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What makes a Sportsman?

There have been many occasions when I had to sit on the bench, watching an intense game from the sidelines – despite being a sincere player who made it to all the practice sessions and earning a place in the final team.

Try as I did to restrain myself, a mild resentment towards the captain always escaped my lips behind his back. More so when I noticed that failure seemed to be mocking my team or a player underperformed due to fatigue. I didn’t understand if it was a winning strategy to play the perfect player full time, or to put in any player for his perfect time.

It wasn’t like I knew that I’d end up going in and doing anything spectacular to turn around the team’s fortunes. But it was just a mild hope that I could add that element of surprise to an opposition that least expected me. After all, as a bencher, there is only so much a player can support his team.

And this brings me to the question – what is it that makes a sportsman?

Talent, luck, opportunity, records, performance, or merely a heroic deed?

Every celebrated name in history, the ultimate legends apart, is still more or less a man and woman of victorious performance in the game. But how many names do we recall who have graced the sport, but lived in the shadow of the giants we adore, as inconspicuous workers who help complete teams?

As forgotten bricks in a monument, they are sadly remembered only for a day when they are to be freed of their silent services. It is a sort of a curse on football, basketball, cricket and all team sports.

You aren’t given a page in history merely because you walked onto the field. Apparently, the world has little space in its heart to admire others, and that solicits more than a mere appearance on the court.

For a nation like India consisting of a billion plus people, making it to the eleven in itself is a tale of glory. But how many generations of cricketers have passed and how many stay in our memory?

Decades later, when followers of the sport look back at the stats books, a certain Manoj Tiwary, with no records against his name, will be denied a place in their memory. People will never spare a thought that he patiently sat on the bench for close to a year, helping his team by fetching drinks.

We fail to acknowledge the fact that for every bright beacon of flame in the horizon, a hundred twigs ought to be sacrificed who contribute to the larger picture. That doesn’t mean the twigs by any means are less significant.

A competition between 22, and not just 2

An El’classico isn’t merely a Messi versus Ronaldo but an entire team of Barcelona duelling with Real Madrid. Similarly, a world No.1 in tennis isn’t the only player on the circuit wielding a racquet. It is just that he is someone who has managed to assert his supremacy over a million other participants. Not all of them are essentially great, but it’s finally all of them who define his greatness!

Therefore, as a fresh perspective, the aim must not be about chasing a reputation to be the ultimate sportsman with an unmatched following, despite its glittering majesty; aspiring to merely play to one’s best should be the ideal goal.

As a sportsman, one must learn to excel at play and endure in the practice. It’s often a story of patience until that first streak of brilliance.

And therefore, one shouldn’t get disheartened if they avail no opportunity, for circumstances aren’t in our hands. But when given an opportunity to perform, only the best should be served. The best of reputation is earned over a lifetime, one art at a time.

Here’s what I truly believe -

After a thousand years, no one will bother a dime about a player or his records. May be the odd legend will retain his name among the scrolls of eternity. A silly obsession for temporary fame must not spoil our choice to pursue a passion. If there is to be a reason to play, it must be the innocent passion of the child we took up a sport with. Every game played must confer a satisfaction about going out onto the field, else it’s time to retire.

Sport isn’t a business. It’s an art, an imitation of life.

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