On fans, sports and emotions

Emotions are a way of living here (read India). They define who we are, shape our identities and help us relate to others. Remember the time when you wanted to cry, to blurt out your frustration, to laugh, to dance like there was no tomorrow, but that tiny little fear of being too out there made you curb your instincts? Letting go is sometimes way better than holding back and sports, in many ways, helps you realize that.

We are a country brimming with emotions. You hit our car and we hit you, you treat us nicely and we make it a point to never forget you, you tease our girls and we beat you to death, you support the team we love and we become brothers for life.  Sports is that thread which connects people across religions, regions, cultures and antics in this country.

Anxiety, love, hatred, anger, passion – you name it and we are full of it. Displaying these emotions is a dire need and this is where sport comes into the picture. It’s like a lifeline which allows you to get away with almost anything (with the exception of killing someone, of  course). You can scream, cry, get upset, jump with joy and even wander around with pride. Sports helps you to get in touch with your emotional side. It provides people with monotonous routines and dead-end jobs a chance to restore their faith in humanity.

You tend to respect the players who show very little emotion on the field, but it is the ones who are full of it that grab your attention. All of us, somehow, have a little thing for the ‘underdog’. The fighting spirit, never-say-die attitude and the hunger to dethrone the reigning king are traits that inspire common people.People here are bogged down by their boss, wife, girlfriend, relatives, etc. They desperately feel the need to overpower the people controlling them and hence find heroes in these underdog sporting warriors.

You start relating to these players, imitate their actions, wear the clothes they sponsor, support them in trying situations and end up developing a passion for the game like no other. More often than not, it’s the player or the team you fall in love with and not the game itself.

Well established and consistent players achieve god-like status in this country. A few enjoy this privilege while the rest are forced to dance to the tunes of the fickle-minded public. You better be focused and right on the money for here, people hate as quickly as they love. Cricket is not just a religion in this country, it is more. Where religion has been dividing the country since partition, cricket just seems to be doing the opposite.

You might have had the worst day at school/office but a last over Indian victory is enough to shrug off that disappointment. That is the kind of healing power an Indian victory has; it just lifts your spirits up. When Sachin retired (from ODIs), millions felt as if their childhood was taken away from them. Skipping lectures/jobs was often considered a compulsion. Sachin’s magic wielding willow was a drug that helped people forget the grievances of their day to day struggles.

While Cricket continues to be the heart beat of this nation, Football and Tennis have also set up a huge fan base.

Manchester UnitedChelseaArsenalBarcelona, Real Madrid – no matter which club you support, you are sure to defend it on social media. Any Facebook status or tweet demeaning your club is bound to hurt your pride. That is just the kind of passion supporters wear on their sleeves these days. The passion is such that you stay up late to watch your team play, you read up their history, collect stats and even put up posters in your room.

You could respect a Federer but deep down, you always want to be a Nadal. The outrageous running after the ball, the muscles, the fist pumps are visuals that inspire individuals.

Getting attached to someone you love is very normal. After having supported a team/player for more than a year, you feel as if you belong with them, as if their loss is a setback for you as well. You take pride in their victories, you get elated when they are awarded.

The other day, one of my friends asked why we people use the term ‘we’ when referring to the team we support. I just smiled and said it’s because ‘We’ are family.

Laugh, cry, love, shout, get angry, throw stuff; life is too short to have any regrets. Never let people around you influence you. Display your emotions but don’t hurt anyone while doing it. Sports is meant to spread joy, enjoy it.

Published first on Sportskeeda



The Indian mindset and the need for change

Sports, for long now, has taken the backseat in our country. And by sports, I don’t mean staying up late at night to watch your favourite club’s match or going to a jam packed cricket stadium to support India or your IPL team. By sports, I mean going to the ground and playing a sport; errr…training for a sport.

Playing a sport should never be confused with training for a sport. These both lie at the two extremes of the sports spectrum. There are millions of people in this country who just aimlessly play throughout the day and that makes me sad. Sad, because they are not channelizing their energies in the right direction. Rather than hitting towering sixes in your gully or smashing the shuttle in your colony, why not take up the sport seriously? Play with a motive, a vision.

Training facilities might be too expensive for a few (read many in India’s case). This is where the government needs to step in. The Sports Authority of India(SAI) must provide budding players with the facilities needed to excel at the international level. And yes it’s time we start dreaming big. Enough with playing just one or two state/national tournaments and being satisfied with the tag of a state/national player. Get some passion going. The government would do what it has to, we cannot single-handedly bring about a change in that, but what we can change is our attitude towards sports. Stop treating it just as an additional activity that you perform in the evening, if you are good at it then develop the hunger to succeed, practice and aim high. This goes to all those lazy fellows who support their club no matter what, shout out loud when they score a goal but never even think of stepping onto the football field. This also goes to those ‘experts’ sitting in every corner of India, who play  cricket just once in a while, but are ready to criticize even one petty failure of a player or the team as a whole.

It is up to us to bring about the change. If you have it in yourself, why keep it limited only to your backyard or colony? Showcase your talent, polish your skills and most importantly have a serious attitude towards sports. Productive use of the playing time could lead you to unattainable heights.

The situation at hand is quite alarming. Over the years we have given academics the upper hand over sports. Many families still believe that sports is just for those who aren’t good at studies. Who should we blame for these misconceptions in our society? The government? Nah, peep into your heart and deep down you will see that even you feel the same way. We are the culprits, We are the ones who have stopped our children, our friends and even our self from taking up a sport professionally saying “There is not much scope in India. I’ll study and get a good job or start a business instead.” Sometimes money isn’t everything, sometimes it’s about the love, the passion for the game. Have the courage to follow your dreams, don’t just keep doing what society expects you to do, think outside the box and make wonders happen.

But making wonders happen isn’t that easy, is it?

In order to compete at the international level, one needs to devote most of his time to his game. Training hard, eating right and staying focused. A player is as good as his coach wants him to be. If a coach makes the player practice more, teaches him more tricks of the trade, then the player is bound to succeed. Thus, the coach plays a huge role in determining the career of a sportsman. It is disheartening to know that many devoted players are forced to quit practicing due to the absence of a good coach. Again, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) needs to provide good quality coaches to schools and colleges and other training centres in every city. Only then will the players learn how to use their talent and skills to excel.

As I said before, not much can be done with the government activities, we can only remind them continuously of providing the players with suitable facilities and coaches. What we as individuals can do is change the way we think. Give sports a chance. If we start believing in ourselves and start working on our game it in a way would give hope and courage to people around us to do the same too. Academics is important, it does give you a lot of success, but do not give up the possibility of taking up a sport professionally because people around you feel that sports would lead you nowhere. Be brave enough to take the road less-travelled.

In the end I would like to share this inspirational quote from the movie Coach Carter.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ”

We are all meant to shine so why not give our passions and talents a chance. I hope you get some inspiration from this and start bringing about a change in the society and most importantly a change in you.

Published first on Sportskeeda


Defeat and the way to cope with it

2011 US Open - Day 15

I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life – Muhammad Ali

Victory is always sweet or rather it is sweeter than defeat no matter what. Movies tend to instill a wrong notion among  people that,  ‘everything just falls into place for a happy ending’. Now that’s the difference between reel and real life. Not every person/team can have a fairy-tale ending, there are people who despite having put all the hard work in training face the agony of defeat. This is when a player’s true character is tested. The fear of losing sometimes outweighs the joy of winning because a loss is like a hit in the face that not more often than not takes a lot of time to heal.

Defeat crushes you (at least on the inside). It forces you to question your own ability. Man with his sound mind and ‘greater’ thinking ability often over-analyzes his mistakes and changes too much in order to right his wrongs. There are things in life that leave a person vulnerable and helpless, coping with defeat usually finds a top place in that list.

Bouncing back after all the odds are stacked against you is indeed heroic but the amount of hours that go into getting your head straight after a huge loss is something that is always overlooked by the onlookers. A sense of insecurity looms large after you have been battered by the opponent . Getting the fizzed out confidence back is the prime motive for any player at that stage. Although it is often seen that close losses leave a deeper mental scar than an out and out battering. All the hard work  during the game goes down the drain and you have to lay the drawing board all over again.

When you have the opponent by the scruff of his neck and then a minor slip up gifts him the match you are sure to be livid with yourself. Rewinding the match in your head gives you that suicidal feeling. But the loss needs to be forgotten and should be remembered only when a spark of motivation is required.

MOVE ON. That is the best thing you can do after a heart crushing defeat. Thinking too much about it could hamper your confidence and would ultimately lead to a dip in your game. You need to be mentally strong in order to take the loss as a minor blip and trust your abilities to succeed in the future. Preposterous words may fly out in the air about you not being at your best, flush them out of your window and give the haters a reason to hate you even more.

The demons are all in your mind, you need to conquer them and think clearly. Stop thinking about the lost match, it is a thing of the past, you sure need to learn from the mistakes you committed but to think about it all the time would just make you all the more miserable. Take a break for a while, get some time off, brush off the memory of the loss and start afresh. A player is often left all alone after a defeat, the crowd feels sorry for him for a while but later start rejoicing in victor’s glory. This is the time when the coach and the support staff of the player should console him, congratulate him on the way he fought till the end and convince him that it is not the end of the world, the road is a long one from here.

“Victory does not feel so good as losing feels bad. When you have a son, you are happy. But it’s no comparison to the sadness you feel losing a son.”– Toni Nadal after the Wimbledon epic of 2008.

Defeat causes pain and the only way to work your way out of that pain is to focus on what lies ahead, learn from your mistakes and come out mentally stronger.

 Published first on Sportskeeda