Must Love Cricket

For sports fans on the cheap, there are options.

If it was because of our proximity to earnestly Anglophile Vancouver and Victoria that cricket took root in Seattle at all, its survival is due to our tech industries that lure the Asian subcontinent's best brains. As a result, the Seattle Cricket Club is the oldest (founded in 1964) and largest (50 members, reports president Bunti Sarai) in the Northwest. Those members are kept busy: The SCC fields one team as part of the British Columbia Mainland Cricket League, three in the Northwest Cricket League, and (most observer-friendly) two teams to play "20/20" intramural matches against clubs from elsewhere in the area as well as from Boeing and Microsoft (which itself musters four teams). They play Saturday and Sunday mornings throughout the spring (the season's final dates are June 21–22 and July 5–6) in Redmond's Marymoor Park—in the traditional dress whites. Unlike regular cricket matches—which can be multiday affairs, since (as I understand it) every player on both teams takes a turn, batting and running as long as he can until he gets out—the "20/20" rules limit a match to a fixed number of pitches. In and out in a mere three hours.The game has a reputation for inscrutability; one good introduction is the Web page "Explaining Cricket to Americans," at www.seattlecricket.com/history/crick.htm. Even more fun is to rent the 2002 film Lagaan, a 224-minute Indian-villagers-vs.-hissable-Brits epic that climaxes in an hourlong match. It's not only a great primer for the game, it's a primer with Bollywood production numbers. GAVIN BORCHERTwww.seattlecricket.comUnlike their big-league counterparts, the members of the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League's Tacoma Tugs aren't paid to play, they pay to play. But you don't have to pay to see them play, and it's no great hassle to garner a front-row seat in the sun on any given Saturday at area ballfields such as Lower Woodland Park and Steve Cox Field in White Center. This makes the Tugs, who don't actually play in Tacoma, the ideal cost-effective alternative to enduring another summer of overpriced (this is more in reference to the cost of concessions than tickets) Mariner mediocrity.The Tugs' roster mostly comprises guys (although gals are allowed to play, too) in their mid-20's who hail from western Washington. Most of them played baseball in college, and some made it as far as the upper reaches of the minor leagues. In other words, they're not quite big-league caliber, but they're damn close—certainly deserving of the "elite" label. And in 2007, the Tugs were good enough to win the Men's Senior Baseball League's World Series, where they beat Jose Canseco's team in the championship. (Funny aside: The MSBL was founded by Steve Sigler, father of Jamie-Lynn, aka "Meadow Soprano").Ray Bala is the Tugs' 45-year-old player-coach. While he only inserts himself for spot duty when playing with his younger charges, Bala still sees plenty of run on his 35-and-over world-champion Cascade Mariners squad, another PSSBL team. All told, there are 65 teams in various age brackets, all adhering to the motto: "Don't Go Soft, Play Hardball." And playing ain't cheap."It costs our team about $15,000 per year to play in this league," says Bala. You hear that, Cloverdale Meats? MIKE SEELYwww.pssbl.comMany a dog walker out to let Fido stretch his legs at Colonnade Park has likely been amazed by the mountain-bike obstacle course that's sprouted under I-5 (see photo above)—and intrigued by the adrenaline junkies who hurl their bodies and bikes around it.Situated between Capitol Hill and Eastlake, just north of the Lakeview exit, the park offers the perfect vantage point to take in the thrills and spills of what has become an urban replica of the kinds of obstacles more typically found on actual mountain trails.Colonnade is a city park, but the mountain-bike portion is being built by an all-volunteer effort organized by the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club. Program director Jon Kennedy says they've logged about 12,000 hours and raised $262,000 since breaking ground in 2005. Even if you have no interest in testing your agility, it's worth the trip just to see the roller-coasteresque array of ramps, curves, and jumps that snakes its way between the columns of the freeway. (Or, in mountain-biker parlance, the "tabletops, skinnies, and booters.")There have been a few minor injuries, Kennedy says, "but that's the inherent nature of the sport," known in biking circles as free riding—"you pick up, you heal, you move on." And the city has posted signs to encourage riders to wear helmets and protective gear—and to remind them they ride at their own risk.For both spectators and participants, I-5 offers a convenient lid on the excitement. "Seriously, a covered mountain-bike facility in Seattle? Who would've thought!" boasts Kennedy. "You can use it without driving 45 miles. We're bringing mountain biking to the masses. That's the goal." AIMEE CURLwww.bbtc.orgWith planes shrieking overhead, trains squealing past, and the roar of the highway for good measure, it could only be the Georgetown Playfield, where on a Sunday morning, two of the top amateur men's soccer teams in Seattle are playing a miserably one-sided match. At least it's not raining.But the beauty of the beautiful game is that it's still a joy to watch. True, the highly skilled Flying Hellfish are being destroyed, scoring-wise, by the faster, more disciplined Georgetown Merchants. But a few sweet one-touch combinations and great ball-handling from the losing side are keeping things interesting.The Hellfish and the Merchants are both in the top division of the biggest amateur adult men's soccer league in the U.S.—the Greater Seattle Soccer League. (Track when and where they play at www.gssl.org.) And the biggest is just one of many around here. Want to check out the Hispanic teams? Liga Hispana del Noroeste (www.ligahispana.com) is having its summer season semifinals at Rainier Beach High this Sunday morning. You like women-only? The Washington State Women's Soccer Association (www.wswsa.org) is having its Summer Blast—three Monday-night matches in July for teams of women home from college. Even better will be the All Nations Cup in Tukwila (www.allnationscup.org), with Seattle-area amateurs representing their home countries from around the world. It gets off to a free start this weekend.Yes, we all know Seattle's getting a new professional futbol club next year (Sounders FC). But frankly, the drab matches of perennially underperforming Major League Soccer are often less entertaining than your high-level amateur contests—and with fewer faked injuries. MARK D. FEFERRemember swooning over Val Kilmer's rippling pecs during the beach-volleyball scene in Top Gun? Me too. (Sigh.) But enjoying the game's "athletic finesse" doesn't require renting '80s movies or moving to Los Angeles. It's available live all summer on beaches around Seattle. The best spot for viewing is Alki, of course, where the sand is conveniently located across the street from a row of restaurants ready to satisfy any and every craving.If you're more a fan than a voyeur, the near-pros come out for the tournaments, including Jet City Sports' fundraiser for the Moyer Foundation on July 27. Sitting on the benches, watching the physics of a killer spike in motion, costs you nothing. Though on a sunny afternoon traffic along the road to Alki comes to a standstill, so you might want to consider water-taxiing across the bay and walking to the beach.If you're not content to just watch—former queen of the junior-high overhand serve that you are—the Underdog Sports League is the best bet for casual players. Signing up a team runs $350 for the season, a cost you can split up to 10 ways for a summer of sets and digs. Underdog is also the only league that lets individuals sign up—$80 will get you in for the season. "We're hopefully a little more about the overall experience of playing as opposed to just the game," says Underdog CEO Shawn Madden. "We're big into sponsored bars." LAURA ONSTOTwww.underdogseattle.com

 
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