Taken from my old blog, january 9 2012
I am a self confessed sportsfan. I try to follow all the sports events that go on in the world, and some of them quite avidly [some say fanatically]. Even so, I find it hard to explain a few phenomenon associated with watching different sports.
The most common anomaly I find is that there are a lot of people (like me) who not only cant play the game they follow, but in some cases even dislike it. A case in point, me and cricket. I love to watch matches. Though not totally well versed in the statistical lore that is implied by international cricket, I do know quite a lot of it. I know matches by name, just like advanced Chess players quote names of openings and defenses. Yet, I find playing cricket one the most boring things to do. Since childhood, I have never liked it. Not liking lead to almost no motivation to improve, which means I cant play the game at all… Being inept, I got the boring positions, which further reduced my interest. Vicious cycle.
With other games like football or even racing [to a very small extent] I know the basics of the game, and can try them out when I play [or drive]. With cricket, I cannot explain at all, why I love to watch the game. Maybe, it is because I come from a country that loves the game. But then, so many of my friends, many of whom can play decently, dont like to watch it at all. Maybe its the associated lore. The stats, the epic battles, the parallel stories and conversations that come about as a result of commentary etc etc. I may never know the exact reason why, but the fact remains. I cant play cricket.
Another thing, which is not exactly an anomaly but an interesting fact, is that [atleast in my case] whichever team is winning at the time I start following a game, gains my loyalty for the rest of its [and my] life. This, of course, does not apply to national teams. I started watching football in the glorious year of 1999, when Manchester Unitedwon the treble, the genesis of the Busby Babes. To this day, despite ugly losses, a couple of missed championships [and immediate resurgences!], complicated and potentially disastrous financial acrobatics I still follow ManU, almost blindly. Same is the case of Micheal Schumacher. Though he loses regularly, I root for him, in hope of seeing that leap on the podium. Most of the people around me started watching when the Mika-Micheal rivalry was at its height, with Mika having a slight edge. When I started, Mika was bowing out, consequently, he does not get the same respect from me, as he does from some of my friends whose initiation to the sport was coupled with his greatness. How important is this initial phase! After watching Senna, the glorious biography of that Great F1 driver, Ayrton Senna, me and Santosh entered a long discussion on who was [is] better, Senna or Schumi. At the end, despite a lot of evidence on both sides, we couldnt let go of our loyalty towards Schumi [though he is a great driver, and we dont just stick to him due to our loyalty] .
This brings me to my next point, rooting for the underdog. I have never understood this concept, and I never do it myself. i like to back the winning team and win. This does not mean, that if I have not taken sides, I do not like the weaker team defeating the stronger ones. We all like a good David-Goliath story. India beating Australia at Kolkata in 2001, after following on, has inspired so much confidence that we went on to become the number one test team in the world, however briefly. Stronger teams are inherently seen as arrogant, wealthy, with all resources available. Weaker teams supposedly battle all odds, and give it everything they have. There are usually some local issues,historical rivalries, that fuel the fire. This is an interesting phenomenon though. Despite having to watch David lose to Goliath 99 times out of a 100, we still root for him, look for a win. I, on the other hand, chose a different strategy. Form irrational opinions about players and teams, based on some fact, maybe, and love/hate accordingly. Most Indians think of Pakistan as their number 1 rival, in cricket, hockey, any sport. I, on the other hand, love to hate Sri Lanka. I dont know why!
Anyway. Sports fandom is a wonderfully irrational pursuit, which fills up my free time, and that of many others. So long as we dont overdo it, its fun! As the Great Sheldon Cooper PhD once said, “Whats life without a little whimsy!”