Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The IPL tribes

In an earlier post, I had quoted a professor describing modern-day tribalism as “a give-no-quarter and take-no-prisoners activism that demands satisfaction and accepts no compromise.”

Tribalism is most rampant in sports. Take cricket. An India vs Australia encounter, a Delhi vs Mumbai Ranji Trophy match or a South Zone vs North Zone Duleep Trophy match brings out the worst kind of tribalism.

So, when the IPL announced that the teams would comprise players drawn from different countries, as in the European football league, I heartily approved of the idea. Tribalism needs a geographical region (village, state, zone or country) to flourish and by removing this dimension, IPL was helping develop a broader mindset, I thought.

But, sports need sponsors. Sponsors look for returns. Crowds don’t come in, if the game is not competitive enough. It will not get competitive unless passions and baser instincts are stirred. And this stirring will not happen unless tribal feelings are invoked in some manner. So, all teams have been instructed to prefix the name of the city, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. Even if most of the players in the team would be from outside the city, the name of the city would serve the purpose of kindling the tribal spirit.

I wonder how it would have panned out if the teams had been allowed to take on ‘neutral’ names, with no city tags. Would it have bombed totally, with fans unable to identify or align themselves with any of the teams?

It would be interesting to see the new shape that tribalism would assume. If Delhi were to play Chennai, would I root for Dinesh Karthik when he is facing Murali? The former may be playing for Delhi, but he hails from Chennai. The latter may be playing for Chennai, and is a Tamilian too, but he is a Sri Lankan, not an Indian.

And what if I were to attend a match in Chennai and refuse to take sides? Would you call me disloyal to my home town, disinterested and disengaged?

As Don Bourdreaux says in this post :

Being libertarian, I find no romance in collective action. The yearning to be part of a great collective "challenge or crusade" - be it conservative or "liberal" - reflects humans' tribal instincts. These instincts served a sound purpose during our hunter-gatherer past, but are today at odds with the individualism that makes us free and prosperous

…don't presume that if I choose not to join in any collective effort, or only in a collective effort involving fewer persons than the efforts you favor, that my life is somehow empty, my soul shriveled, my mind small, my heart uncaring, my habits contemptible. I myself might well wish to be part of a cause larger than myself -- I reserve that right -- but I promise never to force you to join with me; I promise never to presume that you are less of a person if you refuse to join my cause or even if you refuse to any collectively pursued cause


Anonymous said...

11 daya without a blog. I think it is a 2 (maybe 6) month record. I checked - after Dec 29, your blogs have averaged about 1 in 3/4 days.
All us faithful readers have been checking your posts almost every third day. It reminds me of my deperate search, in the mailbox, for letters from home, every 15 days, during my first year sojourn abroad, post graduation. Those were the days when there was no internet, calls were perceived expensive, we were more cost conscious and letters were the main mode of communication. How days have changed, and probably our basic tribal instincts also have.

Raj said...

Sankar, I am pleased with your penance and dedication. If only my other two readers were like you......

Anonymous said...

IPL this year could be a eye opener on how cricket fans are going to choose their teams.. Whether they will choose it based on their favourite cricket hero or their local team??.. But it is important that each team creates its own fan base to succeed...

IPL Tribalism that is surely an interesting name.. :)