The Joys of Following Sport
You know what I’m going to write about today.
Our drawing room (comprising three people) erupted when Rishabh Pant scored the winning runs this afternoon. It was a dream-like culmination to a series that a lot of people expected Australia to walk away with. As injuries chipped away at the Indian squad, what we saw was not capitulation, but the emergence of new heroes. We watched in disbelief as the chase today progressed, turning incredibly away from survival to a draw to a pursuit for victory. It brought us tears of happiness, because we’ve come a long, long way since the years of “participation is important, not winning”.
They talk of aggression, intent, talent, patience — so many nouns for opinion pieces. To me, in my corner of India, watching the underdog fight back signals hope. 2020 was difficult and the horror continued into 2021, which began on a painful note personally. But watching the smiles and the hugs this afternoon, then the victory lap with the Indian flag, was a reminder of the healing power of sport. I speak in clichés, yes, but I have no other way of explaining how a victory for the players you support shines through like a beacon.
As a long-time sports-watcher and never a player, I can testify to the transformative powers of sport on TV. In the times of a school where every week began grandly with a test, then the terrible Intermediate years where we had exams on Sundays, followed by the transition to engineering college (where Mondays brought along a cranky, aged Maths professor who never buttoned his shirt and Engineering Drawing classes), TV sports brought inspiration and positivity. It didn’t hurt that these were the years when Michael Schumacher found his rhythm with Ferrari, and I could go into most tests feeling like I’d won a title, or drown my Physics sorrows in a victory. The solemn German anthem, followed by the Ferrari paddock singing along to the merry march of the Italian anthem, are enduring sounds from my adolescence. To this day, I can’t listen to the German anthem alone without feeling that it is incomplete. (Charles and Carlos, I’m looking at you.)
Sure, most finals and races take place on Sundays. The most practical reason is to allow people to travel to these events and watch them live. However, for armchair people like me, sports drive away the blues. Weekend, mid-week, midnight, I’ll take matches/games/races any time. As I wrote last week, I don’t even have to actively watch. Just knowing that some sport is on in the background, like a piece of comforting music, is reassuring. It says that everything is right with the world, and young people are crafting history. At work, I can check scores periodically, rejoice in the wonderful outpourings of Twitter (there are times when it isn’t toxic), discuss random trivia with C., exchange commiserations on Ferrari and Arsenal, and thus find those pockets of happiness that sports fans’ camaraderie brings. After work, I can fill my head with information I’ll never use.
I grew up with DD Sports reruns of the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City. Now we have new stories to be inspired by and this gives me an enormous amount of joy and hope for the kids watching now. With OTT platforms and access to sports journalism from around the world, things were never so good. This is such an exciting time to be a sports fan!