By Lloyd Jodah
Cricket author and historian David Sentance raised the alert on an urgent situation. In Los Angeles “the Encino Neighborhood Council opened a public forum about expanding the sanitation plant to take out 2 of America’s best cricket pitches at Woodley.”
The Woodley Cricket Field is really named the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex, and is located in Woodley Park in the Van Nuys district of Los Angeles. Former West Indies Test cricketer Franklin Rose said “It has the best cricket field facilities in the US”. Woodley is good enough to have hosted India and Australia in 1999 for 4 One Day matches.
Former USA Under 19 World Cup player, and American College Cricket star Akeem Dodson speaks fondly of the ground, “The first time I played there I made 80-something, I later made a couple of 70’s, Woodley is beautiful”.
Many cricketers in the USA have played at Woodley Cricket Fields. It has 4 turf wickets and large outfields – the only other comparable cricket facility in North America is probably King City, Ontario, Canada.
Woodley came into being when cricket lost Griffith Park. Cricket was played at Griffith Park from 1933 to 1978. Many Hollywood celebrities played, and attended cricket matches at Griffith Park, and in the 1930’s it was a place for Hollywood celebrities to be seen, somewhat like the Lakers’ Staples Center of Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant eras.
Then the Equestrian community, buoyed by the fact that for the 1984 Olympics equestrian and polo events were scheduled for the area, lobbied for Griffith Park to be turned over to them. Cricket lost that fight, and was moved to what is now Woodley. Cricket’s big mistake in not being an Olympic sport haunts it every day, but that’s a conversation for another time.
The California and USA cricket community must act effectively to ensure that we do NOT lose this fight too.
Every one of us is a constituent who pays taxes – we must speak up about what’s important to us. “People of a cricket background” in the USA comprise an affluent, highly educated professional demographic – some communities recognize our value whilst others treat us like a marginal fringe element. We must address this.
Cricket is not only a part of who we are, but it’s a part of what America is. As the original American game, cricket was played by the Founding Fathers like George Washington and John Adams. In fact our head of state is called a “President” because John Adams, in the discussion about what to call the head of the newly independent USA, said “if cricket clubs can have Presidents then these United States can have a President.”
Let us remind the Encino Neighborhood Council civilly, legally and professionally, that whilst they are considering destroying 2 cricket fields at Woodley other communities are creating or improving cricket Fields. In NYC, for example, 2 major new fields dedicated to cricket only were opened in 2009. New York City even has a High School League of 28 school teams, in its 3rd year and the NYPD has a cricket League for young men, as part of its Community Outreach.
How few people played Golf before Tiger Woods? Yet it was on Primetime TV constantly and millions of acres of land were set aside for golf. Regardless of what anyone, in or out of the cricket community, thinks of who plays cricket, we must not allow anyone to devalue what we do.
Cricket played in the USA has a value because people play it, regardless of their color, ethnic background or country of origin.
We are NOT “expatriates” playing a “foreign game” - we are playing an American game, and if we happen to be American (as many of us are). We can vote, and we should. WE can speak up, and we should. WE can email, and we should.