Watching sports heals.
Let’s keep Indo-Pak relations and the fracas over the IPL out of this, because that isn’t something I call sport at all- where the in-danger-of-obsolescence glamour queens strut about and spout wisdom at journalists and try to justify their actions; where political relations are inextricably linked with what should be healthy competition for a good cause.
People sit in nervous anticipation for the heroes of the day to walk in. The arena is charged with excitement, people fidget in impatience as the several routine motions are gone through before the sportspersons walk out to the centre. And at the first glimpse of those so eagerly awaited, a reverent hush falls over the crowd for the smallest fraction of a second as they grapple with the reality of seeing the people they deify in flesh-and-blood, of knowing that they actually are mortal- before they break into loud cheers and temporary hysteria, a sense of togetherness binding them all in this worship of common idols. Very little comes close to being at the hallowed ground, soaking in the atmosphere of anxiety, unsurpassed joy and collective sighs, groans and yells of delight.
More often than not, the magnitude of the event doesn’t matter- however, sanctity ostensibly is proportionate to the scale and the grandeur of the match/game at hand. The Grand Slams, a World Cup final, a Formula One or a MotoGP race, are all evocative of the highest amounts of awe and admiration, time or geography weaving itself into the reasons for the passionate ardour shown them.
The women’s singles final at Melbourne yesterday drove it all home to me- I realised how much I’d missed live sport over the past year when certain reasons had caused abstention from sports channels. Even as the match was in progress, I visualised in my head all that I’d like to see- Justine Henin carrying the momentum of her second set win into the third after losing the first set to Serena Williams, winning the match and sinking down on her knees in ecstasy, her face buried in her hands and her shoulders quivering as myriad emotions overtook her, and then receiving the Daphne Akhurst Trophy. (That none of this actually happened is a different story altogether.) I celebrated every point with her, worried every time Serena broke her serve, and finally felt deeply for her as she sat on her chair at the end of the match, dejected at what could so well have turned out otherwise to be the most spectacular fairytale ending.
It is great fun being woken up in the middle of the night by your sports-mad father, so you can sneak out and watch France’s capitulation to Italy in a FIFA WC final; or rise early in the morning to enjoy the Copa America or a test match Down Under. You grab the remote every alternate Sunday to watch an F1 race, telling your mother (who, in most cases, would rather watch something else), that this is the only race in Italy or Monaco or Malaysia for that season- and every other Sunday, the MotoGP is on, the only one for the year in Britain or Spain. The tempo gathers momentum towards the end of the year, of course, when it becomes absolutely impossible to wrest the remote out of your hands, and if you depend on cable operators, you have to pick numerous fights with them to get some stupid movie channel off air and replace it with a sports channel. Your mother doesn’t know how everything happens “just once a year” with such incredible regularity, slotting in exactly when the few programmes she watches are being telecast.
It isn’t just about the results- these matches/games are where you can shut mundanity out for a few hours and be swept in the victories and disappointments of people you don’t know, be one with all the other supporters halfway across the world, and have something to occupy your mind when everything else suddenly seems bleak and monotonous. Healthy, fulfilling and clean- if we can only keep it that way.