I don't know a damn thing about cricket. Like all good American men worthy of their Direct TV NASCAR Superfan UltraPasses Xtreme Hardcore Digitally-Remastered Widescreen Edition I can power-eat hamburgers like a freedom-fueled beef-devouring murder engine, my urine stream comes out in some variant of red, white, and/or blue, and a diagram of a cricket pitch (field? stadium? destructitorium?) makes about as much sense to me as dog sweaters or the Metric System. Seriously, this is like staring into the mandibled fangs of insanity and asking it to explain the physics of Dark Matter. I could probably identify a cricket bat if someone was in the process of ruthlessly pummeling me to death with it. Through some weird substance-abuse-induced circumstances I think I saw Lagaan once but I don't remember much about it except that all the white guys in it are pompous, ridiculously-mustachioed sadistic evil bastards. I know that wickets are a thing, although to be honest I'm not even certain that I'm not confusing cricket with croquet. Which is possible.
Here's what I do know – Bob Crisp played cricket for the South African national team, and even though I have no idea how this game even works I can say with every possible degree of confidence that he is a complete and total badass.
It probably has less to do with his bowling ability and more to do with the fact that this British Army Major beat cancer with nothing more than alcohol and a donkey, bedded more women than (the appropriately-named) Magic Johnson, wrote three books, founded a couple magazines, and – oh yeah – also killed hundreds of Rommel's goose-stepping Afrika Korps Nazis with a tank despite operating in battles commanding tank crews that had never even fired their weapons before.
Robert Crisp summited Mount Kilimanjaro twice. He's the only professional Test Cricket player to ever do this. The first time was in the early 1930s, when he was about 20. Crisp was walking through Tanzania for some reason, just minding his own business, when he suddenly happened to run into a friend of his. The guy was like, "Hey, have you ever been to the top of Kilimanjaro? It's pretty sweet!", so Crisp responded with, "Ok, cool, let's go do it." So, with no mountaineering gear, food, or supplies on him, he just walked over to Mount Kilimanjaro, and these two guys proceeded to nonchalantly climb to the summit of the highest mountain on the African Continent. Crisp's friend slipped on a banana peel a couple hundred meters from the top of the mountain, but instead of pussy out and seek medical attention for his crippled friend Robert Crisp hoisted the dude on his back, carried him to the top (Crisp had come to see the summit, and by God he was going to do it), then carried the guy down and walked him into a hospital that was – I presume – dozens if not hundreds of miles away.
OK. This is Mount Kilimanjaro. Keep in mind that Robert Crisp is the sort of guy that looks at something like this in the distance, says, "Bitchin', that sounds like fun," and then does it.
Bob Crisp was born in 1911 in Calcutta, India, which probably explains why he likes cricket so much. He moved to Rhodesia as a child and was raised in the general vicinity of South Africa, started playing the game in 1929, and was apparently fairly decent at it by most accounts from people that know things about this. As a bowler (basically cricket's version of a pitcher) he took nine wickets in 64 run in 1933 while playing first-class, is the only bowler in first-class cricket to ever take four wickets in four balls more than once, and hit 276 wickets at under twenty in his career while presumably also getting double-digits in jipjorps, mega-runs, and nega-fails at the same time. In 1935, he was on the South African national team and, during South Africa's tour of England, bowled the South African team to their first victory against the Brits. He appeared in nine test matches between 1933 and 1938, mentored Australian National Hero Keith Miller (who, as far as I can tell, became basically the Cy Young of Australia), and did some other things that I assume are really impressive because they get him mentioned by professional cricket journalists in books about great cricket players from history.
He also is the first – and presumably only – cricket player to bang 100 women in a single three-month cricket tour.
Because that's how he rolled. Get it? ROLLED? BECAUSE HE BOWLS LOLOLOLOL
A bowler prepping to launch and/or roll a cricket ball at something.
When semi-famous German Chancellor Adolf Hitler got all weird about that annoying "why isn't whole part of the German Reich" thing and started dropping high explosive air-to-ground warheads on Polish people in 1939, Robert Crisp – despite being a professional cricket player in South Africa who was already pushing 30 – decided, eh, fuck it, let's show these Hun bastards what happens when you start hurling explosives around Europe all willy-nilly like some kind of disrespectful bastard. He enlisted in the British Army, then spent the early part of his distinguished British Military Career chilling in Alexandria, Egypt, where he blew all his paychecks on gambling bets and booze and covered the difference in his bar tab by either singing songs for the bartender or seducing any woman in the bar with a twenty-pound note in her pocket. World War II got a little more serious (and became slightly less about beers and cleavage) in 1940, when Crisp was deployed to Yugoslavia to stop the Nazi onslaught that was currently attempting to overrun the country on an endless tidal wave of human blood and entrails.
Sitting in the Commander's chair of an M3 Stuart Tank (he once said the tank was "a real honey", inadvertently coining a piece of military jargon in the process that has resulted in Brits still to this day referring to Stuarts as "Honeys") , Crisp served with the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment as they went toe-to-toe with hardcore, ball-crushing SS Panzer Divisions across Yugoslavia and Greece. During the action in the Balkans, Bob Crisp managed to have three tanks (tanks!) shot out from under him (he bailed out and survived with minor burns/shrapnel wounds all three times), fired a .38-caliber revolver at a German Mark IV Panzer on more than one occasion, killed a dozen enemy tanks, and miraculously shot down a twin-engine Henkel Bomber with a cupola-mounted .50-caliber Browning machine gun right as it was about to make a bombing run on a British Armored Column.
Thanks in no small part to his amazing ability to successfully command lightly-armored British tanks in combat against technologically-superior German Armored Divisions without exploding into flames and dying ingloriously on the battlefield, Bob Crisp was promoted to serve as a company commanderin the 3rd Regiment. Shortly afterwards, thanks in no small part to his amazing ability to successfully sleep with dozens of women, gamble away his paycheck, spend his nights drunk in bars, disobey direct orders, and publicly insult and/or pilfer personal items from his commanding officers in front of their troops, Crisp was demoted back down to Lieutenant. Then he was promoted back. Then demoted immediately.
He was busted down three times, but, in what can only be a testament to his personal charm and incredible capacity to kick the shit out of Hun Motherfuckers anywhere and everywhere they could be located, Crisp was a Major in command of a company when he was redeployed with the British Eighth Army and sent to North Africa to stop German ultra-genius Erwin Rommel from steamrolling the entire continent in a wave of Nazified destruction. Sent out to relieve the siege of Tobruk in 1941, Major Crisp launched himself 29 days of non-stop tank-on-tank action, battling the elite, battle-hardened German Panzer Divisions that had previously spent their free time teabagging the countries of Europe with their tank treads.
At the fight for Sidi Rezegh, Bob Crisp's lone Honey Tank single-handedly charged an entire formation of German Panzers, launching a balls-out one-vehicle attack across a wide-open airfield that completely encircled the enemy formation and attempted to cut off their supply line. The Germans, seeing a tank at the rear of their formation, thought they were dealing with more than one guy, and subsequently halted their advance – Bob Crisp, operating on his own without any orders, had single-handedly stopped a formation of 70 German tanks from assaulting a badly-outnumbered British force.
You'd think he'd have no way of topping this. You'd be wrong.
The very next day Crisp was walking along on foot when he noticed a position of three German anti-tank cannons that were in position to hit the British forces hard. So this guy, who had been separated from his tank, flagged down a Signals Corps tank – a non-combatant vehicle that had ever so much as fired a single round through the barrel of their coaxial machine gun. Crisp pulled the tank commander out, commandeered the tank, and told the clean-shaven kids inside that they were about to go balls-first into a trio of German artillery guns, any one of which was capable of turning the Honey Tank into a gigantic intestine-filled inferno.
He attacked the guns, commanded his men in action, wiped out all three guns, captured their crews single-handedly, and inadvertently freed a truck full of British 8th Army Prisoners of War in the process.
And that's how you do it, eh boys?
During World War II, Bob Crisp had six tanks blown up from underneath him, was wounded five times, and was only knocked out of action when his entire skull was embedded with white-hot shrapnel, and then only when those gruesome gushing head wounds then became infected. He was nominated for the Victoria Cross for his actions, but the personal intervention of Overall British Army Commander Bernard Montgomery ensured that Crisp (a personal enemy of Monty thanks to his constant insubordination) didn't actually ever receive it. Instead he got the DSO (Britain's second-highest award for bravery) and the Military Cross (their Silver Star). When the King Himself handed Crisp the DSO, he asked if the cricketer would ever be able to play the sport again. Crisp's response? "Sure, only my head was injured."
After the war, Crisp wrote for a couple of newspapers, founded and edited the a magazine in South Africa, bought a mink farm (!), abandoned it, then went to Greece for a while. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the 1970s, the 60+ year old Crisp was spending his days in a bar surrounded by local women, who he then proceeded to take home to his goat herder's hut on the beach. He took the news well, grabbed a vial of the experimental proto-chemotherapy fluid the doctors offered him, mixed it with 100-proof whiskey, slammed the whole thing in two swigs, then decided to cross an item off his bucket list by walking a donkey around the entire island of Crete.
So, naturally, that's what he did. He funded the expedition by proto-blogging about it in a London newspaper.
Only Robert Crisp didn't die. He lived 25 more years, and after his walk through Crete his symptoms had completely disappeared. It was so nuts that the Royal Medical Service flew him around to different hospitals in the US and UK to see if maybe he'd accidentally cured cancer with his crazy booze/chemo/donkey cocktail.
He hadn't, but still.
Robert Crisp, the war hero, professional international cricket player, swashbuckling adventurer and ultraprolific fornicator, proceeded to write two books on his life experiences, another one about the historical founding of Johannesburg, and hundreds of newspaper articles. He died in his sleep in Essex, England in 1994 at the age of 82... his only possessions were the morning paper and a 20-pound bet on the big cricket match.
It's probably how he would have wanted to go out.
Amazing Guardian.co.uk Article on Crisp
ESPN Cricket Profile
Crisp, Bob. Brazen Chariots. W.W. Norton, 2005.
Crisp, Bob. The Gods Were Neutral. Norton, 1961.
Delaforce, Patrick. Battles With Panzers. Sutton, 2003.
Haigh, Gideon. Silent Revolutions. Black Inc, 2006.
Mallett, Ashley. Eleven. Univ. of Queensland Press, 2001.