Thursday, November 19, 2009

Play a sport, reveal your character ...

For a long time, the sports page of the Times of India had a line on the top 'Sport does not build character, it reveals it' (I do not subscribe to the Times, so do not know if the line is still there !!!). But it still remains one of my favourite lines. And I was reminded of it on reading about the infamous Thierry Henry goal that propelled France to the 2010 World Cup on the back of a hugely controversial win and knocked Ireland out of the sport's quadrennial extravaganza.

'Sport does not build character,it reveals it'. How very true !!. Sporting history is full of instances where controversial incidents have played important roles in deciding the outcome of matches, careers and tournaments. Whether it be Maradona's 'Hand of God' in the 1986 World Cup, or the controversial catches claimed by the Aussies on the last day in Sydney in 2004 or yesterday's night most shameful incident, we always have occasions when individuals (or even teams) have behaved in the most un-distinguished manner. And frequently, the mis-deeds by the sportsmen have got to do with their character. This, of course, is not to say that Henry or others of his ilk have a fundamentally bad character. But the question now being asked is, how will be look in the mirror henceforth ? In a few seconds, he has lost much of his reputation to his millions of fans and has also bought disrepute to his national team. To me, that is the beauty (or tragedy depending on how you look at it) of sports. They frequently test your character and reveal it. And most often than not, you have absolutely little control over your actions that come back to haunt you later. To give Henry the benefit of doubt, he would have thrust his hand forward almost instinctively, since the pace of the game gave him absolutely no time to think. So the bitterness against him, as against other sportsmen who have been accussed of similar acts, is not that he handled the ball. The uproar is over him not admitting his guilt then and there, especially since it was so blatantly obvious and seen by millions on live television. He can apologize a thousand times now, but that is not going to take the Irish to South Africa next year. So while committing the misdeed is not an indication of your character, since even the best of people can fall prey to temptation,especially when carrying their nation's hopes on their shoulders. But realizing their misdeed and then trying to correct it whatever way possible tells much about the true character of the sportsperson. And while that character is largely a function of the values and upbringing that each one of us have, in no other facet of life is this character so much tested as in the sports arena.

Which is why the line is my favourite. Of course, I missed the chance of playing any sport with any distinction when I was young. But one thing is for sure, my kids will definitely be encouraged to play one sport at a competitive level. Hopefully, it will help them mould their character.


PS: I read one article which said that apparently Henry told the referree that he had handled (not sure when) to which the ref told them 'I am the ref, not you'. If that is true, then I take back some of what I said above.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stop making mountains from molehills !!

As my recent status messages on Facebook indicate, I am quite disappointed at the recent controversy involving Sachin Tendulkar and the Thackerays. The disappointment stems not just from the statements given by the two 'opponents' in this controversy, but more so from the needless manner in which the media has not just ignited the fire, but also fanned the flames.

So how did it all began ? It began with the press conference held to commemorate the Master Blaster completing two glorious decades in international cricket. It was meant to be a QnA session related to Sachin's glittering career, his achievements, his favourite moments etc etc. So ideally it was meant to be cricket and life related to cricket. But the media could not hold themselves asking Sachin the question of how he felt about the Marathi-Mumbai-Indian debate. And for one who has always been at more than an arm's length from any political statements and controversies, Sachin un-characteristically edged the wide swinging half-volley bowled by the media. That is where I am, frankly, disappointing with Sachin. I buy the point that he, like all of us, is entitled to a point of view and the freedom to express it. But then, is Sachin like all of us ?? A celebrity as revered as him should know that each statement of his is like gospel to his millions of fans. Hence, someone like him has to use his words carefully, especially on issues as topical and sensitive as these. Two words, "No comment" would have helped.

In any event, he just mentioned his point of view, which happened to be different from that of Raj Thackeray. The media got what they wanted. Now the headline that appeared in the media was to the effect that 'Sachin snubs Raj'. Now tell me, if you have a different view point from me, does that mean that you are snubbing me or vice-versa ? Or that one of us is more right than the other ? But the media portrayed it as if Sachin had virtually shown the finger to Raj, much to the delight of Raj's blood-bayers. If this is not fanning the fire, then what is ?

Then, just as everyone was waiting for Raj's reaction, there appeared a riposte from a different, though not entirely unexpected source, the Shiv Sena. Not wanting to be left out of this opportunity to get some political limelight, the Sena supremo replied through the Samna editorial. Now I have not read the editorial, but the statement that was highlighted on NDTV last evening was that Bal Thackeray had advised Sachin to 'stick to the cricket field and not play on the political field'. Leaving emotions aside, is that so wrong a thing to say ? I suspect that Sachin's coach might have said something similar. And not suprisingly, all sorts of political leaders jumped on the 'anti-Bal Thackeray' bandwagon, including the Maharashtra CM who appeared on NDTV yesterday for his reactions, as if he had nothing better to do.

All in all, a needless controversy !!. One only hopes the next time the media goes to Sachin for his reaction, he leaves the ball outside the off stump in the finest traditions of his batting.


PS: I read in the DNA today that Marathi bloggers were divided on blogosphere in their support of Sachin and Thackeray. Wonder if that was the media's intention ??????