unforgivable though was that almost all of the original Gallaghers left the series.  At this point only the drunken patriarch Frank and his son Carl, the most uninteresting of the children, remain.  Because of the departures, the show shifted focus to the Maguires, the resident criminal family of Chatsworth (more on them later.)  For me, this change made the show unwatchable.  I believe it is still popular in Britain.

The UK show is part farce, part drama, and part dark comedy.  It is also a social commentary on the strong class identification and divisions inherent in British society.  Chatsworth is a council estate.  The US version makes it quote clear that the Gallaghers do not live in public housing (although putting them in the projects or in Section 8 housing would probably have been truer to the original intent of the UK series.)  Hence in the US version, there are all sorts of convoluted ways to explain how the family as poor as the Gallaghers can afford to stay in their house.

The ostensible center of both versions is Frank Gallagher, the drunken, drug-addled, lazy, scheming monstrous father of the Gallagher clan.  The real center of the show is his eldest daughter Fiona, and makeshift mother of her younger siblings: Lip (Phillip), Ian, Debbie, Carl, and Liam.  Fiona is the heart and soul of the series.  One of the major failings of the UK version is that Fiona leaves at the end of Season 2, thereby robbing the show of its emotional core.    Anne-Marie Duff was a great Fiona on the UK series.  Emmy Rossum of the US version may be even better.  Rossum’s performance is complex; she’s a tower of strength but at the same time so vulnerable as to always being on the verge of falling apart.

III.

Fiona is the show’s heroine, but I watch Shameless for Ian.  Played by Gerard Kearns in the UK version (who has since departed) and Cameron Monaghan in the US version, Ian is a closeted, gay teenager in the process of discovering himself.  Ian is far and away the most personal character for me.  When he does not feature heavily (like any soap opera, there are too many main characters and stories often get pushed to the side for long periods of time), I lose interest.  I thought the UK version ruined the Ian; I pray the US version doesn’t follow suit (incest and sex with women do not a compelling gay character make.)

When the Ian plots US show veer too far from the UK version, I feel most disoriented and a little uncomfortable.  Nevertheless, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  It was through Ian that the Maguires infected the UK show.

In the UK version, a classmate of Ian’s Mandy Maguire (the only Maguire I really liked, and therefore the show had to kill her) develops a crush on him.  She tries to have sex with him, and when he rejects her, she tells her thug family he assaulted her.  That is the show’s first introduction of the Maguires, none of them was really distinguished.  Ian outs himself to Mandy, and she becomes his beard and confidante.  The US version follows the exact same plot, only Mandy’s last name is changed to Milkovich, presumably because there are no people of Irish descent in Chicago.  In fact, the US version so closely mirrored the UK version that the two Mandys looked almost exactly alike even though the actual actresses couldn’t look more different.

In the UK series, Lip and Mandy begin to have sex.  It was a convoluted way to protect Ian from being outed, and Mandy gets pregnant as a result.  Mandy’s family, thinking Ian is the father, force Ian into marrying her.  More Maguires are introduced, and they start to become regular characters.  Lip protects Ian again by announcing that he is the father, and a grateful Ian has to pretend to hate Lip.

This leads to Ian coming out to Fiona, which is one of the most touching moments of the UK show (starts at 7:09.)  It’s quite a performance from Anne-Marie Duff.  Ian begs her not tell anyone, and whatever conflicted feelings she had about the ruse and about Ian’s sexuality completely fall away, and she is once again his protector.  It’s a beautiful scene that came after a very intense build up.

In contrast the US version had a sweet coming-out to Fiona scene, but it lacked that satisfaction that came from a much more involved build-up.  In the season finale, Ian and Lip are arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle.  After Fiona brings them home, she demands to know from Ian who gave them the car.  Ian says nothing, but as Fiona turns to leave, he tells her that he’s gay.  Emmy Rossum too gives an excellent performance.  Her movements were so subtle that I missed them on my initial viewing (I watched that scene three times.)  When Ian outs himself to her, she quivers a bit, as all her anger crumbles.  Almost instantly she collects herself and says, “I know.”  Ian apologizes for not telling her, and she (lovingly) informs him that she’s still pissed off at him.   It’s a sweet moment, and very well acted, but it came out of left field.  It would have been nice if there had been some build up.

IV.

The early seasons of the UK version have some definite advantages over the US series.  Stronger secondary characters for one (Kash and especially his wife Yvonne just a few of he characters who are better written in the UK version.)  Another is a lack of ridiculously impossible MacGuffins.  For example, there is no DNA test in the world that can tell you that someone you thought was your father is actually your uncle (US), whereas it is plausible that the sibling who is the family caretaker would know all her brothers’ blood types in case of injury (UK).  (Also, this plot came much later in the UK series.)

For emotional impact however, there are moments of high drama in the US version that are second to none.  Case in point: “But At Last Came a Knock,” the highlight of the first season.  Even if I hated the rest of the series (which I don’t), this episode would have won me over.  This is the episode that introduced Monica Gallagher, the mother of the Gallagher clan, and the woman who abandoned them years before.  In an inspired bit of casting, Monica was played by the brilliant Chloe Webb, the under-appreciated genius behind Nancy Spungen from Sid and Nancy and Mona Ramsey from Tales of the City.  No one could have played a better Monica.

The highlight of the episode was the confrontation between Monica and her children.  It came late in the episode, but it was well worth the wait.  Frank Gallagher is the undisputed monster of the series, but Monica is the sacred monster, an absent presence but one so powerful that the mere mention of her name devastates her children.  Since the episode, the viewers have seen the Gallagher kids’ defense mechanisms: Fiona by taking care her siblings, Lip through his studies, Ian through ROTC, work at the Kash & Grab, and sex, Debbie by her almost obsessive desire to form attachments with strangers, and Carl by being a nascent psychopath.  Most of all, they have each other.  While the Gallaghers do get hurt (seeing Frank at a parent/teacher conference for his girlfriend’s daughter after he refused to go for their conferences), but for the most part they’ve managed to protect themselves from the hurt.

Monica however, shredded their defenses, and it is not surprising why.  The defenses were erected to protect against rejection.  Monica is the very embodiment of that rejection; hers was the most primal and the most painful–the mother who abandoned her children.  And she left them in the care of an uncaring drug-addled alcoholic.  Monica inflicted a wound that never heals.  The defense mechanisms stopped working; only running worked.  Debbie physically ran from her.  Ian too ran when he heard her name, and he ran straight to Mickey for sex–physical contact to dull the pain of not being loved.  Fiona tried to fight Monica, but could not win, and she too left  Carl completely shut down; he could not even look up.  Only Lip did not run, and then in the next episode he tried to find a way to leave the family–first through a DNA test and then vicariously through Ian.  But the truth is that the Gallaghers can never escape Monica even if they did get her to leave again.  She is the unconquerable foe; she is their mother.

In the UK series, Monica returned, and was a main character in several seasons (giving birth to a Frank’s daughter Stella.)  I hope the US Monica also returns, if only in small doses.  Not just because Chloe Webb is a fantastic actress, but because Monica brings something to the show that it otherwise lacks–someone the Gallaghers can neither avoid nor overcome.  A villain yet one they want to love so badly and even more who they want to be loved by.  A sacred monster.

The most frightening characters on television are not cold-blooded killers; they are mothers who don’t love their children–Livia Soprano who put a hit on her own son, De’Londa Brice from The Wire who tried to force her son into becoming a drug kingpin, even Lucille Bluth who terrorized her children with her endless selfishness, apathy, and (hilarious) drunken meanness.  In two episodes, Monica Gallagher joined that pantheon.

What the US series did so beautifully was to convey the hurt and defenselessness of the Gallagher children when confronted by their sacred monster.  “But At Last Came A Knock” is one of the most powerful episodes of television I have seen in some time.

The Fundamental Unfairness Of World Cricket

The Cricket World Cup that ended this month was something of a big deal–at least on the South Asian subcontinent.  India beat defending champion Australia in the quarterfinals, archenemy Pakistan in the semifinals and then frenemy Sri Lanka in the final round– thereby returning to the Indian people the trophy they coveted so much (and hadn’t won since 1983.)  It was also the first Cricket World Cup final to feature two Asian teams.

Full disclosure: I don’t follow cricket.  I am literate enough to know what is going on, but that is it.  I do however, know a little about the culture of the game.  However, if I am incorrect, please feel free to politely correct me.

There are 10 test nations (nations that play test matches): England, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and a conglomerate of Caribbean nations and dependencies called the West Indies.  To the purist, test cricket is the highest form of the sport.  When you think of cricket (if you ever do), and envision the players wearing all white uniforms playing matches that last forever, then you are thinking of test cricket.

The Cricket World Cup does not feature that kind of cricket (the tournament would last a year otherwise.)  Rather it has a somewhat watered down version–limited to 50 overs–called One Day International.  The teams wear different colors, and a match lasts less than a day which is short for cricket.  There is also an even shorter version called Twenty20, which seems to be the red-headed stepchild of the cricket world, but Steven Cohen, formerly of World Football Daily is convinced that it would do really well here in the United States.  Probably because the skill set is closer than the other versions to baseball.

After every World Cup, the cricket-powers-that-be, the International Cricket Council, restructures the tournament to make it better.  This is something akin to the way FIFA changed the World Cup format and qualification process.  However, the ICC has just something that FIFA would never be able to do–the ICC will limit the next World Cup to only the test nations.  The associate nations (the non-test nations) are kind of pissed off.  This is especially bitter for Ireland, which in the past few World Cups has made some remarkable gains–and is arguably stronger than some of the test nations.

The ICC has tried to make the decision seem less appalling by turning the World Twenty20 into a biennial event.  But Twenty20 is universally regarded as the lowest form of cricket, while the associate nations (the ones who don’t play test cricket) care most about the 50 over game.  The ICC’s decision smacks of protectionism (particularly given Ireland’s growing strength)–a way of keeping the riffraff out of the game.

The football and rugby that we know them were refined by the British public (private) schools.  Much to the consternation of the elites, the working class English and Scottish took up the game and eventually dominated.  In contrast, cricket, and test cricket in particular, still has an elitist image, especially in the United States.  The wearing of white (also done each year during the tennis tournament at Wimbledon), the breaks for tea, the incomprehensible lingo, and the test matches, which are confined to only a handful of nations.  Everything about it smacks of British elitism, although that is less than the truth (a billion Indians can’t be wrong.)  Unlike football which only requires a spherical shaped object, cricket requires specialized equipment, space to play, and a calculator to tabulate the score.  Therefore, it was not as durable as football.  The working class in England did not embrace it and it could not spread outside the British Empire.  It should not come as a shock that all the test nations are former British colonies.  (There is a great scene in the movie Maurice in which cricket features prominently.  Check out the wonderful Helena Bonham-Carter cameo.)

In America, cricket–like croquet and polo–remained a sport of the country club, and therefore could never compete with its distant cousin, the much more egalitarian baseball.  I am not aware of any place it is played in the United States, although I am sure it is played somewhere.  Canada has a national cricket team although it is most definitely second-tier.

The ICC’s decision to limit the World Cup to the test nations is not mystifying.  The ICC recognizes that cricket is never going to be a dominant sport (outside of South Asia), and it does not have the incentive or desire to grow the game outside of the England and its former colonies.  It would rather keep the status quo.  Letting more nations in could potentially damage English influence and that of all the other top cricketing nations (just as England lost its preeminence in football without even knowing it.)  By limiting the World Cup to just a handful of nations, the ICC ensures that only a handful of nations will stay at the top.  I cannot imagine that the British press  minds that given that England still wants to be good at something, and they have pretty much lost top dog status in all their other sports.

It is however, a shortsighted and foolish policy, and one day the ICC will reap what it sows.