“It’s only sport after-all”. I am used to hearing this a lot. Given that I play and follow a good number of these meticulously defined rules within which people go to war and try to gain an upper hand, it is a very commonplace utterance. Mostly said to a losing side or participant, to make them feel better, it has a much bigger meaning hidden within it.
Before we delve deeper, full disclosure: the way the Indian cricket team battled it out in Sydney to take a draw as a result from a definite down and out situation has given me some time to reflect on this.
There is a lot of similarity among different kinds of sports. Even individual and team sports have enormous similarities. I personally believe there is NO true individual sport (you have a coach, a support group and some friends who become your team). And I also believe sport depicts life. Ofcourse, in a nuanced way and a very short timescale. But it does.
1. CORE: The small core that keeps on repeating again and again. Each of these small notes define the big rhythm you play on. In Tennis, each point begins with a serve, starting from defined places on the court. In Cricket, bowlers charge in from their spot, to a batsman who awaits what comes their way. Each of these micro-transactions, micro-wars or whatever you may call, ultimately set up where the bigger picture is headed. Each of these cores gives a restart to the players. You cannot win the game unless you win the small cores, at the right time. You can decide to defend, attack or surrender(which hardly anyone does) on each of these cores. Just toiling away everyday, going through the routine, in absence of recognition towards that one goal – to play the core perfectly makes great players.
You cannot plan to win a match unless you know how to plan your small cores.– Siddharth 2021
Everyone plays to win, but usually the winner is the one who plans and wins these micro-wars right. Life is similar. I can have grand designs in mind, I can have grand goals, but unless I get my everyday core right, there is no way I am waking up one day to find the light shining on me. That’s what India did today. They took 1 ball at a time. 1 over at a time. They looked like they had a plan for every ball, every over and it was indeed phenomenal to watch them get over the line.
2. CONTROL: Another thing which I love about Sport is you need to know how to control. It is something I probably could never conquer. Seldom I would, on some crucial points, get over-exited, over-exerted and have thousands of things running in my head. Every sport person can do so much more. If there are no rules they can probably do a fist fight and settle it all for once. But you got to know where the line gets crossed. You have got to know how to balance that adrenaline with the awareness of the situation. You need to conserve energy, cause the core will repeat again and you cannot be out of ideas and creativity in the early moments. Masters of our game, Federer(I am a fan of Nadal) or in today’s context Vihari and Ashwin, knew they needed to be in control. They could’ve been flamboyant and outgoing. They could’ve put their hand up and said let me remove the shackles and be free. But they persisted which ultimately broke Aus Spine. It was exhilarating to watch. In life, there is no more valuable lesson that this. Knowing when to control and when to strike is essential to avoid disappointment and regrets. I can always go overboard, but do I need to ?
You need to know how to defend if you want to attack. Attack without a defence is like driving without brakes. It feels great at 200 kmph but not so much when there’s a wall in front of you.– Siddharth 2021
3. SPIRIT: Your back might be against the wall in a match. Your soul never is. Sport teaches you to move On with the game. It helps you position your mind before your body. After all it is all in the mind. We see it again and again in the field/court/arenas and it is THE reason why everyone loves some kind of sport or the other. It gives us a chance to witness fairy tales. Tales that even if you were to write as fiction would not be as apt as they play out in the field. There is always someone rooting for the underdog. And underdogs spoil the party many times just by sheer spirit. They hang in there but never hang their heads. They survive. This is where, you see true character. Character can’t be faked.
We have seen Nadal lose the first set of a big match many times, we have seen people save match points against them, win another set and go on to win. Today we saw sheer grit from an injured Vihari. On one leg, toiling away for 4 hours for what? He didn’t owe it to anyone. He owed it to himself.
A lot of times we hear – the writing is on the wall. We hear of stats that tell us how it is impossible for something to happen. But everyone forgets that data hides much more than what it shows. Numbers are not people.
A spirit to fight against odds is one of the most beautiful things for me. Each of us have our demons. They can be situations, people, words, or just something that is in your head. Spirit to fight scares them. And that is one of the most important thing that sport gives us.
Going back to “It’s only sport after-all”. Sport has states at the end of the day. Someone wins, Someone loses, and on somedays it rewards everyone equally. I feel what we have got to take away from this is that we live to fight another day. We live to learn from what we have done, and sport is kind enough to give us other chances to prove ourselves. The line reminds us not to take these states very seriously as sport is to be enjoyed in the process of playing. And in that process you find your wins. You don’t need to win to win at sport.
It is the same in life. You can never win in life. You can reach a state for a point in time where you were better than the rest. That will give you joy. There will be times when you will feel you did your best and put up a great show for everyone to witness. That will give you joy. There will be times when you will feel that just hanging in there was a win. That will give you joy. And there will be times in life when losing to someone will give you joy.
Not every win comes from a win. And this is the essence of playing sport.
A graduate from BITS Pilani, class of 2019, I am currently working as a Product Manager at Flipkart. I like to write about things that get stuck in my head. By writing I make sure everyone knows what absurd thoughts I have :P Thanks for visiting.