Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's war out there.

Judging from the public response to the defeat of the Indian cricket team, it is clear that we have forgotten that cricket is a sport. Amongst the reasons attributed for the defeat were hubris, IPL, BCCI’s lack of vision, team spending time at go-karting instead of net practice, old cricketers clinging on to their positions when they should have retired long back, blah blah. That the cause of the defeat could have been Australia’s superior performance was never put forward.

It would appear as if sports, instead of helping build national character, is reducing us to a bunch of whiners and cribbers who can’t accept defeat gracefully and move on to the next event with quiet determination.

Do we really need sports, if it doesn’t help in building a ‘sporting’ mindset? And, if all it does is to generate bitterness.

There are two rival theories at work:

1) Human beings, like other primates, are innately aggressive, and this pent-up aggression comes out when it reaches certain levels. Tribal wars and modern wars among nations result when the aggression boils over. Sports help in channelizing such aggression into less violent activities, while artificially maintaining the intensity of a ‘battle’. Therefore, sports serve a useful purpose

2) To simulate warfare, the intensity of sports has to be so high that, quite often, the tipping point is crossed and the pretense is gone. It acquires the character of a real battle. Therefore, modern sports which lack necessary built-in controls are designed to cause harm.

On any of the animal programs involving the big cats and their cubs, the commentators take pains to explain that the ‘games’ the cubs play with their mother actually equip them with fighting techniques and serve to prepare them to become better hunters and killers later on. One wonders if human games also will turn out to be means to sharpen the killing instinct.

I leave you with this engaging piece, “Do Sports build character or damage it”. An extract from the article:

The kind of intensity that sports—and especially kinetic sports like football—can provoke is necessary for any society: Thymos must have its moment. But that intensity is mortally dangerous for society and for individuals, too. Sports can lead people to brutal behavior—I see no way to avoid the conclusion. To any dispassionate observer, it is clear that athletes find themselves in more brawls, more car wrecks, more spousal assaults, more drunk-driving episodes than the average run of the population.

Sports can teach participants to modulate their passions—sports can help people be closer to Hector than to Achilles—but they can foment cruelty as well. Athletes, as everyone who went to an American high school will tell you, can be courtly, dignified individuals. But they're often bullies; they often seek violence for its own sake. Some athletes take crude pleasure in dominating others; they like to humiliate their foes, off the field as well as on it.

All too often, the players who go all out on the field but can't readily turn it off elsewhere are the best players. They're the most headlong, the most fearless, the most dedicated. And when they encounter a modulated, more controlled antagonist in a game, often they, the more brutal players, win.


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