Indian fans cheer the Indian team © Getty Images
Indian fans cheer the Indian team © Getty Images

 

By Rajesh Ramaswamy

 

So we have these friends we’re proud of because they’re ‘achievers’, and are from the same boondocks we hail from! We take great pride in their success and ‘own’ them in public. We live vicariously through them and in their success lies ours. We love them, and can’t have enough of them, and since they’re so media-genic, we trail along hoping to catch some of the reflected glory and stardust.

 

We call ourselves supporters. But at the first sight of things going awry, we start fretting, and worry about whether they ‘deserve’ our support. And, when the firangs on our social networks start turning up their noses, it’s time for us to panic. We lose no time in calling them ‘losers’ and trying to cleanse ourselves of all the residual paint of familiarity…we become ‘objective’, and we squirm visibly to display our distance. So what does the world call people who can dump their ‘boys’ when it’s no longer profitable to be seen with them? Supporters? Freeloaders, is more like it! What do we call those who jump overboard at the first sign of a squall? Hint: they’re small, furry, and scurry around bringing the plague and famine wherever they visit in numbers.

 

Now let’s replace the ‘backstreet boys’ with a national sporting team, say the Indian Cricket Team. Same difference!

 

We own them when it’s profitable to do so, and indulge in the most unedifying spectacles of breast-beating when it isn’t; we cringe when the firangs turn up their snotty noses, for we so need their approval to rationalise our existence…and we don’t think twice before stomping on our own hallowed flag to show that we’re as ‘evolved’ and ‘non-partisan’ as them. Funny, how the line between being passionate and dispassionate is just a measure of the degree of success. Funny, how we suddenly discover that we’re supporters of the ‘game’, and not the players. Funny, how we all whinge when we don’t see success, prostrate ourselves when we do see it, and look fearfully over our shoulders lest someone else witness our allegiances, and hold us to them…for our fidelity is to the idea of success, not to the idea of sport and sporting heroes.

 

I’m not talking about the fan that cries after a loss and berates the team, for he is a creature of passion, and the fact that he can cry means he’s still human and is baring his emotions because he’s true to his faith. Nah…my angst is with the cold fish who occupy their thrones in the middle of the fence, and who swing this way and that, for their word is not cast in stone but written on water, and their driving passion is to always be on the right side of the fence. Their weapon is cynicism and their quills are dipped in an equal measure of bile and poison ivy. They are the ones who can find no pleasure in a Sachin Tendulkar straight drive or in the contest between a Dale Steyn and a Virender Sehwag, who can only impute motives to every endeavour, for they see everyone in their own flawed mirror image.

 

Give me, any day, an unlettered, honest fan, who’ll laugh and cry with his icons, who will feel the pain and not inflict it, who’ll scold his team when he’s with his family of fellow fans, but will close ranks when an outsider comes in….not someone who’ll run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Give me a man who’ll put up his hands and say, “Our boys played badly today, but tomorrow is another day, and they’re my boys still”, and I’ll give you a reason why this game still has hope.

 

NB: I dedicate this post to all genuine supporters of the game and the players who represent their nations…those who don’t mind being called fans, even if their highbrow peer mock them, those who have the courage of their convictions, and will support their boys through the darkest days, even at the risk of ridicule. I do this because I know that in life, as in cricket, these are the friends I would most like to have around me.

 

(Rajesh is a former fast bowler who believes he could have been the answer to India’s long prayer for an ‘express’ paceman. He regularly clocked speeds hovering in the late 80’s and occasionally let fly deliveries that touched the 90’s. Unfortunately for him, the selectors were talking ‘mph’, while he was operating in the metric lane with ‘kmph’. But he moved on from that massive disappointment which resulted from what he termed a ‘miscommunication’, and became a communications professional. After a long innings in advertising as a Creative Director, he co-founded a brand consulting firm called Contrabrand. He lives in Chennai and drives down to work in Bangalore…an arrangement that he finds less time consuming and stressful than getting from one end of Bangalore to the other.)