Bermuda’s ancient holiday of Cup Match is here again and the new dichotomy of whether or not it is a cricket game is also back again.

Foreigners and outsiders usually see Cup Match as a national cricket game played over two days between two sport clubs. Sad to say, some Bermudians see it this way too. But it isn’t so.

About ten years ago, I think, there was a strong attempt to turn Cup Match into an ICC style two-day Test Match. That’s when a bunch of foreigners — West Indians and Australians of all people — stuck their foreign noses in and seriously tried to give Cup Match a makeover. I think for one year, they even managed to bring in foreign umpires.

But Cup Match is the ultimate all-Bermudian event. Today’s two-day holiday came out of 112 years of black defiance and a determination to celebrate Emancipation from slavery. Cricket was incidental. Shows how much the foreign experts knew!

The most important feature about Cup Match is not what happens on the field. Instead, the most important activity takes place around the perimeter of the cricket field. It takes place in the ‘stands’ and ‘camps’ that families start setting up the night before. It’s this family activity in today’s two and three storey ‘stands’ that mark the main and heavily traditional feature of Cup Match.

It’s the gathering of people, of families, that’s the most important feature. It was this gathering process that marked that first 1835 celebration and that has continued until this day... It was this gathering process that ended up having a cricket game as a focal point of attention, but not the raison d’etre for the occasion.

For almost 150 years, Cup Match was either an exclusively black or heavily black celebration. But from the 1980s on, white Bermudians began coming to Cup Match and began setting up ‘camps’ as well. They began joining their fellow Bermudians in what was evolving into a national celebration.

Anyone who wants to see how Bermuda and Bermudians really do get along, must come to or go to Cup Match nowadays. Go to Cup Match and you’ll find the perimeter of the cricket field crowded with happy (and boozy or beery) Bermudians from Bermuda’s four ‘races’ — black, white, ‘Portuguese’, and ‘St David’s Islanders’. All will be happily and loudly mixing and shouting and carrying-on in a generally noisy and thoroughly all-Bermudian manner.

None of that polite Lord’s Test Match applause. Instead, shouts, screams, hollers, running on the field in the middle of the game to stuff dollars into a batsman’s pockets. Breaking all the rules but having fun in doing so. No ICC rules here. This isn’t cricket. It’s Cup Match!

[May St George’s win! And save me some shark hash!] n