Born with a passport that carried the flag of a cricket-crazy country, I was lucky enough to be introduced to sports at a very young age.
My parents enrolled in me in all sorts of classes as a child, and I had the freedom to watch 50-over cricket matches when they were telecast over the weekends, without restriction to my allocated Television Time. The first pages of the newspaper I read was the Sports section, and nothing interested me more, except being up-to-date with every sport I could possibly lay my hands on.
As with every other aspect of my life, I found ways to make sports nerdy. I held massive passion in my heart, with emotions getting the better of me quite often. This once, in 2006, I watched an India-England series, and was so upset at losing, that I threw a tantrum, threw some pillows around, screamed, and made my grandparents laugh at how expressive I was being. That same year, I watched every single match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, from my grandparents’ home in Pune. My uncle (a Doctor) used to come home really late every night, and it was only then that I could spend time with him, so I stayed up with my grandmother, and watched every match that was telecast till he went to sleep.
After putting in all that effort, a power cut made me miss the finals. I later read about the headbutt in the newspaper, and watched it the next day. I was extremely angry.
But none of these emotions compare to the thrill I find in knowing numbers and statistics. The entry speed of a particular corner at the Monaco Street Circuit, the number of clubs that have been banned for violating financial fair play rules, the number of times Inzamam ul Haq has been run-out. These things give me a kick like nothing else does.
I latch onto this sentiment nowadays more than anything else because I don’t find numbers playing such a big role in my life anymore. Mathematics was one of my favourite subjects all through school, but doing Law has meant that I’ve been away from all the numbers for 2 years now.
Which brings me to the binary nature of sport.
As a sports fanatic, my memories of identifying my favourite club, my favourite players, and my favourite drivers, are by watching and figuring out which individuals represented the way I would respond to being in their shoes.
Were they honest – like Kumar Sangakkara, or Adam Gilchrist, walking off when they knew they had edged the ball?
Were they risk-takers? Did they leave their hearts out on the field of play?
Within a couple of games, you can figure this out.
Most people would accuse me of a “success-hog”, “fickle-minded” mentality, with the fact that I support Manchester United, Sebastian Vettel, Roger Federer, the Indian Cricket Team, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Bengaluru FC, Vishwanathan Anand, and several others.
But I’m not. The fact that I support the RCB should give you enough indication that I’m not.
The problem with figuring out who you support, especially when you’re younger, is that you develop an automatic hatred for your team’s rivals. I began to detest Nadal, and hated him at one stage, when he beat Federer at the Wimbledon Finals in 2008. I hate Liverpool FC. I used to get out of control in 2012 whenever Vettel lost a race to Alonso.
I don’t know what rational basis I had for this hatred. More often than not, it was just fuelled by my desire to see my favourite sportsperson/team win. Part of it was also fuelled by the humiliation of having to listen to the opposition’s supporters making fun of you the next day. No way I was going to put up with that.
I hated them so much that I stopped enjoying the beauty of sports for a while, and of healthy competition and respect. I never realized I could support a sport: call an entire sporting institution more organized and more entertaining than another, rather than focusing on an individual player.
And after all these years, watching Rafael Nadal today in the French Open finals, watching him win the final brought me to my senses a little.
We need to get rid of this binary concept.