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May 23 / Zack

Beyond a Boundary: Chasing Cricket

The scene at Jesus College cricket ground

Thursday last saw a McCune in the family’s first recorded cricket match. Having seen cricket many times before, my prejudice against the sport was fairly serious. The Ashes made me incorrectly believe all of the sport required months of painfully slow play in absurdly uncontested conditions. One Day Internationals showed considerably more promise, as the games had more discernible conclusions. Finally finding an appreciation for 20/20 cricket (roughly 3 hour games) I’d been down to some “nets” to try my hand at bowling and batting, and greatly preferred the former. So it was with great excitement that I bought a fresh white polo shirt and headed down to Jesus College to catch the first match.

It was a stunner. We’ll let R. Leigh summarize this extraordinary winning effort:

The Sel-win College MCR Cricket Club got their season off to a brilliant start on Thursday as they recorded an exhilarating victory over a strong Jesus College side.

Electing to field first, Selwyn were set a commanding total of 138 tochase, a score that reflected the absurd proximity of the boundary to thewicket. Zachary McCune should be given special mention for his heroic (iflargely vain) attempts to police the rope; fearlessly throwing himselfaround the dusty outfield, his exposed legs bore the cuts and grazes of atrue team player! His confident catch in the deep dismissed Jesus’ finesouthern hemisphere left-hander, signalling a change in the direction ofthe match. Our resident yank wasn’t the only player to excel in the field -Herr Steinforth, a recent transfer from the German Premier League, alsobagged himself an important catch, and George did his ‘thang’ behind thestumps. The bowling was solid (if a little expensive at times), andcontributions from Nick to the Brizzle, Ed ‘hop along’ PK, Ed ‘with a T’,and Rich ‘the Selwyn gardener’ Cartwright served to apply constant pressureto a solid batting line-up. Robbie Leigh will surely be disappointed tohave been hit for four in the final over by a girl. Who was rubbish atcricket. And she was a girl.

With the lucrative first innings complete, few could have predicted whatwould happen next. Sent in to open the batting as cannon fodder, LukeMiller and Donal Gorman of the 76 Ross Street Massiv secured their place inSelwyn history as they struck a fast and furious record opening stand of63. Miller was in particularly astonishing form, and his knock of 42 notonly set the Selwyn side up for victory, but also earned him thewell-deserved and highly coveted man of the match award. After ten oversSelwyn were – against all odds – in touch with the challenging run rate of7 an over, and despite the fall of the opening pair, Nick B and Ed PKcontinued the deluge of runs, scoring freely all over the park. There was aslight moment of panic as Ed lost his bails to a straight ball, butBristowe and new batsmen Bobby ‘Tendulker’ Leigh were able to knock off thefinal 30 runs, spurred on by the champagne support of their team mates fromthe side (of the bar). Deesh and Ali were particularly vociferous in theirmagnificent banter! Edging the winning run off the penultimate ball in atense finish to the game, Brizzer ran off the pitch in a blaze of glorytowards his ecstatic comrades, yelping vitriolic expletives. Leigh politelyshook hands with the opposition, as is befitting of a true Englishman.

All in all this was a true team effort – every man played his part, andSelwyn will be revelling in their shared glory for some time to come.

May 2 / Zack

Sunday Morning Hurling

There’s no rowing for me this term. Won’t be around for the May Bumps, so I’m not much use for the team.

But I’ve decided to rejoin the Cambridge GAA squad to see if I can keep myself in marginal shape with a bit of Gaelic Football and Hurling.

This morning was the first time I actually followed through on my promises to show up for some play, and it proved well-worth it. I scored two points and two goals against Lakeheath (local American military base). I was absolutely overjoyed to score even once, as hurling is not the most natural of games unless you happen to have lived in Ireland. But all my play in Newport (just hitting the ball around the park) seems to have paid off!

The first point and the first goal were both particularly beautiful, with good dodges and solos in them. The goals were buried to the left and the right. At about chest height.

Looking forward to some more!

Hurling, and gaelic games more broadly, have been a passion since last spring, when I began researching for the Heritage at Play project that brought me to Ireland to film a documentary on the sports in Irish society. Since then, I’ve been fond of the game, and love playing whenever I get the chance.

Dec 10 / Zack

Escaping to Ely

Thursday was a day of protest in London. Parliament was voting on that most regrettable policy about tuition costs that promised to triple student fees. It was also the day of the Varsity Rugby Match, in which Cambridge and Oxford met on a field of dreams in Twickenham and played for glory.

Despite, or perhaps because of these offerings, I chose to do something very different. I went to Ely, a small town 25 minutes north of Cambridge by train, to see the famous cathedral there. And it was the right choice, I feel, as the tranquility of that hill above the Fens comforted me in a way the busy, rowdy, raucous London streets would have failed to.

Dec 8 / Zack

Essay Work: China & Basketball

Suffice it to say that I have not been too talkative about the whole ‘classes’ and ‘work’ side of my education at Cambridge? But with the diversions and entertainments and adventures afforded by this unique experience, who can blame me?

In an effort to fill in a part of the experiential gap, I’ve decided to share my most recent paper on China, Global Media Networks, and Basketball. This paper responded to the assignment “Are global media networks eroding local culture? Discuss with a specific case.”

I did a ton of research for this 20 page paper despite having just over two weeks to get the beast done. But here it is, written and formatted for your downloading/reading enjoyment. It certainly has not been graded yet, so why not enjoy it before I find out how horrible and inappropriate it is…

Slam Dunking in Beijing

I must confess that a great deal of the inspiration for this paper came from playing basketball this term amongst a team that was predominantly Chinese. That somewhat odd (but now in view of the research very understandable) phenomenon got my brain a-thinking… why were the Chinese playing basketball? And why did most of the Selwyn team, many of which have never been to the US, know more about the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets than me?

Dec 7 / Zack

A Season for Singing

Christmas comes early in a country without Thanksgiving to stop it. And in the country of A Christmas Carol and Yule, the traditions of celebrating the holiday are immense. Just add snow (as the weather has over the past few weeks) and you’ve a nation overjoyed to be singing and humming and dancing and shopping for Christmas.

The Cambridge Market, lit for Christmas (from a BBC photo).

At Selwyn, the annual snowball went down this past weekend with my dear girlfriend Colleen flying in from New York just for the occasion. The previous Wednesday had been the “Christmas Formal” where the undergrads (and a few graduate hangers-on including myself and Colleen) were encouraged to eat mince pies, wear those silly Christmas crowns, and conduct a rabble-rousing rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

The weekend finished with a Christmas service in Selwyn’s Chapel based on the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols. The supremely talented choir sang some wonderful pieces including a magicalĀ  “I Saw Three Ships.” The evening concluded with the room lit only in candles as the entire congregation sang out “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” but featured plenty of good singing before that.

In keeping with the season, the weather outside was frightful. But in my warm room, the MacBook and down comforter were delightful.

TAKE A LISTEN ::

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Dec 5 / Zack

The Last Ride of Maverick

This Thursday marked the last outing of Maverick, my beloved MCR Novice Eight. Rowing in bitter cold and cheered on by my kind, sweet, supportive (and well-bundled up) girlfriend, the team recorded a solid time DESPITE nearly crashing into a river boat at the start. Colleen also took the time to record a lot of our preparation and our race allowing me to bring a video that explains this adventure far better than I would ever be able to!

Nov 30 / Zack

Men of the River Cam

When the alarm went off I didn’t remember why I’d set it. 6:15 am? Why would I have ever done that? I rubbed my eyes and looked around the room. Still very dark out. Why would I have ever set an alarm so early? The phone buzzed with a text message from my friend Mark: DO YOU HAVE ANY EXTRA SWEATS? ITS SNOWING.

SNOWING?!

I threw open the curtains. It didn’t look like it was snowing. Maybe mark was imagining things. Regardless his text message reminded me why I was up. It was the MCR Novice Boats first race- the Clare Novice Regatta.

I grabbed the warm athletic gear I had laid out the night before and dressed quickly. Snow? I couldn’t believe that. It was cold for sure, but snow was very unlikely.

After a speedy breakfast, I pulled on my bike helmet and opened the front door to head to the porter’s lodge to meet the rest of the team.

And it was snowing. Beautifully.

We cycled in relative silence through a dark, snowy, sleeping Cambridge. The Christmas Decorations in shop windows looked more appropriate than usual. At the boathouse the river was unusually still, its banks frosted with a small coat of white as we walked “Laurie” (our eight) out of the building and lowered him into the water.

The view from the Selwyn Boathouse on an early, snowy morning.

In the locker room, the coaches handed out our jerseys. Black and gold lettering spelled out our names on the boat, and over our hearts was the Selwyn College Crest.

We pushed off, into the brightening dawn, and rowed in all eights casually down the river. But there was a ton of nervous energy. The Clare Novice Regatta is structured by head-to-head racing, and we would be sprinting Fitwilliams Novice eight for nearly 800m in a few minutes. There was so much we’d never fully done. We’d never gone this far, this fast with another boat beside us. We’d never actually seen competition. We’d never been a boat race for that matter, unless you count my former life where I was dedicated sailor which you wouldn’t because with an oar in hand, that experience was hardly relevant.

We lined up with Fitz and came forward to “three-quarters” a position where we stay anxiously still poised to unleash everything we had at the River Cam as soon as we heard go! When we did, a blaze of white water flew about the boat, and voices from the bank and the coxes rose in dramatic admonitions. FASTER! THREE-QUARTERS! WIND! TOGETHER GUYS!

We blasted down the “reach” racing out past Fitz. From the seventh seat (one from the stern position or ‘stroke’) I could see most of Fitz behind us, frantic to catch us up.

We were doing good. We were moving so quickly. And then I (and it would later be revealed several others) “caught a crab.” As I tried to stay in unison with my teammates, my blade became trapped by the pressure of the water. The boat slowed and lurched off course. We were in danger of losing our lead!

Men of the River Cam - Selwyn's Maverick Crew.

But having been trained for this, I fought through the crab and pulled my blade forward to take another stroke. And another. And another. We were back on course, ahead of Fitz.

We ended up catching enough crabs for a Chesapeake BBQ. But our power and commitment to the win was indomitable. Cruising across the finish line, we pretty much all shouted out with joy. Last year, Selwyn had been shut out in the Clare competition, but this year with Maverick, would be different.

Despite losing our subsequent match-up with Girton (who were really, really good and we raced much more soundly, but eventually crabbed- just once- and lost the race) there was much to celebrate at the end of the day. It had been savagely cold, but the temperature had hardly mattered once we got on the river. The racing became the only thing on our minds then.

With Laurie back on his rack, and the day’s athleticism over at 8:45 am, we decided to have a team breakfast.

Nov 28 / Zack

Mischief Managed

The MCR, also known as the Graduate Students of Selwyn College, have a major, outrageous meal every three weeks or so. The first two were fairly tame, because they involved welcoming new students (like me) and people’s visiting families.

But this past week’s MCR Formal go truly out of hand when the Harry Potter theme was announced. In place of suits, attendees were encouraged to dress up as Harry Potter characters. Which I took to a creative extreme, if I may so myself, by making and wearing a “Maurader’s Map.”

Nov 27 / Zack

Roundball in Britain

The last time I played Basketball competitively I was wearing my high school colors. Back then, it was a 2 hr commitment a day 6 days a week. I burned out so hard on the sport, I rarely watched it and virtually never played it in college. Of course, basketball ran deeper in me than I perhaps cared to realize. And though I privately promised myself no American sports (only silly British ones) while I was going to be overseas, some fate conspired against me. Because my housemate, a Danish-Indian Nanoscientist ( a rock show) decided he was going to start a Selwyn College Basketball Team (they’ve never had one) and he asked me if I would play.

He assumed, pretty accurately, that because I was tall and American, this sport was rooted in my entire being. I told him I wasn’t really interested, but I’d help him set it up. Which I did.

Then I said I would help coach the team. But at that first practice, with all the old worries and anxieties of the sport gone, I threw myself back into playing basketball.

We’ve got a remarkably international squad. Kids from Greece, Germany, Denmark, the US, Canada, and Scotland. But most of the squad hails from the People’s Republic of China, where Basketball is THE youth sport.

We dropped our first game (literally 17 hours from our first practice) to Magdalene by five points. But since then we’ve been on a twenty point rampages, often doubling the score of our competition and actually winning our league to qualify for promotion!

Deesh, our Captain, promises us jerseys next term, and I the coach, promise new offensive plays and improvements to our 2-3 zone.

Nov 26 / Zack

God save (me from) the Queens

True Cambridge is somewhere on the River Cam. Or at least, it is contested and replenished there. In the past weeks, the rowing regimen has gradually rifled up and up. All eight men rowing (finally)! All eight men “feathering” blades. Longer rowing sessions. Race starts. High rate exercises. And now, just as I’m becoming comfortable with what we do when we go for “outings” on the River, formal competition emerges.

Tomorrow, the gentlemen of the Selwyn College MCR Men’s Novice Boat, otherwise known as “Maverick,” will be racing in the Clare Regatta. There are reports that two inches of snow are expected, and a preparatory email INSISTED we be dressed as warmly as possible. And then we shed all but the essentials for the actual race. I am quite nervous about all this, but I am also SO excited.

Two weeks ago, the competition that began (and defines) all competitions, went off. It was Queens’ Ergs, named for the hosts Queens College. In this celebrated and raucous event. Over 655 men (and around 500 women) compete in groups of eight (technically their boats) to put together the fast 500 meter erg splits. So basically, you stand around freezing in a courtyard, then get led into a small gymnasium, then bang out in order the fastest 500 meter time you can. The fastest collective efforts go through into the finals. Which Maverick thoroughly managed by having all of the gents throw down TIGHT times. I threw down a 1:31, which is really quite competitive though a few of my team mates really put it in (1:27 / 1:29 /1:29).

How crazy was this? How much did it hurt? (good lord, SO mUCH) Take a look: