Notes from a former sporting ‘nut’
It’s July 2nd, 2000 and it is a horrible day as far as I’m concerned. However, it is not because I’m struggling to get through class XII and not keeping up with my homework for which I’m getting plenty of stick from my mother. Neither is it because I have a terrible toothache which has not subsided even after a trip to the dentist.
Oh no, the day is pure misery for me because Michael Schumacher has been soundly beaten by the McLarens of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen at the French Grand Prix. My misery is compounded because France, the football team that I hated at the time for beating Ronaldo’s (the Brazilian version, not the Portugese metrosexual version) Brazil at the 1998 World Cup has come from behind to steal the Euro 2000 title from an Italian team I was backing as much for their underdog status before the tournament as for my desire to see them beat the French.
Fast forward to the early hours of September 10th, 2002 and I am on top of the world when I should be downright miserable. I failed my class XII board exams in 2001 spectacularly after which I vowed to never go back to a classroom (I eventually got a high school equivalency diploma and completed my undergraduate studies as well).
I am elated because Schumacher has been dominating F1 (he would win the title by a record margin), Ronaldo recovered from his nightmare 1998 final to become the star of the 2002 World Cup and Pete Sampras, after a noticeable dip in form has beaten Andre Agassi in four sets in the US Open final to win what would turn out to be his last ever professional tennis match.
Fast forward again to around 1 am on July 2nd, 2012. Even though I now work on the sportsdesk of one of the biggest newspapers in India, I have turned in for the night after casually checking the score of the final of the European Football Championships. It is no longer important enough for me to (literally) lose sleep over. Hearing my colleagues (even the cricket specialists) passionately discuss the outcome of the match does not prompt me to chime in with my two cents.
The same is the case for tennis, club football (in which I no longer have any interest), cricket (which I stopped following and playing from 1999 after boring myself to death while playing a practice match at an after-school practice session) and NBA.
Which is not to say that I am completely devoid of any interest in what goes in these sports (except cricket). F1 is of course is still closely followed but there is still much joy in watching the spectacularly close 2012 season despite Schumacher struggling until the most recent race in Valencia.
Sense has finally prevailed and I have at long last understood what my father would tell me that my sporting idols have no idea I even exist and there is no reason for me to take their struggles personally. In hindsight taking this advice would have saved me a world of grief in school, especially from class IX to XII, which (except for the class X boards) were academic and personal hell for me.
Sporting scandals, just over three and a half years working as a full-time journalist and numerous other personal experiences have played a big part in sense finally prevailing. It has come to the point where I get worried when I see people in my age group (25 to 35) go into depression when their favourite Premier League team/tennis player/F1 driver or team/etc lose. Fans of Indian cricket may have gotten used to seeing the national team get thumped in every form of the game since last year’s World Cup win so I wouldn’t worry about them.
I want to tell them to stay out of the smoke-filled sports bar, put down the bottle of beer, put out the cigarette, turn off the television and take a deep breath. Maybe even do a few pushups if it’s not too much to ask, or at the very least go out and take a walk.
Hopefully they will realize, like I have, that it is just not worth the self-induced anguish and that there is a lot more to get happy about in this world than to get your spirits down.
I would also urge the younger sports fans, those still in school to do everything possible to spend more time playing a sport they like to the fullest. i.e. after school practice, competitions, exercising at home and in the gym. Basically the whole nine yards. Even if you don’t make it as a sporting superstar, I can guarantee that you will not regret having sat on the sidelines your whole life.
To all the sporting nuts out there in general: your faithful devotion to your idols has helped turn them into millionaires. If you feel you owe them your allegiance during the course of competition, fine and good. But please return to the real world once the final whistle blows.