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.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona, 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.