The insignificant spectator

So, farewell to the dispassionate observer.The football World Cup has begun in earnest and as an armchair-Indian supporter of football, you are committing treason if you’re not supposedly backing one particular team to win. Gone are the days when you are merely a watcher, an avid conoisseur of sport in general. Now, it is imperative to wave plastic flags, flaunt you’re recently acquired [insert the team you’ve decided to back] related paraphrenelia, cause affront to fans of other teams. Add to all that the most annoying recent trend of feigning intelligence on twitter-pretending to know in-depth knowledge of the team you supposedly support, be the first to proclaim an alternative point of view however absurd it may be -and we have the spectacularly Indian phenomenon of attaching disproportionate significance to having a world view. You will see tweets along the lines of “Rooney almost looks bored …wonder why he is still picked”. Delving deeper by pointing out why that might be so -whether he is being played out of position on the left of a midfield three or he has had only four touches in the box- and you will find that these mutterings are cursory observations of a glib bandwagon-jumper. Or the standard analysis from national newspapers as the one “Balotelli completed 84.2% of his passes” stat in The Times of India. It is akin to L.Sivaramakrishnan, the Indian cricket commentator famous for his bland utterances, purring that a batsman has a strike rate of 600 runs/100 balls after he has hit his first ball for six. Such analyses cease to be that, because it provides little value in any context. Why is that particular statistic important; how does that foretell what’s going to happen next. One might wonder why I bring commentators into such a discussion-unfortunately it’s an indictment of what they have become, fanboys. Not only have these fanboys seeped into our collective understanding, they are starting to resemble a cult with scores more wanting to join. While these fanatics become increasingly rambunctious, the purist following begins to dwindle. In a decade’s time, it will be hardly plausible for one to reminisce about VVS Laxman’s monumental 281 vs Australia and be taken seriously. India as a country might be a fair distance from becoming a genuine sporting culture but as far as fan following is concerned, we have been expedited to the world’s current lowly standards. As a nostalgist, I long for tales of the flamboyance of the WestIndian cricket team during the 1960s in one of those landmark test matches at the Corporation ground in what was then Madras- when a single sport occupied the vast reservoirs of sporting memories in our consciousness. Indian sporting fandom has assimilated seamlessly into global sporting following- a milieu of outrage and mindless partisanship.

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