Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 3 of Today I Learned: Allahakbarries

If you are reading this, there’s a great chance you don’t know shit-all about cricket besides “former British colonies play it” and “it takes forever”. Unrelated to the topic at hand, did you know the Indian cricket league, in an attempt to ward off any singular-franchise dynasties, has a full-scale free agency period once every ten years where every single player can be signed by any other team? Imagine the chaos of the NBA off-season, multiplied by a hundred, and no one understands the rules. It sounds idyllic!

ANYWAY, the Allakahbarries were a cricket team founded in 1887 by JM Barrie, who famously created and wrote the first Peter Pan. This, obviously, is incredibly tedious tidbit of information that is beyond uninteresting, but let’s look at the rest of roster:

– Rudyard Kipling (“The Jungle Book”)

– HG Wells (“The War of the Worlds”  and “The Time Machine”)

– Arthur Conan Doyle (all the original Sherlock Holmes stories)

– PG Wodehouse (“Piccadilly Jim” and the Jeeves and Wooster mystery novels)

– GK Chesterton (“The Man Who Was Thursday” and the Father Brown novels)

– Jerome K Jerome (“Three Men in a Boat”)

– AA Milne (“Winnie the Pooh”)

– EW Hornung (“In the Chains of Crime”)

– Henry J Ford (illustrator for hundreds of children’s books and fairy tales)

– AWE Mason (“The Four Feathers”)

– Walter Raleigh

– EV Lucas (publisher and editor for “Punch” magazine)

– Maurice Hewlett

– Owen Seaman (also an editor for “Punch”)

– Bernard Partridge

– Augustine Birrell

– Paul Du Chaillu (first European to see a gorilla in the wild, which I’m sure is a story all on it’s own)

– Henry Herbert La Thangue (“gurl you look good when ya back La Thangue up”)

– George Cecil Ives

– George Llewelyn Davies

– Hallam Tennyson, son of Alfred Tennyson, who you may recognize as the one of the most famous poets of all time, assuming you know more than three poets (I for one, do not)

You would think a team of such sporting and aristocratic gentlemen would be very competent and competitive, alas, they were utter trash (as if you couldn’t tell by the delightfully twee uniforms in the above picture). They were so bad, JM Barrie instructed his team from practicing on opponents’ fields prior to the game as “this can only give them confidence”. Barrie himself was described as “small, frail and sensitive, rather awkward in his movements, and there was nothing athletic in his appearance”, so he could probably still secure a spot on the Cleveland Browns’ QB depth chart. In the trip to the first match, the team had to gather and discuss which side of the bat was used to hit the ball, and one unnamed player showed up in pajamas. After a few games, Barrie had to remind the players, “should you hit the ball, run at once, and do not stop to cheer”. This is basically the literary version of ‘the Mighty Ducks”, except with cricket and everyone was racist. Barrie’s team was hammered by a Broadway actress and her team, so he dedicated the subsequent book detailing the team’s exploits “To Our Dear Enemy Mary de Navarro”. A-ha! A witty riposte will certainly redeem your machismo after being decimated by turn-of-the-century actresses!

There was one player who was (supposedly) excellent – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At six feet tall, which used to be tall before human beings took an evolutionary step forward, and excellent athleticism, he was the saving grace for the Allakahbarries and saved them from being completely embarrassed. Except for that time he did the exact opposite, when a pitch hit the box of matches in his pocket, and set himself aflame. The Allakahbarries were the first team to realize spectators love fireworks after a game.

The name of the team originated like all intramural softball team names consisting of drunk frat boys do: a not-so-witty pun that turned out to be inaccurate. “Allakahbarries” is a play on the manager’s name and “Allah akbar”, which they understood as “Heaven help us” in Arabic, figuring they would need all the help they could get. The phrase actually means “God is Great”, but fortunately for them, this team played in the early 1900’s, and they were unlikely to be sentenced to Guantanamo Bay through an extraordinary case of extraordinary rendition.

This was the story of the fat and/or unathletic kids (“indoor kids”) who sit on the field and chase butterflies and pick flowers instead of playing, but they were all forefathers of modern literature.

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